REVISED – GA-1521 Substitute Resolution from the General Board on Gun Violence

REVISED
GA-1521
(Sense-of-the-Assembly)
SUBSTITUTE RESOLUTION
FROM THE GENERAL BOARD
ON GUN VIOLENCE

PDF

_____________________

Two resolutions were submitted on the topic of gun violence. According to 2.5.3 of the Special Rules of Procedure for the General Assembly (rev. 2011) which state: “The General Board shall submit a substitute Sense-of-the-Assembly Resolution to replace multiple resolutions on the same subject;” a substitute resolution is being brought to the plenary in place of the two submitted resolutions.

Should the General Assembly vote to not adopt the substitute resolution, the original resolutions will be brought to the Assembly in the order they were received in accordance with 7.5.4 of the Special Rules of Procedure for the General Assembly which states: “If a substitute business item is replacing multiple business items on the same subject and fails, the originals come before the General Assembly in the order in which they were received by the Office of the General Minister and President.”

__________________________

WHEREAS the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada seeks to follow Jesus’ way of peace making and has committed to become a Pro-Reconciling/ Anti-Racist Church; and

WHEREAS scripture tells us God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), and the Church is called to be one body, making no distinction (Galatians 3:28); and

WHEREAS the United States is suffering from an epidemic of gun violence, with nearly 100,000 people shot and 32,000 dying each year, including more than 17,500 children and teens shot and 2,500 dying;i and

WHEREAS a litany of tragedy reverberates in our hearts – the names of schools and communities where gun violence has taken innocent lives in numbers hard to comprehend – Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, while shootings in lesser numbers barely make the headlines in our violence-numbed culture; and

WHEREAS there is a clear, racialized difference in the ways white Americans and Americans of color have been granted the right to bear armsii, and communities of color are much more likely to become victims of gun violenceiii, too often at the hands of law enforcementiv, in communities large and small, urban and rural; and

WHEREAS there has been a significant increase in gun violence related deaths of law enforcement officersv; and

WHEREAS statistics reveal firearms are the most frequently used weapon in death by suicide;[1]

WHEREAS current cultural divides – between geographic regions, across political affiliations, and between racial groups – help perpetuate cultural perceptions of distrust and insecurity, in which a need for physical protection is assumed and guns are promoted as a source of securityvi; and

WHEREAS we recognize that a culture of violence, individual exceptionalism and easy access to guns elevate the threat and reality of homicide and suicide, affecting men, women, youth, children and families; and

WHEREAS we understand that the right to own a gun includes social responsibility and is subject to reasonable constraints; and

WHEREAS the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has not explicitly addressed gun violence in a General Assembly within the past 25 years, during which the cultural views on gun control and ownership have grown increasingly polarized:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, meeting in Columbus, OH, July 18-22, 2015, urge the many expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to prayerfully examine our collective and individual relationships to a pervasive culture of gun violence, and commit to reconciling the cultural divides that perpetuate it through mutual respect and forgiveness; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this General Assembly calls on Disciples to model and teach grace-filled, love-based action and non-violent conflict resolution to each other and to our communities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this General Assembly calls on Disciples to collaborate and engage with individuals and groups, including law enforcement, working to reduce gun violence in the United States and Canada; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this General Assembly calls on members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to demand of their elected officials that gun safety laws be enacted as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics[2], including: an assault weapon ban, the elimination of the gun show and private-party loophole by requiring mandatory background checks and waiting periods before all firearm purchases, a ban on high capacity magazines, and requiring federally enforced safe firearm storage; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this General Assembly calls on Disciples to promote emergency response plans in the event of an active shooter in our communities, and to assist in response to mass shootings cooperating with local emergency management agencies; and

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that congregations within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), along with the other expressions of the church, be encouraged to promote dialogue, cooperation, advocacy, and action that moves toward a reduction of gun violence and promotes anti-racist, pro-reconciling education in our communities and nations, and to consider making clear their commitment by openly declaring their properties gun-free zones where state and local laws do not already do so.

