Equipping Hands and Hearts for Ministries of Informed Engagement
A Report from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy—Aug. 2023
We—individual Christians and churches—commit ourselves to a culture of peace and freedom that embraces non-violence, nurtures character, treasures the environment, and builds community, rooted in a spirituality of inner growth with outward action. We make this commitment together—as members of Christ’s body, led by the one Spirit—trusting in the God who makes all things new.
The mission of ACSWP serves the prophetic calling of the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Through study, reflection, prayer, analysis, and conversation, the 12 members of the committee (often along with individuals from various fields of wisdom), work to prepare issue items for General Assembly action. This process is shaped by biblical, theological, ethical, liberationist, and anti-racist resources and insights.
Proposed policies for the upcoming 226th General Assembly range from exploration of transitional steps to a green economy, updating mental health tools for congregations, surveying the evolving demands on, as well as the current realities and future hopes of families, and to what artificial intelligence (AI) means for faith-journeys and communal-identities. This is merely a sampling but provides a sense of the scope and depth of ACSWP’s work. This current slate of topics builds upon years of policy development. Each General Assembly, statements, resolutions, and studies are deliberated and voted upon, generating vital resources for national and local church leadership and engagement. Below are reports from the 225th GA.
- Afghanistan: A Time to Mend (2022)
- Epistles from Baltimore (2020/2022)
- Gun Violence: An action of the 225th General Assembly (2022)
- Investing in a Green Future: A Vision for a Renewed Creation (2022)
- Jerusalem 3, 2, 1: Three Faiths, Two Peoples, One Human Family (2022)
- Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights and Electoral Reform (2022)
- Race, Reparative Justice and the PC(USA) (2022)
- Resolution on Sanctions (2022)
- Seeking Hope Amid Despair in Central America (2022)
- Witness from Mid-Kentucky (2022)
- ACSWP Summary Report 2020-2022
ACSWP is indebted to the faithful work of Presbyterian member volunteers with expertise and experience in the subject areas of these reports, and to community members, mission co-workers, and other staff who also share their experiences with and knowledge of particular programs and parts of the church.
In addition to these reports, the Advisory Committee members and staff work on “Advice & Counsel” memoranda for other items of business. The A&Cs by the ACSWP and other GA committees are posted right after the items themselves on pc-biz.org. These items might take the form of overtures from presbyteries and reports from special committees that have social justice applications or that affect our capacity for social witness. The purpose of A&Cs is described in the 1993 policy on social witness itself (Why and How the Church Makes a Social Policy Witness: presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/2-why_and_how_the_church_makes_a_social_policy_witness_1993_and_2003_rev.pdf). Familiarity with these different processes and mechanisms not only enhances the Assembly’s deliberation, but also highlights the connectional nature of the church.
How You Can Participate in the Work of Social Witness Between Assemblies
The committee’s ongoing mandate, alluded to earlier, is summarized in its mission statement:
“The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) serves the prophetic calling of the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by providing the General Assembly with careful studies of pressing moral challenges, media for discussion and discernment of Christian responsibilities, and recommendations for faithful action.” (ACSWP Manual, Revised, 2014).
Faithful action, however, is never static and neither is the mission of ACSWP. Meaningful action need reflect and respond to those dynamisms influencing the lived realities of people and planet. While COVID challenged our accustomed gathering practices, it did provide opportunities to examine what it means to serve the people, places and times that shape our communities. The committee’s summary report for 2020-2022 (listed above) includes findings from consultations that explored diverse approaches to strengthening the church’s prophetic role. A section called “New Directions for Social Witness in the PC(U.S.A.),” near the end of that report, details these findings. Questions that currently and will continue to frame ACSWP’s work include: Why and how does the church do social witness policy? Who sits at the table in shaping the denomination’s social witness work and who sets the table? What might the future of social witness policy look like? We invite all those concerned with social witness — how the church educates, takes stands, and acts on justice matters — to help us find ways to do it more faithfully and effectively at: presbyterianmission.org/ministries/compassion-peace-justice/acswp. Or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.