BILOXI, MISS. -- Presbyterians adopted a study paper this week establishing guidelines for Christian-Jewish relations, making only minor changes in the document that had been rewritten to answer concerns of Middle Eastern Christians.
With little dissent, the 199th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted "A Theological Understanding of the Relationship Between Christians and Jews," and accompanying calls for a conference between Presbyterians and representatives of the Middle East Conference of Churches.
The paper backs affirmation of the Jewish faith but was modified to eliminate implied backing for Israeli land claims.
It renewed a call for Palestinian participation in negotiations on Israeli-occupied land and included a statement that God's promise of land to Israelis was a "biblical metaphor for sustainable life, prosperity, peace and security."
"The political state of Israel is not to be given theological justification," said Harold Nebelsick, chairman of the committee that wrote the final draft.
The original paper has been extensively rewritten since discussions began here in committee meetings last week. The paper was adopted for "study and reflection," and church officials were directed to appoint a group to meet with the Middle East Conference of Churches and come back to the denomination in 1989 with recommendations.
In other actions, the assembly chose Louisville to be the headquarters city of the church; called for a halt of all U.S. government aid to the contras in Nicaragua, and voted to ask federal and state governments to rescind "laws governing the private sexual behavior between consenting adults."
The Presbyterians narrowly voted to relocate their headquarters to Louisville, accepting a businessman's offer of free office space overlooking the Ohio River.
After a two-minute silent prayer, the assembly rejected two committee recommendations and voted 332 to 309 to pick Louisville over Kansas City, Mo.
Presbyterian Church (USA) was formed in a 1983 merger of the New York-based United Presbyterian Church (USA) and Atlanta-based Presbyterian Church (US). The new headquarters will combine offices now in New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Most of the move will be completed by mid-1988, but some agencies, mainly those related to publishing, will not finish the move until the end of 1990.
David Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of Humana Inc., offered to the denomination an abandoned warehouse on the riverfront, and the community offered $6.2 million for renovation of the space. State and city political leaders joined Louisville religious leaders in Biloxi to press their case with the 650 commissioners at the nine-day assembly.
The contra aid policy paper, which was passed Wednesday, urged stopping American aid to the contras, halting the U.S. economic boycott of Nicaragua and stopping all efforts to solicit aid for the contras from private groups and other governments, officials said. The document also calls for cutting off U.S. military aid to Honduras.
In addition to voting to ask legislatures to rescind laws governing private sexual behavior, the assembly voted to review and update studies on human sexuality.
The resolution passed Tuesday night says "new issues and matters concerning human sexuality are before us," such as AIDS, changes in medical technology and surrogate parenting, since the church last adopted a policy in the late 1970s.