LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An amendment to delete two of the 12 protected categories in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Churchwide Plan for Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action failed during Thursday afternoon’s Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting.
Saying that he believed that it was important for the PCUSA to say that “people need to be Christians to work for the church,” Clark Cowden, a board member from San Diego, Calif., made the motion to remove “creed” and “religious affiliation” from the “list of categories in which we do not discriminate in our hiring practices.”
The revised document, “Toward inclusiveness in employment: A churchwide policy for equal employment opportunity and affirmative action Presbyterian Church (USA)” (beginning on page 66 of pdf file), states:
“It is the policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to provide equal employment opportunity/affirmative action for all qualified persons; to prohibit discrimination in employment based upon race/ethnicity color, national origin, gender, age (40 and over), marital status, sexual orientation, creed, protected disability status, citizenship status, genetic information, uniformed service or veteran status, or religious affiliation (except where religious affiliation is a bona fide occupational qualification), or any other characteristic protected by law (‘Identified Categories’); and to correct any existent patterns of discrimination. The realization of inclusiveness in employment is promoted through positive, results-oriented, equal employment opportunity practices.”
In making the motion to remove “creed” and “religious affiliation” from the list of 12, Cowden said, “I believe it is important for us as a church to be able to say that people need to be Christians to work for the church.”
Cowden, who is the executive presbyter of San Diego Presbytery, said that in his place of work, there was a Methodist and a Nazarene who worked there. “Both are Christian people who wholeheartedly support the mission of the church.”
PMAB member Noelle Royer of Seattle, Wash., said that while she understood where Cowden was coming from, “we allow people who have different views to be a part of our working environment.”
Nancy J. Ramsay a board member from Fort Worth, Texas, said that she “always wants to hire the best equipped person who might not have the faith, but has the skills.”
Michael Kirk, associate general counsel for the Executive Director’s Office of the PMA, told the board that there is an exception for religious organizations to say that employees must have the same faith, however, “I would point out that we don’t discriminate on the basis of faith … We cannot discriminate against a Methodist or a Muslim.”
He said that the plan was “mandatory for our agencies, but not the rest of the church … We have no authority to tell the Mid-Councils of the churches to do this.”
During the meeting of the PMAB’s executive committee on Wednesday, the group was told that, if approved by the GA, the document would be recommended for approval by the rest of the church.
Cowden’s motion failed, and the PMAB voted to send the revised document to the 221st General Assembly for its approval.