From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Just say yes - and no

Date Tue, 5 Aug 2003 09:40:11 -0500

Note #7869 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Just say yes - and no
August 4, 2003

Just say yes - and no

Youth Assembly urges moderation, not abstinence, in sex debates

by Jerry L. Van Marter

LOUISVILLE - A group of more than 500 young Presbyterians has urged the
General Assembly to continue discussing issues having to do with sexuality -
including whether sexually active gays and lesbians should be eligible for
ordination - but not to allow those matters to dominate its proceedings.

	That was the message from one Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) to another: from the 2003 Presbyterian Youth Connection Assembly (PYCA)
to the GA, the denomination's highest governing body.

The PYCA brought more than 500 Presbyterian high school students together
here on July 30 for five days of worship, Bible study, leadership-development
workshops and GA-style debates of proposed "legislation."

The youth Assembly concluded Sunday morning after two days of plenary
sessions devoted to tortuous parliamentary process and impassioned exchanges
of opinions and deeply-held convictions - debates demonstrating that dissent
permeates all generations of the PC(USA).

Wading through 34 resolutions submitted by delegates, the youth Assembly,
like its adult counterpart, was dominated by two issues: human sexuality and
abortion. And the PYCA, again like the General Assembly, was not of one mind
on either.

       Sexuality and ordination: Keep talking

	The more than 500 voting PYCA delegates - representing their
presbyteries - overwhelmingly defeated a resolution asking the 2004 General
Assembly to "postpone the issue of the ordination of homosexuals."

	A.J. Piccone, of Hudson River Presbytery, a co-moderator of the PYCA
Committee on Sexuality, said: "While the committee agrees that this issue
should not take center stage, we feel it should stay on the table, as painful
as it may be. We seek to discern God's will throughout continued discussion."

	A delegate from Holston Presbytery in Tennessee agreed that sexuality
issues should no longer be front-and-center. "The PC(USA) should move away
from focusing in the issues of sex and sin," she said, "and move toward
focusing more on such issues as evangelism."

	A related resolution to "affirm the call of homosexuals, bisexuals
and transgendered persons to all areas of ministry" also passed, but only
after several unsuccessful attempts to include references to the PC(USA)'s
constitutional prohibition against the ordination of sexually active
non-married persons as church officers (G-6.0106b).

	Pat Murray, an adult advisor serving as the other co-moderator of the
sexuality committee, said during plenary: "This resolution carefully avoids
ordination. The committee wanted to make sure (the ordination question) is
not the issue of this resolution. This resolution is about God calling
everyone to ministry in some way or other."

    Abortion: Following the denomination's lead

	The Assembly accepted a recommendation from the Committee on Abortion
that a resolution promoting pro-life resources and events be disapproved.

In the single case in which a committee's recommendation was substantially
changed by the Assembly, the delegates rejected a comment proposed by the
committee, and instead adopted a carefully worded statement on abortion
excerpted from current General Assembly policy.

The committee wanted to include the observation that "the Presbyterian Church
(USA) is prayerfully pro-choice."

The full text of the PYCA's comment:

 "In life and in death we belong to God. Life is a gift from God. We may not
know exactly when human life begins, and have but imperfect understanding of
God as the giver of life and of our own human existence, yet we recognize
that life is precious to God, and we should preserve and protect it.

	"We derive our understanding of human life from Scripture and the
Reformed tradition in light of science, human experience and reason, guided
by the Holy Spirit. Because we are made in the image of God, human beings are
moral agents, endowed by the Creator with the capacity to make choices. Our
Reformed tradition recognizes that people do not always make moral choices,
and forgiveness is central to our faith.

	"In the Reformed tradition we affirm that God is the only Lord of
conscience, not the state nor the church. As a community, the church
challenges the faithful to exercise their moral agency responsibly."

       Leadership: Clamoring for more

	The largest number of resolutions urged more youth representation on
sessions. The Assembly approved measures calling on the National Presbyterian
Youth Ministry Council, which oversees the Presbyterian Youth Connection
between its triennial Assemblies, to advocate greater youth membership on
sessions. It also urged denominational agencies to provide resources to
congregations that will encourage greater youth participation on sessions.

	Despite objections that it would be too costly, the PYCA asked its
council to seek an increase in the number of Youth Advisory Delegates to
General Assemblies from one per presbytery to two per presbytery when the
Assembly moves to biennial meetings (with a 50 percent increase in the number
of commissioners) in 2006.

	     Reaching out:
     Evangelism and interfaith relations

	The delegates expressed a keen interest in reaching out to potential
new Christians, including people of other faiths.

	The Assembly asked its council to call for the development of PC(USA)
evangelism resources "to help youth and young adults express their faith and
share Presbyterian beliefs in their community." It also urged presbyteries to
help congregations "become aware of available resources and evangelism
training opportunities."

	Noting the PC(USA)'s chronic loss of young adults after they leave
high school, the Assembly asked the Youth and Young Adult Ministries Office
to help train congregational leaders "to attract and minister to post-high
school members."

	Dathan Brown, a co-moderator of the Assembly Committee on Evangelism,
said, "Statistics show there's a drop-off after high school. More can be

	The Assembly asked the	Congregational Ministries Division to
"develop or recommend" curriculum to help young people engage in study and
dialogue with non-Christians and with non-Presbyterian Christians.

	       Other actions

The PYCA also voted:

* Not to seek biennial meetings (in the General Assembly's "off years"), but
to continue meeting once every three years;

* Not to seek the development of a "youth confession" for the church;

* To urge development of a curriculum on "how youth can live Christian lives
in a nation where church and state are separate," and the use of existing
materials "to educate presbyteries in theocracy";

* To take a more active role in promoting the Pentecost Offering, which
benefits youth and young adult ministry in the PC(USA);

* To ask its council to "evaluate" the existing PC(USA) confirmation

* To ask the council to explore the possibility of launching a fund-raising
campaign to endow a scholarship fund for PC(USA) youth conferences;

* To help publicize and promote AIDS ministries in Malawi, one of the African
countries hit hardest by the pandemic; and,

* To help raise awareness of the PC(USA)'s goal of increasing its
racial-ethnic membership.

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