General Assembly 225 in Review

Our friends at Presbyterians for Carbon Dividends have put together a fantastic synopsis for use in sharing an overview of the actions from the 225th General Assembly. This GA discussion guide along with these Facilitator Notes are available for congregations to edit and use. 

EJ Committee listening

The Environmental Justice Committee listens to a virtual overture advocate during its hybrid meeting. (Photo by Rich Copley)

During the plenary sessions of 225th General Assembly held last month, several of the recommendations from the Environmental Justice Committee came to the floor for a vote. These included:

  • Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Response to 223rd General Assembly Directive on Environmental Policy
  • On Reducing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Carbon Imprint
  • On Creating the Presbyterian Tree Fund
  • On Protecting the Diversity of Creation-all creation needs protection from climate change and lifts-up the sovereignty and wisdom of indigenous peoples.
  • Investing in a Green Future: A Vision for a Renewed Creation—From the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.
  • On Actions in Support of an Energy Transition

(You can see all of the actions taken by the committee online.)

One of the most closely watched items among those items included ENV-10, an item of business that passed the floor with no debate and no amendments.  The assembly voted 340-41 to approve ENV-10, following the recommendation from the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to divest from the five oil and gas companies it concluded are not moving quickly enough to try to slow global warming — Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66, and Valero Energy.

According to a Presbyterian Outlook article reviewing that session, “the decisive vote reflect(ed) this assembly’s endorsement of MRTI’s strategy of corporate engagement and selective divestment, and the recognition that that approach has repeatedly been affirmed by previous General Assemblies and has the support of the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation, the investing agencies of the denomination.”

At previous General Assemblies, overtures calling for full divestment have essentially competed against MRTI’s approach of corporate engagement. This year, Fossil Free PCUSA, which favors divestment, and MRTI sounded the message early that the assembly could choose to do both – to pass MRTI’s recommendations (ENV-10) and the divestment overture (ENV-07).

The Assembly however chose not to pass ENV-07 instead answering it as well as ENV-01, ENV-06, and ENV-08 with an amended version of ENV-09, which became sort of a catch-all item of business the Environmental Justice committee reshaped and used to respond to several recommendations, affirming MRTI’s strategy of corporate engagement and calling for a series of other actions. Yo

The Assembly voted to approve, with comment, ENV-02, authorizing the study and recommendations from an Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy paper called “Investing in a Green Future: A Vision for a Renewed Creation,” on environmental justice and environmental racism. This report includes  a poster celebrating 50 years of environmental advocacy in the PC(USA).

Finally, items ENV-04, ENV-05, ENV-11, which relate to the creation of a carbon/tree fund, decreasing the church’s carbon footprint and affirming the diversity of creation, also  passed this year’s General Assembly.

Presbyterians for Earth Care offered a webinar “GA, Creation Care and You,” in late July as a look back at what commissioners and advisory delegates to the 225th General Assembly did to care for God’s Creation.

The work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

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