The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (PCUSA) approved several overtures during the 222nd General Assembly last week relevant to the Korean community, two which involve historical and political issues related to the Korean peninsula.

One overture was regarding an incident that occurred in 1950 in No Gun Ri, South Korea, where some 150 or more Korean civilians were killed by American troops.

This Overture 12-01, which was submitted by the presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse, acknowledges that the incident occurred, and calls on the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to request statements from the President and Congress of the U.S. in which they also acknowledge the responsibility of the U.S. military for the incident, they apologize and express regret, and they express commitment to inform military troops about such incidents as No Gun Ri during training "to diminish the likelihood of such events happening in the future."

It also calls on the staff of the Presbyterian Mission Agency to communicate with the Presbyterian Church in Korea (PCK) and Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) to "offer condolence," "create a bibliography of resources about the events at No Gun Ri," "create worship materials to remember the people impacted by the events at No Gun Ri," "share the bibliography and worship materials and this overture and rationale electronically with the congregations and presbyteries," and "explore possibilities for joint prayer and witness regarding continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula, in the South China Sea."

The overture originally also included portions that would have required the PCUSA to arrange a reconciliatory meeting between the surviving victims of the incident and the U.S. soldiers who were present at the incident, and for the PCUSA to cooperate with the Korean Presbyterian denominations to establish a memorial church, both which were taken out in the final version.

"While supporting such a meeting in principle, the Presbyterian Mission Agency does not have the capacity nor the financial resources needed to arrange such a meeting," the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) commented on the original draft of the overture. "We believe it would be more appropriate to instruct the Presbyterian Mission Agency to communicate with our Korean partners and take appropriate action based on their request, whether advocacy with the U.S. government or other steps."

The final version of Overture 12-01 was approved by the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee by 35-12, and by the General Assembly via voice vote.

Another overture that was considered and approved at the General Assembly was Overture 12-13, which involved calling on the denomination to promote peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula.

The overture involves some political actions, such as urging PCUSA members to participate in a campaign spearheaded by the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the National Council of Christian Churches in the USA (NCCCUSA) to gather 100,000 signatures for a Korean Peace treaty that the two organizations plan to send to President Obama in late July.

It also calls on the PCUSA to work together with several organizations, including the Korean Christian Federation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), PCK, PROK, NCCK, NCCCUSA, and the World Council of of Churches (WCC) to call on the U.S. President and Congress to initiate a “process for lasting peace” in the Korean peninsula. To note, the Korean Christian Federation of the DPRK is an organization directly organized and supervised by the North Korean government.

Overture 12-13 also involves spiritual points of action as well, such as specifying the period between June 25 and August 15 as a time of prayer, and designating a ‘Day of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula’ on the Sunday before August 15, the day which marks Korean independence from Japanese imperial rule.

This overture, which was submitted by the commissioners, was approved in its final version by a 41-to-4 vote in the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee, and approved in the General Assembly by consensus.

Meanwhile, the PCUSA held its 222nd General Assembly in Portland, Oregon from June 18 to 25, and considered over 70 overtures.