In Spirit and Truth is the blog of the General Assembly Committee on Representation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It will feature content written by the sixteen members of the committee, who are teaching and ruling elders from across the country, and our staff person in the Office of the General Assembly, as well as links and articles of particular interest. These blog entries are intended to prompt reflection and dialogue on aspects of expanding representation and supporting full participation in the PCUSA, especially at the assembly level. The ministries of advising, consulting, advocating, reviewing and recommending are vital to the life of the whole Body of Christ. Committees on Representation and/or their functions exists at all councils above session so from time to time we may highlight activities and insights from our sister committees on representation at smaller councils throughout the church.
Author Molly Casteel is an Assistant Stated Clerk and the Coordinator for Representation and Inclusiveness Services. She is a teaching elder (a.k.a. Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
By request, our colleagues on the Climate for Change Task Force shared their PowerPoint presentation they made to the assembly committee on Social Justice Issues (committee 11) at the 220th General Assembly (2012). It is here (6mb) and provides a brief glimpse to the insights of a powerful paper.
The action of the assembly was to approve the report, Privilege, Power and Policy: The Church as Employer, making small revisions to its recommendations. Item 11-17, the report and recommendations, as well as all the actions taken during the assembly can be found here. The recommendations as amended appear below.
PLEASE NOTE: In the recommendations below, I changed General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) to Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) for clarity in implementation purposes. The General Assembly Mission Council became the Presbyterian Mission Agency by another action of the 220th General Assembly (2012).
Final Text of the amended recommendations (with no other changes made to the approved report):
1. The 220th General Assembly (2012) affirms that effective systems of accountability are critical to any process to effect change. It affirms the valuable contributions of the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC), the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC), and the General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) in this process and directs the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency to provide adequate staff support and resources to do their work.
2. The 220th General Assembly (2012) directs GACOR to review and recommend revision to the affirmative action goals for employment and purchasing (Supplier Diversity Program) to the General Assembly on a regular and recurring basis, in accordance with their responsibilities in the Churchwide Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) and the Book of Order, G-3.0103.
a. The GACOR shall take into consideration federal Department of Labor statistics on race, ethnicity, and gender in the labor market; race, ethnicity, and gender representation in church membership; and other factors, as appropriate.
b. The GACOR, in consultation with the six General Assembly-related agencies (Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Mission Agency, Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Foundation, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, Inc., and Presbyterian Publishing Corporation) and the General Assembly advocacy committees, ACREC and ACWC, shall recommend new churchwide goals to the General Assembly in a six-year cycle, beginning in 2014.
c. The agencies of the General Assembly, including the Board of Pensions (BOP), Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), Office of General Assembly (OGA), Presbyterian Foundation (FDN), Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, Inc. (PILP), and Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) shall be held accountable for implementing both affirmative action employment and supplier diversity purchasing goals.
d. The six General Assembly-related entities (BOP, PMA, OGA, FDN, PILP, PPC) shall provide biennial status reports on the representation of women and persons of color in employment to GACOR. The GACOR shall assess the agencies’ progress and report their findings to the General Assembly.
e. The six General Assembly-related entities shall provide biennial status reports on their achievement of supplier diversity goals to GACOR, showing the percentage of purchases from women and minority-owned businesses. The GACOR shall assess the agencies’ progress and report their findings to the General Assembly.
f. The GACOR shall share agency statistical reports and work in consultation with ACREC and ACWC to provide their assessment of each agency’s progress for consideration in the review of agency implementation plans for cultural proficiency.
g. The GACOR shall review agency policy and practices regarding major contracts, to ensure that General Assembly entities communicate the church’s policy, as stated in the Churchwide Affirmative Action Plan, to the contractors with whom they do business
3. The 220th General Assembly (2012) approves Appendix A of this report as the definition of cultural proficiency to be used by the six General Assembly-related entities and the General Assembly-related committees (ACREC, ACWC, and GACOR), to guide agency implementation and ACREC’s assessment process.
