Friends of Social Witness and Social Ministry,
The General Assembly has authorized two new studies that will involve the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP). One is about the economic crisis and the other is about the peacemaking witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We are providing links to brief prospectuses (work outlines) and nomination forms for those who want to be considered for work on these issues. Along with paid and volunteer consultant writers, the ACSWP and its predecessors have depended upon dedicated church members with particular expertise in the areas under consideration to serve on teams that define the work, contribute to it, and evaluate its adequacy.
The first study, Living Through Economic Crisis, builds upon the Social Involvement Report by that name which is to be distributed to each congregation in the denomination. That eight-page statement is an excellent call-to-action-and-reflection on our current demoralizing recession, and it provided the rationale for the Assembly to authorize a new study. Although this study is for a resolution and not a new full policy, we post a brief prospectus outlining the work to be done and knowledge needed. There is also a volunteer form. The prospectus lists the previous policy statements that provide a basis for the new assessment of "economic trends and practices, including their impact on the church itself. In this case the focus is partly on "long term developments," as structural problems are not likely to be solved easily even if employment picks up. The goal is to prepare a report in time for the next General Assembly.
The second project is a peacemaking discernment process designed to provide both new thinking and a new range of practical applications to the church's peace witness. It may even lead to a re-orientation of our corporate conscience - part of the discernment is not to know all the outcomes. Thus, while there will be consultations to invite participation from peace and international affairs people in the colleges, universities and seminaries with an eye to updating policies, there will also be resources and ways for congregations and individuals across the church to reflect on their own peace engagement.
An initial assessment of Peacemaking: The Believers' Calling (1980), for example, suggests that its policy core remains valuable but that the nine areas surveyed in its background study all have changed since that Cold War period, and that several new concerns would probably be among the top nine challenges to peace. Along with this critical reading of the "signs of the times," discernment is also a faith guided process involving spiritual disciplines and formation of conscience. A steering team will work with both ACSWP and the Peacemaking Program to design as participatory a process as possible. Again, an initial outline of tasks to be performed is available, building clearly on the Assembly's action, as is a volunteer nomination form. The form notes that it is not only for the five-person steering team but for other aspects of the process, so if you feel called to participate please note your area of preferred contribution.