On Wednesday, Sept 22, the General Assembly Council (GAC) of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) opened its headquarters to Christians and Muslims around the world, in preparation for the launch of the second Interfaith Listening Project.
In total, PCUSA partners across 10 countries sent a two-person team consisting of a Christian member and a Muslim who is already in dialogue with the church. The GAC members heard the stories about the lives of the participants in their native countries, as the two factions waited for the beginning of the second Listening Project.
Once the program begins, each team, consisting of one Christian and one Muslim, will visit congregations, presbyteries, colleges and local communities to share their experiences in the Christian-Muslim relationship.
“The idea is very simple, bring Christian-Muslim relationships in the flesh to people in our congregations in our local communities,” said the Rev. Jay Rock, coordinator of the PC(USA)’s Interfaith Relations Office.
“The Presbyterian Church has been a partner with us for a long time,” said Andreas D’Souza, a Christian from India who is director of the Henry Martyn Institute, an international center for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation. “It is with your partnership that we have been able to bring to our particular situation … a dialogue moving toward interfaith relations and reconciliation.”
The program first began in 2002 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. The program was meant to help Presbyterians engage in interfaith conversations and promote peace between Christians and Muslims. The denomination’s Worldwide Ministries Division’s Interfaith Relations Office and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), in partnership with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program developed the program.
In addition to preparing for the dialogue, the GAC also settled several business matters, such ad:
• Hearing from moderator Rick Ufford-Chase of Tucson, AZ, who spoke about his recent trip to Columbia, South America. The purpose of Ufford-Chase’s visit there was to begin a program of “accompaniment” between the PC(USA) and the Presbyterian Church of Columbia. The program would establish an outside presence to protect people fighting for human rights, including church members in Barranquilla, an Atlantic coast city in the north
• Approving appointments to a newly-formed mission funding task force charged with devising a conceptual framework for a new mission funding system for the PC(USA), a goal of the denomination’s Mission Work Plan. Members appointed to the task force: Paul J. Masquelier Jr. of San Jose, CA; Carol G. Hylkema of Dearborn, MI; Dan K. Shoemer, Canfield, OH; Linda A. Knieriemen of Grand Rapids, MI; Conrad M. Rocha of Albuquerque, NM; and Reginald S. “Reg” Kuhn of Lincoln, NE;
• Approving appointments of members to a newly formed governance task force to evaluate, develop and propose a structure of the GAC (elected and national staff) that will strengthen connectedness with presbyteries and synods as part of a goal of the denomination’s Mission Work Plan. Those appointed to the task force: Carol J. Adcock, Fort Worth, TX; Susan Andrews of Bethesda, MD; Nancy Kahaian, Michigan City, IN; Kenneth R. Newbold of Rose Hill, NC; Joe W. Rigsby of Jacksonville, FL; and Ray Tanner of Jackson, TN.