From the Worldwide Faith News archives

GA affirms 'God's Gift' curriculum

Date 21 Jun 2002 08:20:51 -0400

Note #7317 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


GA affirms 'God's Gift' curriculum

Also says faith in creator God, belief in evolution aren't contradictory

by John Filiatreau

COLUMBUS, OH - After a lengthy and spirited debate, the 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on June 20 turned back an effort to force Congregational Ministries Publishing to drop its "God's Gift of Sexuality" curriculum, which some commissioners claimed "does not meet Biblical or constitutional standards."

The Assembly voted 375-136 to approve a measure granting a two-year deferment for CMP to produce a "library of resources" to supplement the current curriculum, adding that it understands that a "review and revision" process ordered by the Assemblies of 1998 and 1999 will continue.

Nine members of the Assembly's Christian Education and Publications (CEP) committee had submitted a minority report urging the GA to have the Congregational Ministries Division (CMD) stop using "God's Gift of Sexuality" and prepare new resources "in conformity with the directives given by the 210th and 211th General Assemblies." 
CMP officials said the substitute measure would require the destruction of inventory worth $114,000, and that producing new materials from scratch would cost several hundred  thousand dollars a year for several years.

John Van Genderen, of San Gabriel Presbytery, defended the current curriculum, saying that it "has been appreciated by those who used it." Contending that "there is no one resource or curriculum that would please everyone, and meet the needs of every church," he argued that "it would be better to have something than  nothing at all."

Ginny Garrard, a Youth Advisory Delegate from Flint River Presbytery, a member of the CEP committee, said she'd examined the materials and found "many things which shock me." She said one part of the current curriculum contains "a half-page about masturbation and only a couple of lines about abstinence," and said Presbyterian curriculum on sexuality "should begin and end with the Bible."

Scott Nesbitt, of East Iowa Presbyery, said of the current curriculum, "Scripture abounds on every page." He argued that the PC(USA) "needs a curriculum out there having a faith perspective, from a Presbyterian perspective," and warned that stopping "God's Gift" would leave "a great vacuum" in the churches.

Lucy Harris, a Theological Advisory Delegate under the care of Coastal Carolina Presbytery, who described herself as a former youth leader and Sunday school teacher, said "many parents, teachers and educators in the church have found (the current curriculum) useful." She said the PC(USA) cannot afford to force its young people to "simply rely on non-Christian or secular friends and the school system" for guidance on matters of sexuality.

Emily Kennedy, of Missouri Union Presbytery, said "God's Gift" is beyond repair. She called the material "very similar to what you'd find in a middle-school health class" and said it "cannot be revised to make it any better."

Laura Fleetwood, of Arkansas Presbytery, who said she has used the PC(USA) curriculum for 20 years, contended that it is "Biblically based and theologically grounded," and does emphasize that sexuality is appropriate only "in the context of the intimate relationship of marriage."

The Assembly approved an overture affirming "the importance of offering high-quality and affordable PC(USA) curriculum for ages preschool-adult  that is affordable, adaptable, user-friendly and appealing to congregations." The CEP committee also urged that CMD look into producing the materials in alternative formats, such as Braille and tape.

Paul Thwaite, of Pittsburgh Presbytery, asking, "Why are we trying to write curriculum, anyway?" suggested instead forming a task force to recommend the best of curricula already available from other sources.

Rebecca Kiser, of Eastern Virginia Presbytery, countered that she wanted to "hold up the desire ... to continue to have a Presbyterian curriculum."

The Assembly also:

* Passed a measure allowing the Office of Theology and Worship (OTW) to delay implementation "until sufficient new funding is provided" of an overture passed by the Assembly last year calling for the development of study materials on "the relationship of the finding of the sciences to the affirmation of God as creator of the universe."

* Approved a resolution affirming that God created the universe and "there is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator." The measure, prompted by an effort in Ohio to have the state Board of Education ban the teaching of evolution in public schools, calls on Presbyterian scientists and educators to help Presbyterians and the public "understand what constitutes reliable knowledge."

* Approved the rehiring of Davis Perkins as president and publisher of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

* Called for the creation of a directory of Web sites and publications useful as resources "in ministry with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons on the PC(USA) Web site, at a cost of $5,000. It amended the measure to require that it also produce a printed list of these resources.

* Passed a resolution asking the GAC, CMD and Office of Stewardship Education develop a resource to help congregations do annual financial reviews. The cost would be $7,000 this year and $7,000 in 2003.
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