General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

 The General Board recommends that the General Assembly 
ADOPT GA-1521.
(Discussion time: 12 minutes)

___________________________________________

  • Brady Campaign, http://bit.ly/1IF2rQq
  • The history of gun control of guns has historically had a racial component. This includes pre Constitutional, pre Civil War, and Jim Crow era laws; actions by unregulated militia in Reconstruction South who, under a number of names, put a priority on seizing guns held by recently free slaves; and a more recent history of open carry demonstrations employed by both Black Panther Party and TEA Party activists to demonstrate their objection to government intrusion into private lives with racially different responses by legislatures, judges, and law enforcement. See Winkler, Adam, Gun Fight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. iii Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  http://1.usa.gov/1Dan1Dz
  • http://wapo.st/1DABXMO
  • http://nbcnews.to/1CGSuJx
  • Open carry and concealed carry laws are often introduced, supported, and celebrated by politicians and advocates based on a presumption that guns are important and appropriate as protection against undefined See for example (http://bit.ly/1PBSc1c and http://bit.ly/1FBtE0a ).

 

[1]  http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-ownership-and-use/

[2] https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/federal-advocacy/pages/AAPFederalGunViolencePreventionRecommendationstoWhiteHouse.aspx

 

GA-1538 Election of Moderator for 2015-2017 Biennium

GA-1538
(Emergency Resolution)
ELECTION OF MODERATOR FOR 2015-2017 BIENNIUM
(Operational, Policy and Organizational)

PDF

 WHEREAS, the 2013 General Assembly in Orlando, Florida, by adopting GA-1336, Amendments to The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approved creating the Moderator-Elect position; and

WHEREAS, the Moderator-Elect position was created so our incoming moderator has the opportunity to learn about the duties and responsibilities of being moderator thus giving them the ability to move into the position as Moderator in the next biennium with a strong foundation; and

 WHEREAS, the General Nominating Committee forwarded the name of Paul Tche as Moderator-Elect for the 2013-2015 biennium to the Fall 2013 Administrative Committee meeting to fill the vacancy created by the General Assembly action in Orlando, in accordance with paragraph 64 of The Design which states: “The Administrative Committee shall fill vacancies in offices elected by the General Assembly, subject to ratification by the General Assembly at its next regular meeting.”; and

WHEREAS, in June 2015, the Council on Christian Unity announced it had called Paul Tche as its President-Elect, beginning September 1, 2015; and

WHEREAS, Paul Tche has tendered his resignation as Moderator-Elect, effective at the end of the 2015 General Assembly; and

WHEREAS, the General Nominating Committee, by this resolution, nominates our current Second Vice Moderator Antonio (Tony) Rodriguez, Moderator of the 2015-2017 biennium; and

WHEREAS, the General Nominating Committee believes the election of Rodriguez honors the intent behind creating the Moderator-Elect position by selecting someone who has been actively involved with the current moderator team over the past biennium:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the 2015 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, meeting in Columbus, Ohio, July 18-22, 2015, elects Antonio (Tony) Rodriguez Moderator for the 2015-2017 biennium.

For Moderator

2015TonyRodriguezAntonio Rodriguez (Tony) is originally from Cali, Colombia, where he was born and raised.  In 1978, Tony moved to New Jersey, graduating from Kean University with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics.  Tony has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry and is currently a Compliance Principal for Allstate Financial Services.

Tony is an active member of Central Christian Church in Coral Gables, Florida.  He has served as an Elder, a Teacher and as Moderator of their Board of Directors.  Tony is well known among both the regional and general expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and ecumenically.  He serves as a member of the Commission on Ministry for the Florida Region and as a member of the Pension Fund Board of Directors. Tony is also a member of the Advisory Board for Church World Service in Miami, Florida.

Tony is just completing his term as Second Vice Moderator of the General Assembly.  In this position, he has served as Chair of the Business Committee of the General Board, Chair of the Committee on Reference and Counsel for the General Assembly and has been presenting the business of the Assembly for consideration.  Tony also chaired the Mission Council Advisory Task Force, created by the General Board in 2014 to facilitate the development of the Mission First! proposal. He led the task force through the gathering of input from all expressions of the church and from that input, the crafting of the Mission First! proposal which went to the 2015 General Board.

Tony lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida with his wife Elsa.  They have two daughters, Kerem and Gisela and are first-time grandparents to Kaleb Lucas Boden.

