By Jan Blazek, Presbyterian Outlook.
CHICAGO – The executive committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, meeting in Chicago July 27-29 for its annual retreat, spent part of that time reviewing decisions of the 2016 General Assembly, and discussing what steps the board might take in response to the report of the Committee to Review the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
General Assembly review
Barry Creech, director of policy, administration and board support for the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), offered a review of some actions the assembly took when it met in Portland June 18-25. Of note, Creech said, were seven key matters the assembly considered involving race.
The assembly voted to add to the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Confessions the Belhar Confession, a confession which South African Christians wrote in the heat of that country’s struggle over apartheid and which speaks directly to racial justice and reconciliation.
Creed cited six other matters the assembly considered with implications for how the PCUSA addresses racism and systemic inequalities:
- The Churchwide Conversation on Race, Ethnicity, Racism and Ethnocentricity Report, which included directives to review organizational practices, host regional conversations on race and to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, a legal concept through which colonial powers laid claim to lands;
- On Reconciliation and Engagement in a New Civil Rights Movement, an overture which the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy presented following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and which calls for “radical reconciliation and active engagement in a new civil rights movement,” demanding that all citizens are treated with equal dignity and injustice;
- Updates to “Fighting Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community,” the Churchwide Antiracism Policy;
- An overture from the Presbytery of Baltimore – called “On the PC(USA) Continuing Its Efforts to Dismantle Racism within Our Denomination and the Larger Society.” The action the assembly approved regarding the overture calls on the PC(USA) leadership to present to the 2018 General Assembly a 6-year plan with “explicit procedures” for implementing the churchwide antiracism policy and to establish a Racism Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the PC(USA), which is “charged with conducting a churchwide listening campaign to hear the voices of peoples long silenced regarding the state of institutional racism and oppression within our church.”
- An overture from the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, calling on the PC(USA) to take action to address theplight of the African-American male;
- The Women of Color consultation report, which encourages efforts to develop and support leaders who are women of color.