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.
There’s nothing new here, we already have people who are not Christians in the classical sense of having belief in the Creeds, leading congregations in the PC(USA).
If this winds up being passed, it’s as if the controversy which led to the formation of the Independent Mission Board in the old PCUSA by J. Gresham Machen, which ultimately led to the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, has come full circle.
The issue of hiring practices and employment in the church is a tricky and complex issue. I once had a church secretary who would have checked “none” for religious affiliation. Yet through working for the church she found care and support to the point where a couple of years after she left the position and her husband died, she called me to have the funeral. I had another church secretary start attending the church about a year after she started working there, partly because of the way the congregation surrounded her with love during a troubling time in her life. Sometimes our best witness to those outside the church is through the care and love we provide. “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” and that impacts those who are not part of the church.
On the other side, a large part of working for the church at any level involves a labor of love. Those committed to the faith will often go the extra mile in doing their work. Unfortunately, this reality has the downside of the church taking advantage of such people’s commitment and expecting them to go the extra mile without adequate compensation.
All of us also know that church membership or professed belief has little to do with competence. I have seen churches hire the lesser qualified applicant because “she’s a Presbyterian” only to regret it later. What is more, I know of a large embezzlement situation which involved a treasurer who was a “loyal Presbyterian.”
Therefore, there is wisdom in seeking to hire the best qualified individual, regardless of religious belief (assuming it’s not “way out there” i.e. – a member of the Westboro Baptist church), while knowing of course, that any of us can be fooled. Total Depravity has always been a part of our faith and lives.
It is difficult to see the wisdom in a prevailing opinion that says one’s faith identity is inessential or unimportant. Has broad-based inclusiveness become so essential to the PCUSA identity that our essential faith is secondary or expendable?
this article is confusing. It seems that the current policy does not require any sort of faith at all to be hired by the PC(USA). Sounds like Clark Cowden’s proposal is to eliminate “creed” and “religious affiliation” from the “list of categories in which we do not discriminate in our hiring practices.”
In short, he feels that creed and religious affiliation *is* important, whereas the current policy says it is not . Would someone from the Layman please clarify. Very confusing article.
What has come over everyone? This is absolutely CRAZY. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, something like this surfaces. WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU HIRE A NON-BELIEVER TO WORK IN THE CHURCH? Other denominations, of course, but whoever they are should absolutely be required to profess Jesus as their Lord. I am ASHAMED of the lady from Fort Worth, and her absolutely ridiculous statement. Leaders like this are the ones who are leading others astray—and the millstones are waiting!
Gee willikers, that’s such a great post!