Submitted by:

Michelle Harris Gloyer – First Christian Church, Orange, CA
James Campbell – Mount Olivet Christian Church, Washington, DC
Phil Smith – Willow Street Christian Church, Hannibal, MO
Kelli Driscoll – Bethany Christian Church, Tulsa, OK
Sandhya Jha – Ubuntu Community Oakland, CA
Xose Escamilla – Casa de Oracion, San Diego, CA
Silvia Tiznado – Foothills Christian Church in Arizona
and Templo Cristiano Central (Discípulos de Cristo)
Jean Blackburn – First Christian Church, Chattanooga, TN
Larry Love – Woodland Christian, Woodland CA
Nathan Higgenbothem – The Woodlands Christian Church, The Woodlands, TX
Dawn Robinette – First Christian Church, Gainesville, FL
Danny Gulden – Sandy Springs Christian Church, Sandy Springs, GA
Eliezer Rolon – Root and Branch Church, Chicago, IL
Glen Miles – Country Club Christian Church, Kansas City, MO
Joan Bell-Haynes – United Christian Parish, Reston, VA

On behalf of the General Board, the Committee on Reference and Counsel
recommends that the General Assembly ADOPT GA-1538.
(Discussion time:  12 minutes)

June 8, 2015 notice re: moderator of the assembly

June 8, 2015

Dear Disciples,

I write to share in the excitement of the election of Rev. Seung Un (Paul) Tche, as the President-Elect of the Council on Christian Unity (CCU).

Dr. Robert Welsh, current president of CCU, has served the church well in multiple capacities. I hope you will join us in Columbus to express our gratitude for his service as he anticipates retirement.

In light of his call to the CCU post, Rev. Tche will submit his resignation as the Moderator-elect of the General Assembly effective July 22, 2015. In consultation with our Parliamentarian, Bill Bailey, we will follow these steps:

  1. Rev. Tche will serve as the Moderator-elect at this Assembly with his resignation effective on July 22.
  2. The General Nominating Committee will submit an Emergency Resolution nominating Antonio “Tony” Rodriguez as Moderator for 2015-2017. Tony is currently the second vice-moderator.
  3. The General Assembly’s Committee on Reference and Counsel will receive the emergency resolution from the General Nominating Committee and forward a recommendation to the Assembly. This matter qualifies under the emergency rules because Rev. Tche’s call as President-elect could not have been known 180 days in advance of the business deadline.
  4. GA-1525 Ratifying Administrative Committee Action will be withdrawn as part of the Emergency Resolution.
  5. The General Assembly will vote on the emergency resolution for Mr. Rodriguez to serve as Moderator.

Tony is a compliance officer with Allstate Securities. He is a member of Central Christian Church in Coral Gables, FL, as well as the Pension Fund Board of Directors and the Florida Region Commission on Ministry. You may read more about Tony at the General Assembly website.

I look forward to serving along-side Tony and Paul in these new roles. If you have questions about the process, please feel free to reach out to Todd Adams, Associate General Minister and Vice President at tadams@disciples.org.

Blessings,

Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President

Biography: Antonio Rodriguez

For Moderator

2015TonyRodriguezAntonio Rodriguez (Tony) is originally from Cali, Columbia, where he was born and raised.  In 1978, Tony moved to New Jersey, graduating from Kean University with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics.  Tony has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry and is currently a Compliance Principal for a broker-dealer.

Tony is an active member of Central Christian Church in Coral Gables, Florida.  He has served as an Elder, a Teacher and as Moderator of their Board of Directors.  Tony is well known among both the regional and general expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and ecumenically.  He serves as a member of the Commission on Ministry for the Florida Region and as a member of the Pension Fund Board of Directors. Tony is also a member of the Advisory Board for Church World Service in Miami, Florida.

Tony is just completing his term as Second Vice Moderator of the General Assembly.  In this position, he has served as Chair of the Business Committee of the General Board, Chair of the Committee on Reference and Counsel for the General Assembly and has been presenting the business of the Assembly for consideration.  Tony also chaired the Mission Council Advisory Task Force, created by the General Board in 2014 to facilitate the development of the Mission First! proposal. He led the task force through the gathering of input from all expressions of the church and from that input, the crafting of the Mission First! proposal which went to the 2015 General Board.

Tony lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida with his wife Elsa.  They have two daughters, Kerem and Gisela and are first-time grandparents to Kaleb Lucas Boden.

