Tuesday, June 1, 2004
Families Paper: General Assembly Backgrounder
by Evan Silverstein
PCUSA News Service
The reappearance of a proposed policy paper on the changing nature of
families in the United States is expected to be a major item before
this year's 216th General Assembly in Richmond, VA.
"Transforming Families," developed by the Advisory Committee on
Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), documents the changing structure of
family life, which today includes many single-parent households,
homes in which children are raised by grandparents or other non-
parent relatives, and domestic partnerships other than marriage. It
speaks of ways in which various kinds of families can raise children
faithfully and responsibly.
Critics of the original 43-page report claimed its authors had
refused to make moral distinctions and placed families headed by same-
sex couples on the same plane as those headed by married heterosexual
couples - violating scripture and Christian morality. They prepared a
one-page substitute that defined marriage, as PC(USA) doctrine does,
as a union of "one man and one woman."
Neither version passed muster at last year's Assembly in Denver, CO,
which bounced both back to ACSWP with instructions to rewrite it,
adding stronger affirmations of the theological value of the
traditional two-parent family. Parts of the document were revised as
many as 19 times, and a new theological section had been added.
The Rev. Peter Sulyok, the ACSWP coordinator, said he believes the
retooled paper will win broad support at the Assembly and in the PC
He said the revised paper is "broad enough to include all the
families in the church, and wide enough to create the space for the
church to reach out, both within its own walls and beyond its walls,
into society, to seek opportunities for ministries with families."
The original paper was produced in response to a request from the
1997 Assembly that ACSWP examine "changing families and social
structures that support families," focusing on their impact on
children, and suggest ways "to strengthen the church's ministry to
"Transforming Families" will be considered by Assembly Committee 10 -