Stating that the “blood of little children cries out to God and to Christ’s Church for protection and justice,” a presbytery is calling for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to enter into a two-year season of reflection on the plight of unwanted children.
In Overture 015, South Alabama Presbytery has asked the 221st General Assembly to call for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and PCUSA congregations to enter a “season of reflection upon the plight of children unwanted by human society, both born and not-yet born, and to purposefully seek to enter the pure worship of God by offering aid, comfort and the Gospel to those responsible for the care of our most desperate orphans (including those who survive abortion procedures): parents, siblings, church and community leaders and the medical profession.”
The overture also asks the GA moderator and stated clerk to “issue statements that denounce the practice of killing babies born live following an abortion procedure, such as was revealed in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia.”
In May 2013, Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for the murder of a baby that was born alive in a botched abortion. According to a New York Times article, he also was sentenced “to a total of 30 to 60 years on two charges of conspiring to kill two of the babies and on one charge of violating the corrupt organizations act, which has to do with ordering subordinates to commit crimes. And he was sentenced to two and a half to five years on involuntary manslaughter in the case of Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who died after being given too much anesthetic in Dr. Gosnell’s West Philadelphia abortion clinic.”
The trial and conviction of Gosnell “has placed Planned Parenthood abortion clinics and similar organizations under suspicion for tolerating medical abuse of both mothers and infants,” the overture states. “Neither the PCUSA Stated Clerk in Louisville nor the Presbyterian Church (USA) Washington Office have called for corrective medical regulations (federal or state) for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, nor have our denominational representatives offered a single word of protest against the taking of innocent life at Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.”
A third recommendation of the overture asks the GA moderator to appoint a special committee on abortion review that consists of an equal amount of pro-life and pro-choice viewpoints.
The special committee should:
- “Conduct a thorough assessment of the financial, in-kind, lodgment, publicity, and staff support that the PCUSA provides to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and other abortion providers or pro-choice organizations. A similar review should be made of denominational support provided for pro-life organizations and pro-life crisis-pregnancy support centers.
- b. “Review existing policies and, if needed, propose new policies that will more accurately represent the PCUSA in its breadth of conviction about abortion, taking into account our churches’ desire to worship God in purest form (Jas. 1:27). Any new policies shall incorporate more fully the voices of pro-life Presbyterians, who have to this point largely been kept silent in denominational advocacy.”
“The clear teaching of Scriptures reveals that human life is sacred to God primarily because human life is created in God’s image,” the rationale continues. “The New Testament Scriptures clearly teach that the purest expression of religion in the sight of our God and heavenly Father is to care particularly for orphans and widows during their times of distress, and to keep ourselves unstained by the world (Jas. 1:27).
“The Presbytery of South Alabama recognizes the spiritual duty of church councils to be faithful in carrying out their constitutional responsibility of being proactive, “warning and bearing witness against error in doctrine and immorality in practice within the congregation and community” (Book of Order, G-3.0201c).
Protect children from sexual exploitation
Another overture concerned with protecting children has been submitted to the 2014 General Assembly by the Presbytery of New York City.
Overture 016 asks the assembly to encourage use of the Code of Conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation. According to the overture, the Code “sets a standard of responsible business practices that effectively deters child sexual exploitation. It is an industry-driven, multi-stakeholder initiative with the mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry in order to combat the sexual exploitation of children in contexts related to travel and tourism.”
The code, according to the overture, includes six criteria that members of the tourism industry agree to follow. They are:
- “To establish a policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children.
- “To train employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases.
- “To include a clause in contracts throughout the value chain stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children.
- “To provide information to travelers on children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and how to report suspected cases.
- “To support, collaborate, and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
- “To report annually on their implementation of code related activities.”
The overture asks the assembly to encourage the denomination to give preferences to businesses that have signed the code when making travel and/or meeting arrangements and for the denomination to advocate and educate businesses that have not signed the Code of Conduct.
The denomination has “long used its economic power to stand for equality and justice. Use of the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism in arranging meetings and travel to meetings would allow the church to continue that tradition and seek the human rights of children in our country and around the world,” states the rationale of the overture.