Resolution 1519 – Commemorating 100 Years since the Armenian Genocide

GA-1519
(Sense-of-the-Assembly)
COMMEMORATING 100 YEARS SINCE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
Download GA-1519 as a PDF · Discuss this Resolution

WHEREAS, Matthew 2:16-18 describes the massacre of all the first born males, ordered by Herod, after the Magi ignored his direction to report to him about the place of Jesus’ birth:

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,* he was infuriated,
and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were
two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.* Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’;
and

WHEREAS, Rachel’s weeping and lamentation was a recognition that her children had perished, and those whom Herod ordered killed would never have the chance to thrive. Even so, Jesus “came that they have life, and have it abundantly,” with justice and with peace; and

WHEREAS, history is replete with the tragedy of victimization of innocents by those in power; and

WHEREAS, Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish author who introduced the term “genocide” in his 1944 book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, had in mind the tragedy that befell the Armenians in 1915 and beyond, as well as the Holocaust of Jews in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s; and

WHEREAS, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) in the Ottoman Empire, during which 1.5 million Armenians, Syrian Orthodox, and other minorities were killed, and more than 1 million displaced between 1915 and 1923 following the arrests on April 24, 1915 of Armenian intellectual leaders in Constantinople; and

WHEREAS, missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, an historical component body of Global Ministries, already working primarily among the Armenian community in Anatolia for a century, witnessed, documented, raised funds for relief of those who were suffering and who managed to resettle—many in northern Syria—and advocated for an end to the massacres with local and international officials; and

WHEREAS, Global Ministries continues to maintain close relationships with Armenians ecumenically and globally, most particularly with the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East and the Armenian Missionary Association of America—relationships that have had mutual impact among Armenians and among members of our church; and

WHEREAS, surviving Armenians and their descendants who are still impacted by memory and consequences of the events, and many others, continue to seek recognition of the Genocide by Turkey, the US, and other governments of the world, such as the Canadian parliament did in 2004[1] as a form of affirmation, of acknowledgement of truth, and of historical justice, asserting that time alone is not a remedy;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, meeting in Columbus, Ohio, July 18-22, 2015, mark the occasion of the centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide with lament for the lives that were lost, and for the lack of official recognition by many governments of the world, most notably Turkey and the US, of the historical event of the Genocide; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gives thanks for the faithful witness and presence of the Armenian Christian community, and offers prayers for its continued strength particularly as it is affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria, where many Genocide survivors resettled; and

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) expresses its abhorrence when peoples and communities are made victims of violence, particularly when based on race, ethnicity, creed, gender, religion or any other aspect of identity. Taken to the ultimate manifestation, such victimization constitutes genocide, a crime that should be prevented, halted, recognized, and acknowledged, in order to protect the communities, and recognizing of the injustice it represents.

Division of Overseas Ministries

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly
ADOPT GA-1519. (Discussion time: 24 minutes)

[1] http://bit.ly/1O5JJjm

Resolution 1526 – Resolution to Celebrate and Reaffirm our Commitment towards the Vision of Planting 1,000 New Congregations by 2020

GA-1526
(Operational, Policy and Organizational)
RESOLUTION TO CELEBRATE AND REAFFIRM OUR COMMITMENT TOWARDS THE VISION OF PLANTING 1,000 NEW CONGREGATIONS BY 2020
Download GA-1526 as a PDF · Discuss this Resolution

WHEREAS, God has called Disciples to start 1,000 Disciples congregations in 1,000 different ways by the year 2020; and

WHEREAS, since 2001, courageous Disciples leaders are answering this call by planting more than 850 new churches in North America, congregations that worship in 27 languages, bringing more than 60,000 new people to Christ; and

WHEREAS, Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation partners with Disciples Regions and Areas to recruit, equip and nurture new church leaders as they guide new congregations into God’s mission; and

WHEREAS, it is through this partnership and the mighty courage and commitment of new church planters and their families that the new church movement serves as a primary source of growth in the denomination and as a major contributor to the racial/ethnic diversity of our congregations; and

WHEREAS, to those who believe the new church movement is waning, Hope Partnership offers the following:

We Remember the Birth of the Church

 THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) meeting July 18-22, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio, will encourage  Disciples congregations, Regions, Areas and the wider Church to recommit to the critical mission of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to start new congregations through our financial support, church-initiated projects, the recruitment and training of gifted planters and with prayerful support for the courageous leaders who plant vital new faith communities.

Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly
ADOPT GA-1526. (Discussion Time: 12 minutes)

Historical Rationale for New Church Resolutions in the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 

  • There is a recorded tradition of New Church Resolutions proposed and approved from at least as far back as (see attached copy of Resolution No. 69)
  • Anecdotal evidence also indicates that New Church Resolutions may go back as far as
  • Since 2001, New Church Ministry (now Hope Partnership) has submitted to every General Assembly a New Church Resolution that encourages the establishment of new churches, along with a list of new churches formed since the last General
  • Many Regional assemblies also approve a New Church Resolution celebrating new churches started since their last Regional
  • All Regional Ministers approve the list of new churches that accompany the resolution put before the General
  • The New Church Resolution is in keeping with the 2020
  • Our New Church Planters deserve this kind of recognition of their sacrifice and hard
  • The developing of new congregations is an important expression of evangelism by the General Assembly, and that this resolution requires participants to recommit themselves to the task of starting

Resolution 1529 – Change in Regional Boundaries: Mid-America and Greater Kansas City

GA-1529
(Operational, Policy and Organizational)
CHANGE IN REGIONAL BOUNDARIES:
MID-AMERICA AND GREATER KANSAS CITY
Download GA-1529 as a PDF · Discuss this Resolution

WHEREAS, Cleveland, Missouri and Pleasant Hill, Missouri, relate to Kansas City, Missouri, in terms of culture, commerce, education and recreation; and

WHEREAS, The Design states:

  1. Regions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) perform within their established boundaries the function of the church related to their two‐fold purpose of mission and nurture:
  1. Identifiable geographic, cultural, sociological, and political factors provide boundaries, which the church may use to establish its own regional structures

(1) by which the church carries out regionally its ministry of mission and nurture;

(2) in which congregations and ministers find their primary relationships of mutual support and encouragement;

3) which provide opportunities for regional fellowship, worship, and assembly for the consideration of matters of mutual concern;

(4) which help to relate the three expressions of the church ‐ congregational, regional, and general ‐ to one another in the functioning of the whole church; and

WHEREAS, the official boards and congregations of First Christian Church, Cleveland, Missouri and First Christian Church, Pleasant Hill, Missouri have voted to affiliate with the Greater Kansas City Region; and

WHEREAS, the regions of Mid-America and Greater Kansas City have voted in agreement with the congregations to release and accept the congregations; and

WHEREAS, The Design also states:

  1. In the development of any new regional boundaries, existing regional organizations shall remain intact, subject to modification by mutual consent of the regions involved, in the light of the corporate judgment of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as expressed through the General Assembly. The process of reshaping regional boundaries (even if only one congregation is affected) includes the participation and approval of the parties involved, the Administrative Committee, the General Board, and the General Assembly; and

WHEREAS, this request was presented to and affirmed by the Governance Committee of the General Board at its meeting on April 12, 2015;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the regional boundaries of the Greater Kansas City Region and the Mid-America Region shift such that First Christian Church, Cleveland, Missouri and First Christian Church, Pleasant Hill, Missouri, as well as future new congregations in Cass County[1], be included in the Greater Kansas City Region.

The Governance Committee of the General Board in consultation with
First Christian Church, Cleveland, Missouri
First Christian Church, Pleasant Hill, Missouri
the Mid-America Region and the Greater Kansas City Region

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly
ADOPT GA-1529. (Discussion time: 12 minutes)

[1] First Christian Church, Harrisonville, MO is also located in Cass County. At this time FCC remains with the Mid-America region.

Resolution 1528 – Change in Regional Boundaries: Great River and Alabama/Northwest Florida

GA-1528
(Operational, Policy and Organizational)
CHANGE IN REGIONAL BOUNDARIES:
GREAT RIVER AND ALABAMA/NORTHWEST FLORIDA
Download GA-1528 as a PDF · Discuss this Resolution

WHEREAS, First Christian Church, Meridian, Mississippi, is geographically closer to congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Alabama / Northwest Florida region; and

WHEREAS, The Design states:

  1. Regions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) perform within their established boundaries the function of the church related to their two‐fold purpose of mission and nurture:
  1. Identifiable geographic, cultural, sociological, and political factors provide boundaries, which the church may use to establish its own regional structures

(1) by which the church carries out regionally its ministry of mission and nurture;

(2) in which congregations and ministers find their primary relationships of mutual support and encouragement;

3) which provide opportunities for regional fellowship, worship, and assembly for the consideration of matters of mutual concern;

(4) which help to relate the three expressions of the church ‐ congregational, regional, and general ‐ to one another in the functioning of the whole church; and

WHEREAS, the official board and congregation of First Christian voted to affiliate with the Alabama/Northwest Florida Region; and

WHEREAS, the regions of Great River and Alabama/Northwest Florida have voted in agreement with the congregation to release and accept the congregation; and

WHEREAS, The Design also states:

  1. In the development of any new regional boundaries, existing regional organizations shall remain intact, subject to modification by mutual consent of the regions involved, in the light of the corporate judgment of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as expressed through the General Assembly. The process of reshaping regional boundaries (even if only one congregation is affected) includes the participation and approval of the parties involved, the Administrative Committee, the General Board, and the General Assembly; and

WHEREAS, this request was presented to and affirmed by the Governance Committee of the General Board at its meeting on April 12, 2015;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the regional boundaries of the Great River Region and the Alabama/Northwest Florida Region shift such that Meridian Mississippi, be included in the Alabama/Northwest Florida Region.

