By JOHN A. BOLT Associated Press Writer BILOXI, Miss. (AP) -- Presbyterians adopted a stud
By JOHN A. BOLT Associated Press Writer
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) -- Presbyterians adopted a study paper
Tuesday establishing guidelines for Christian-Jewish relations,
making only minor changes in the document that had been rewritten
to answer concerns of Middle Eastern Christians.
With little dissent, the 199th Generall Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted "A Theological Understanding of
the Relationship Between Christians and Jews," and accompanying
calls for a conference between Presbyterians and representatives
of the Middle East Conference of Churches.
The revised paper renewed a call for Palestinian participation
in negotiations on Israeli-occupied land and included a statement
that God's promise of land to Israelis was a "biblical metaphor
for sustainable life, prosperity, peace and security."
"The political state of Israel is not to be given theological
justification," said Harold Nebelsick, chairman of the committee
that wrote the final draft.
The original paper has been extensively rewritten since
discussions began here in committee meetings Thursday. The Rev.
Benjamin Weir, a former hostage in Lebanon, and two Middle
Eastern Christian leaders had complained that the paper gave
Bibilical support to Israeli land claims in Palestine and
suggested that Christians should not attempt to convert Jews.
That language was changed because "the modern state of Israel
cannot be validated theologically," said David Lenegar, a
delegate from Bethel, S.C., who worked on the revisions. "We
wanted to get God out of the real estate business."
Weir, the Rev. Salim Sahiouny, head of the Presbyterian
Church in Syria and Lebanon, and the Rev. Albert Isteero,
president of Cairo Theological Seminary, all told the
commissioners Tuesday they supported the rewritten paper.
"This paper can be used as a study paper to reflect on this
very central issue," Sahiouny said.
The paper was adopted for "study and reflection," and church
officials were directed to appoint a group to meet with the
Middle East Conference of Churches and come back to the
denomination in 1989 with appropriate recommendations.
In other action Tuesday evening, the assembly refused to
undertake a study on whether it should reconsider its refusal to
ordain homosexuals. The denomination permits admitted,
practicing homosexuals to become members, but refuses to allow
them to hold office.
However the assembly voted later to undertake a "review and
update of previous studies on human sexuality," specifically
refusing to include language which would have prohibited the
study from considering ordination of homosexuals.
The assembly voted later to ask the federal government to
eliminate "laws governing the private sexual behavior between
consenting adults," and ask federal and state governments to pass
laws forbidding discrimination in employment and housing based on
Earlier Tuesday, the Presbyterians narrowly voted to relocate
their headquarters to Louisville, Ky., accepting a businessman's
offer of free office space overlooking the Ohio River.
The 199th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA),
after a two-minute silent prayer, rejected two committee
recommendations and voted 332-309 to pick Louisville over Kansas
John Mulder, president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological
Seminary and a leader in the effort to bring in the headquarters
now jointly in New York and Atlanta, told the commissioners,
"This is a gift. ... It's not a traditional business deal. It
comes with one condition. You must accept it."
"Stewardship is is issue before you today," Mulder said,
adding that the money saved can be used "for the sake of the
mission of the church."
David Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of Humana
Inc., offered to the denomination an abandoned warehouse on the
riverfront, and the community offered $6.2 million for renovation
of the space. State and city political leaders joined Louisville
religious leaders in Biloxi to press their case with the 650
commissioners at the nine-day assembly.
A finance committee report said that after 10 years, the
denomination would be able to own the Louisville building for $1.
To own the site in the Kansas City proposal would cost $21.5
million, the committe said.
Most of the move will be completed by mid-1988, but some
agencies, mainly those related to publishing, will not finish the
move until the end of 1990.
Presbyterian Church (USA) was formed in a 1983 merger of the
New York-based United Presbyterian Church (USA) and Atlanta-based
Presbyterian Church (US).
In the afternoon, the assembly adopted without dissent a
resolution rejecting the "Christian Identity Movement," described
as religious groups with a "theology of racial purity,
anti-Semitism, and violent overthrow of the government, all in
the name of Jesus Christ."
The resolution appeals to members of the movement "to turn
from their error." The resolution says members of the movement
include the Ku Klux Klan, Posse Comitatus, Christian-Patriots
Defense League, The Order and Aryan Nations.
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