From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[PCUSANEWS] A family squabble
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
28 May 2003 23:09:19 -0400
Note #7758 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
A family squabble
A family squabble
Issues panel pens 2-page rewrite of controversial family paper
by Evan Silverstein
DENVER, May 27 - After two days of wrangling, the General Assembly Committee
on National Issues approved a substitute for a controversial policy paper
about the changing nature of families in American society.
A group of committee members, with the help of an official of a conservative
think tank, created an alternative to the report presented by the Advisory
Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP).
The panel approved the two-page document drafted by the ad-hoc work group,
substituting it for the voluminous ACSWP report.
The action came after an open hearing on the paper on Monday featuring
spirited debate of the ACSWP report. A number of amended versions failed to
win support; the committee declined to return the document to ACSWP for
further study or to send it to Theology and Worship officials; motions to
disapprove the paper also failed.
The substitute document defines marriage much more narrowly than the ACSWP's
policy statement had, specifying that it is a "civil contract between a woman
and a man." It goes on to say that, "for Christians, marriage is a covenant
through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God
their lives of discipleship."
Critics of ACSWP's paper, Living Faithfully with Families in Transition,
claimed during the hearing that it diminishes the importance of traditional
two-parent families and elevates non-traditional families, including those
involving unmarried and same-sex relationships, to moral equivalence, in
violation of scripture and of Christian morality.
The longer paper documents the changing structure of family life in the
United States - which now take in, for example, single-parent households,
families in which children are raised by grandparents or other non-parent
relatives, and domestic partnerships other than marriage. It discussed how
various kinds of families can raise children faithfully and responsibly.
The ACSWP document was expected to spur debate before the Assembly. Some
members of the committee said they expect to present a minority report
expressing concern about the paper written mostly by committee members.
"The policy statement the (Advisory) Committee (for Social Witness Policy)
brought forward followed the General Assembly's process for developing
policy," said the Rev. Peter A. Sulyok, the ACSWP coordinator. "I'm not sure
it was able to have a fair hearing, with the number of sub-interventions from
special interest groups concerned with sexual ethics rather than the support
Sulyok said he hopes GA commissioners in plenary session will "be able to
understand the issues fully" and resurrect the ACSWP document.
The paper the committee approved asks the Assembly to call on the
PC(USA) to renew its commitment to "upholding the work of families," and to
advocate devoting more time to family life; adequate, family-sustaining
wages; and reduced economic and consumer pressure on all families.
The paper also asks the church to "help persons lead a chaste single life, to
prepare many (people) to form loving, lasting marriages, to help spouses keep
their marriage vows, and to bring healing to all who suffer when marriages
It also calls upon the church to renew its commitment to "resisting forces
that weaken, deface and jeopardize family well-being," including American
cultural values such as materialism, consumerism, hedonism and individualism.
The substitute paper also says, "We refuse to stigmatize those who
are single or those who are childless, whether by choice or unchosen
circumstance." It also calls upon Presbyterians to "strengthen and nurture
the Christian understanding of their members as they work to transform a
culture in rebellion against God."
Those who claimed authorship of the briefer paper were Alan Wisdom, director
of Presbyterian Action (previously named the Institute on Religion and
Democracy), a conservative think tank in Washington, DC; Elder Janet Nickels,
of Shenandoah Presbytery; Elder Mary Alice Pugh, of the Presbytery of
Tropical Florida; Elder Barbara Harris, of the Presbytery of Sheppards and
Lapsley; Elder Richard Walker, of the Presbytery of San Diego; the Rev.
Lynell Caudillo, of the Presbytery of Seattle; and the Rev. Marjorie Working,
of the Presbytery of Santa Barbara.
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