Presbyterian Overture Process and the 2022 General Assembly
Every two years the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a General Assembly (GA) where commissioners and delegates elected from each Presbytery meet and review church governance, polity and policies. The GA also resolves controversies in the church, and takes actions for matters of common concern for the whole church. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies. Any Presbytery in the church can "overture the assembly" and ask the highest boy in our denomination to take a particular action regarding an issue before the church and the world. These asks of our representative voting assembly are called overtures. If another Presbytery concurs on that overture, it will be debated and voted on at the GA.
According to our GA mandate passed at the 2004 Assembly, this network (IPMN) has used the overture process to change Presbyterian policies by asking the GA to take specific actions regarding Palestinian human rights and ending to the occupation of Palestine. Overtures that have passed the GA include directing the Board of Pensions and The Presbyterian Foundation to divest from stocks in companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine, asking Presbyterians to boycott Israeli products made in West Bank settlement colonies, and asking the U.S. government to end military aid to Israel until human rights violations against Palestinians are ended.
For the 2022 GA, here is a new overture needing concurrance:
(check back to see new ones added as they are approved by a presbytery).
There are two overtures regarding Israel-Palestine from 2020 which were never considered due to the pandemic. They have already had more than 2 presbyteries concur on them. They are:
- A Call for Ending the Siege of Gaza and Collective Punishment
- Recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People
Each overture has a short “Recommendation” section the asking the PCUSA to take a specific action or position on an issue. There is also a longer “Rationale” section that contains background information that supports the recommendation.
The overture process is an effective way to educate churches, presbyteries, and GA commissioners and delegates about the facts on the ground in Israel-Palestine and to advocate that the church seek justice and speak out forcefully for Palestinian human rights.
Please read the overtures and see if you can take the lead for having them considered at your church. You may be surprised on how many allies you have when people have to debate and vote “yes” or “no” to concur on an overture as opposed to a wide-ranging discussion of Israel-Palestine issues.
You may contact Dave Jones at djones1948[at]sbcglobal.net or call him at 415-453-2079 if you would like to use the overture process to educate your church or presbytery. He has taken Palestinian human rights overtures to his presbytery for the last six GAs and can walk you through the process.