Human rights have been the focus of many statements by General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations.
The Bible does not use the phrase “human rights.” However, Jesus stated, “I have come in order that you might have life in all its fullness.” He proclaimed that his calling included release of the captives, sight for the blind, and liberty for the oppressed. With these words, Jesus expressed his concern for what is ours because we are created as God’s children—and that is the realm of human rights. The biblical concepts of justice, freedom, peace, and security further ground our commitment to human rights.
The 161st General Assembly (1949) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America voted its support of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, taking a concrete step on a matter about which Assemblies had been advocating for nearly fifteen years. The action marked the beginning of declarations by Assemblies in the area of human rights principles. These policy statements and resolutions have been both general — addressing the rights of all human beings — and specific, addressing the rights of persons in particular situations. Assemblies have called for the United States to sign and ratify United Nations human rights conventions. Always, the statements of the Assemblies have been motivated out of the conviction that Jesus calls the church to speak with and on behalf of our neighbors’ welfare.