The Governance Committee of the General Board in consultation
with First Christian Church, Meridian, Mississippi,
the Great River Region and the Alabama/Northwest Florida Region

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly
ADOPTS GA-1528. (Discussion time: 12 minutes)

Resolution 1525 – A Call to End Solitary Confinement

GA-1525
(Item for Reflection and Research)
A CALL TO END SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
Download GA-1525 as a PDF · Discuss this Resolution

Proposal for Reflection and Research:

That the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, meeting July 18-22, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio, accept “A Call to End Solitary Confinement” as an item for Reflection and Research during the 2015-2017 biennium.  This reflection and research process would be accountable by report to the Administrative Committee, the General Board, and the 2017 General Assembly.

This process would encourage the church to engage in reflection, prayer, education, and possible action around the practice of solitary confinement of incarcerated youth and adults.  Disciples’ congregations and prison and jail ministries will serve as venues where discussion, discourse and discernment can occur as we examine and explore the issue of solitary confinement.

Such a process may include:

  • The development of a Study Document for use by the entire church to discern a response to solitary confinement of our sisters and brothers who are incarcerated; and
  • The exploration of possible actions by congregations and ministries to end prolonged solitary confinement in our criminal justice system.

Background:

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, on any given day, roughly 80,000 incarcerated adults and youth are held in solitary confinement in the United States.2   However, this figure likely fails to capture the breadth of the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails, and does not include those held in solitary confinement in immigrant detention. Given the lack of data made publicly available by state Departments of Correction and the Federal Bureau of Prisons about the use of prolonged isolation, including the total numbers of those held in Administrative Segregation and protective custody, the numbers are likely much higher. For instance, in California, the American Friends Service Committee found in 2008, on any given day, there were more than 14,600 people in solitary confinement units when totals included women and men held in Administrative Segregation and protective custody.3 In addition, whole institutions are locked down for months at a time, in which inmates are confined to their cells for 22 to 23 hours per day. Most recently, in North Carolina, at the Scotland Correctional Institution, nearly 800 men had been on indefinite lockdown for over eight months.4

According to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, “Over the last five years, the number of federal prisoners in solitary confinement in Canada has increased by 6 percent.” 5   The Ombudsman for federal offenders in Canada says, “There were 8,221 federal inmates in segregation (solitary confinement) across Canada in 2012-2013. Many suffer mental health problems, and a third of them, according to the Ombudsman’s same statistics, are aboriginal.” 6 In addition, annual reports on conditions of confinement in Canada by the Office of the Correctional Investigator note growing issues with solitary confinement across the federal prison system. 7

While in isolation, individuals are locked in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day with no meaningful human contact –an hour alone in a cage or dog run may be permitted. Prisoners face these conditions for months, years, even decades. Cells are small, often windowless and without access to natural light, typically between 48 and 80 square feet. Access to books, phone calls, visitation and programs are often severely limited. Food is pushed through a slot in the solid steel door.

Many studies have documented the detrimental psychological and physiological effects of long-term isolation.8  According to several state and national studies, at least half of all prison suicides occur in solitary confinement.9  Recognized expert Dr. Stuart Grassian documented that nearly a third of the prisoners he evaluated experienced perceptual distortions, in which objects appear to change size or form10. This is particularly alarming since this symptom is more commonly associated with neurological illnesses, such as brain tumors, than with primary psychiatric illness.11 

People of color in the United States face incarceration at profoundly disproportionate rates.12 A recent report from The Sentencing Project states that “African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and Hispanic males are 2.5 times more likely.”13 According to a 2011 survey sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “nationwide, the residential placement rate for black youth was more than 4.5 times the rate for white youth, and the rate for Hispanic youth was 1.8 times the rate for white youth.”14 Limited data reported on racial ethnic identity and solitary confinement suggests that solitary confinement disproportionately impacts people of color. 15 Data from 2011 from New York suggests “non-white prisoners are substantially overrepresented in the highlighted facilities; statistical testing confirms that the difference is statistically significant.” 16

