Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy holds a webinar on selected items of business coming before GA226

ACSWP has authored several helpful documents, and hopes to write even more

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Erica Nelson

LOUISVILLE — Earlier this month, members and staff of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy held an informative webinar on General Assembly items of business in which ACSWP is involved. Watch the 52-minute webinar here.

As explained by ACSWP’s co-chair, the Rev. Erica Nelson, social witness policy “refers to the positions adopted by the General Assembly to express its stance on and guide response to issues in the public order, including their relation to the church’s own life and mission.” Positions may take the form of policy statements, resolutions, study papers or social involvement reports.

Nelson noted ACSWP also provides advice and counsel on items of business before the assembly “for the purpose of providing information about existing policy, current work on specific topics, recent developments and other factors useful to commissioners as they consider issues before the assembly.”

Among those presenting during the webinar:

The Rev. Dr. Rick Nutt


The Rev. Dr. Rick Nutt, an ACSWP member, discussed the paper “More Than Knowledge and Training,” which will come before the Christian Formation Committee during GA. The paper, which can be downloaded here, addresses, among other things, the rising cost of higher education and whether the cost is worth the benefit that students derive, especially considering the loan burden on millions of students. “Our committee felt this was an issue to which we should speak,” Nutt said.

The Rev. Dr. Dhawn Martin

The Rev. Dr. Dhawn Martin, who manages ACSWP, discussed an item of business before the Domestic Engagement Committee that calls for a new social witness policy and study concerning white Christian nationalism. “One thing we note is that white Christian nationalism didn’t just sprout out of nowhere. There are long, complicated histories,” Martin said. “We think it’s important to form a study team to explore these complexities involved.

Nelson presented on this proposal, which is also coming before the Domestic Engagement Committee, to create a new social witness policy and study on the responsible use of artificial intelligence, with an emphasis on “the destabilizing potential AI has for employment, the economy, civil governance and global conflict, increasing existing technological disparity and the theological implications for its usage in the work of the church.”

“The truth is, we are coming to this a little late. It’s already a major player in the field,” Nelson said. Nelson’s seen social media sites that cater to clergy where preachers discuss using artificial intelligence to write some or all of their sermons, “which begs the question: where’s the Holy Spirit in that? Is the Holy Spirit in that?” Nelson said.

The Rev. Sue Smith

The Rev. Sue Smith, ACSWP’s other co-chair, discussed a lithium mining paper found here and an informational paper called “Environmental Justice and the Costs of Green Transitions,” which is here. On the second paper, Smith said, “the focus is on cost as we transition, but not to let cost stop the transition. We recommend it for study.”

Martin returned to discuss “The Gospel from Utah,” which is coming before the Mid Councils Committee. “We did not develop this,” Martin said. But for the last few cycles of General Assembly, ACSWP “has engaged with the host presbytery to create a celebration of ways the good works and good news of the body are being developed.”

Nutt, who’s moderated committees during previous assemblies, warned commissioners on the call, “You’ll be overwhelmed. You have more to read than any one human should be expected to read.”

“The work of the committees is so vital, so important. I urge you to read all of the recommendations and rationales, advice and counsels,” Nutt said. “Start with your committee and get to as many other pieces of business as you can.”

“It’s how this particular denomination works,” Nutt said of the General Assembly committee and, later, plenary process. “It’s a thankless job and we appreciate you taking it on.”

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.