In Canada experts find the growing solitary confinement trend “especially worrisome because female, aboriginal and black inmates are disproportionately represented in segregation, according to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, an oversight body for the federal prison system. Many mentally ill prisoners also tend to end up in segregation cells rather than receiving treatment.” 17

In the United States, solitary confinement is used in public and privately contracted local, state, and federal facilities. Regardless of the facilities’ classification, the United States federal government is responsible for ensuring compliance with CAT (Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) at all facilities in the territory. From 1996 to 2001, sociologists Daniel Mears and William Bales examined the length of time Florida prisoners spent in isolation. Their study found a notably higher rate for supermax placement of people of color.18 Data from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision about its use of solitary confinement reveals that African Americans are more likely to receive SHU (special housing unit) sentences, and to receive longer SHU sentences, as compared to individuals of other racial and ethnic groups. For example, in June 2011, African Americans accounted for approximately 62% of the prisoners held at Upstate and Southport correctional facilities, where inmates with the longest SHU sentences are generally incarcerated. In contrast, approximately 49% of the general prison population is African American.19

State departments of correction utilize “Security Threat Group” and gang validation processes that drive dramatically disproportionate placement of prisoners of color into supermax units, calling into question the legitimacy of these policies. Inherent racial bias in security classification is a significant driver in the disproportionate placement of prisoners of color in solitary confinement. In 2012, the American Friends Service Committee found that two supermax facilities for men in Arizona, SMU I and Browning Unit, had a disproportionate prevalence of people of color in solitary confinement most pronounced for Latino and Native American prisoners. 51% of the supermax prisoners were Latino compared with 41% of the general prison population in Arizona.20

In some supermax units these percentages were especially high. Excluding the death row population from the Browning Unit population (decided judicially and not by the discretion of the ADC), the Latino population jumped to over 59%.21 In stark contrast, the white male prisoner population in supermax facilities constituted only 25%, and in the general prison population, it was 39%.22

Because youth are still developing mentally and physically, traumatic experiences like solitary confinement can exacerbate, or create for the first time, short and long-term mental health problems and severely heighten risk of suicide.23 Though several states have issued an outright ban on the punitive solitary confinement of youth, including Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Oklahoma and West Virginia, the placement of youth in solitary confinement is not subject to a prohibition in most states and the federal system, and the practice persists widely. Federal and state legislation to address the practice has been introduced in recent years, indicating widespread national concern to see this practice brought to an end.

There are realistic and reasonable alternatives to prolonged solitary confinement. Shifting from a punitive approach to one that prioritizes restorative and rehabilitative ends is critical to ending the widespread use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails and detention centers. A matrix of punishment without access to meaningful social interaction, job training, and education must be replaced by opportunity for access to such necessary resources for human flourishing. Alternative strategies for staff training in violence reduction, pro-social behavior, and alternative responses rooted in de-escalation techniques are being adopted by some departments of correction accompanied by reductions in isolation, use of force, and incidence of violence. Rather than placement in solitary confinement, the creation of alternative treatments and community settings for incarcerated people with mental illness are also critical.24

The demonstrated success of ending the use of prolonged solitary confinement is evident among several states that have proven there are safe, humane alternatives.25  Mississippi experienced a decline in violence within its prisons after it drastically reduced its use of solitary confinement by 85% in one supermax unit; Mississippi eventually closed the facility altogether.26  Maine and Colorado have made significant reductions in the use of solitary confinement without jeopardizing prison safety.27 Former Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte explained in a 2011 interview about Maine, “Over time, the more data we’re pulling is showing that what we’re doing now [through greatly reducing the use of solitary confinement] is safer than what we were doing before.”28

In the United States, the continued widespread practice of holding prisoners, disproportionately people of color, 29 in prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons constitutes torture, in violation of CAT; article 1 prohibits policies and practices that “constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.” Article 2 states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” may be used to justify the use of torture. Article 4 requires that each State Party “ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law” and be “punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature,” yet the prevalent use of torture persists in United States prisons with impunity. In May 2006, the UN Committee Against Torture instructed the United States to “review the regimen imposed on detainees in super maximum prisons, in particular, the practice of prolonged isolation.”

In May 2013, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, “Improvements Needed in Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring and Evaluation of Impact of Segregated Housing,” found that the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons “has not assessed the impact of segregated housing on institutional safety or the impacts of long-term segregation on inmates,” despite a 17% increase in its use of solitary confinement between 2008 and 2013. The Federal Bureau of Prisons confines about 7% of its 217,000 inmates in segregated housing units for about 23 hours a day.30 According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, on any given day, roughly 80,000 incarcerated adults and youth are held in solitary confinement in the United States. 31 This figure likely fails to capture the breadth of the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails, and does not include those held in solitary confinement in immigrant detention.  In Canada, it is reported that one out of every four prisoners in the federal prison system has spent some time in solitary confinement. At any given time, there are as many as 1800 people in solitary confinement in federal or provincial prisons.32

For these reasons, we call the Administrative Committee to explore ways for the church to (1) engage in a study about the effects of prolonged solitary confinement  upon individuals; (2) explore alternative restorative justice practices which seek rehabilitative outcomes instead of the widespread, punitive use of solitary confinement in U.S. and Canadian prisons, jails and detention centers; (3) educate the church on ways to bring awareness of this human rights concern and avenues for relief in their communities, and (4) explore avenues whereby the Disciples of Christ join its sister faith-based partners in calling for an end to the widespread use of prolonged solitary confinement in the United States and Canada.

New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Mission Behind Bars and Beyond
Sugarbush Christian Church DOC, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
National Benevolent Association

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly
ACCEPT GA-1525 as an Item for Reflection and Research
for the 2015-2017 biennium.

Resolution 1524 – Call for a Church Wide Task Force on the Sense of the Assembly Resolution Process

GA-1524
(Sense-of-the-Assembly)
CALL FOR A CHURCH-WIDE TASK FORCE ON THE
SENSE-OF-THE-ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION PROCESS
Download GA-1524 as a PDF · Discuss this Resolution

WHEREAS, being and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ includes prayerful consideration and faithful action regarding contemporary issues in the light of Scripture, faith, reason, and experience; and

WHEREAS, moral, ethical or religious matters confronting the church, our two nations, and/or the world are important in the life of the church, requiring spiritual discernment and  informed engagement; and

WHEREAS, the current Sense of the Assembly Resolution process provides few, if any, resources to congregations and pastors and few opportunities for meaningful dialogue by the majority of those who attend General Assemblies; and

WHEREAS, the exact status and purpose of Sense of the Assembly resolutions are often misunderstood by the media and by our own members to be official doctrine, stances or statements; and

WHEREAS, this misunderstanding can cause unnecessary confusion and dissension among and within our congregations; and

WHEREAS, our church, as it endeavors to be a movement for wholeness in a broken and fragmented world, has an opportunity to model alternative ways of talking about important issues with one another, ways that are inclusive, holistic and theologically grounded; and

WHEREAS congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and a Task Force of the denomination’s Administrative Committee have faithfully worked over the past biennium on an alternative approach to how the church might engage in moral, ethical or religious matters confronting the church, our two nations, and/or the world; and

WHEREAS, our ecumenical partners, in addition to a number of our denominational ministries, have expressed concern about the ways in which some of the changes under consideration by this Task Force might negatively impact our ecumenical work, including but not limited to our partnership with the United Church of Christ through our combined Global Ministries; and

WHEREAS, Business Resolution 9522 (“Our Common Social Witness”), adopted by the 1995 General Assembly meeting in Pittsburgh, PA (see attached), affirms social witness as an expression of “the whole church,” and locates “the important functions of advocacy, information, and action in matters of peace and justice” in the Office of the General Minister and President, Disciples Home Missions, and the Division of Overseas Ministries;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada meeting in Columbus, OH, on July 18 – 22, 2015, reaffirms Business Resolution GA 9522 and its authorization of the use of pastoral judgement by the  Division of Overseas Ministries, Disciples Home Missions, and the Office of the General Minister and President in representing the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada in matters of justice and witness; and

FINALLY BE IT RESOLVED that this same General Assembly calls for the Office of General Minister and President, Disciples Home Missions, Division of Overseas Ministries, to convene a balanced broad-based and inclusive task force that shall include representatives of, but not limited to, these three ministries, the Council on Christian Unity, the General Board, historic justice and peace advocacy groups in the church, the three racial / ethnic ministries, and diverse congregations throughout our two nations for the purpose of bringing to the 2017 General Assembly, meeting in Indianapolis, IN, a jointly sponsored process for discussion of and education about important religious, ethical and social issues.

First Christian Church, Edmond, Oklahoma
Supported by:
Disciples Justice Action Network

The General Board recommends that the General Assembly
ADOPT GA-1524. (Discussion time: 12 minutes)