4. The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC), as directed by the 216th General Assembly (2004), shall continue to monitor and assess agency implementation of cultural proficiency in the six General Assembly-related entities, in consultation with the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC). The ACREC’s review of agency implementation plans shall be guided by the following criteria:
Agency implementation plans for cultural proficiency shall include:
(1) Expression of the commitment of top management, evidenced through:
a mission and/or vision statement,
regular discussion in management meetings,
training to develop management skills in support of cultural proficiency goals,
evaluation of management performance in support of cultural proficiency goals.
(2) Training and education strategies to promote employee support for cultural proficiency goals and provide opportunities to enhance skills.
(3) A communication strategy to ensure employee awareness and promote the transformation of organizational culture to support the goals of cultural proficiency.
(4) Recruitment, training, promotion, and retention strategies to achieve affirmative action employment goals at all levels of the organization, including senior management.
(5) Employee education programs to promote employee compliance and support for supplier diversity goals.
(6) Strategies to promote the employment and create a supportive working environment for persons with disabilities.
5. Training and guidance on the development of implementation plans for affirmative action, supplier diversity, and cultural proficiency shall be provided to all General Assembly entities by the PMA associate for Organizational Diversity, in consultation with ACREC, ACWC, and GACOR, consistent with the Churchwide Affirmative Action Plan.
6. The governing boards or councils of the six corporate entities shall review the performance of executive management on their progress towards achieving cultural proficiency, affirmative action, and supplier diversity goals, as well as compliance with the contracting policy, on an annual basis. This assessment shall be incorporated in their overall performance review.
7. The 220th General Assembly (2012) directs the PMA to prepare a supplier diversity resource for employees. The resource guide shall be shared with General Assembly agencies, presbyteries, and synods.
8. The six General Assembly agencies shall include training to support the supplier diversity program in their training and orientation for all new employees in their first year of employment, and for all employees on a regular recurring basis, a minimum of every two years.
9. The 220th General Assembly (2012) urges synods and presbyteries to adopt affirmative action, supplier diversity, and cultural proficiency policies and practices consistent with the General Assembly, to promote the denomination’s continuous work and commitment to be a diverse, inclusive, antiracist and culturally proficient church.
10. Direct the PMA to publish and distribute this report of the Creating a Climate for Change Task Force to employees of all six corporate agencies.
11. The assembly expresses its thanks to the members of the task force: Diane Givens Moffett (chair), Yvonne Armstrong, Cathy Chang, Hardy Kim, Al Masters, and Sarah Moore-Nokes. The assembly also thanks Colby Anderson and José Olagues, who served on the task force initially but were not able to complete their terms.
This report is worthy of study and reflection and we commend it to you. As the summary so ably states:
One of the greatest challenges facing the church today is the call to become a truly diverse and inclusive community of faith. If the church is to take this call seriously, it must work to dismantle the systems of power and privilege that create barriers to change in all aspects of church life. The Climate for Change Task Force, created by the 218th General Assembly (2008) to review the equal employment, affirmative action, supplier diversity, and cultural proficiency policies for the six corporate entities related to the General Assembly, calls the church to examine its organizational life and commit itself to systemic change in its work and life together.2 Therefore, the task force urges the 220th General Assembly (2012) to approve the above recommendations.
The Climate for Change Task Force was charged to examine General Assembly policy, and it has done so with an understanding that the work of the General Assembly-related agencies has an impact on the life of the larger church. The effort to become culturally proficient is both a response to the church’s historical call to be a prophetic witness to justice and an opportunity to develop the expertise necessary to equip leadership across the church, to transform the organizational culture of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in ways that will support the denomination’s goal of becoming a more diverse community of faith.
The PC(USA) has a long history of General Assembly action supporting equal opportunity and affirmative action, and a commitment to reflect the diversity of God’s people in its institutional life. Despite this commitment, effective change within the life of the PC(USA) has been painfully slow. The task force also recognizes that change has become a constant in church life and organizational structures are becoming more fluid. In order to sustain an effective commitment to the transformative vision of becoming a culturally proficient community of faith, the recommendations of the task force seek to accomplish the following:
• Encourage effective leadership of cultural proficiency by senior management, promoted by their respective governing boards, councils, or committees;
• Develop and maintain a strong system of accountability, built on committee oversight and regular reporting to the General Assembly; and
• Affirm interactive and cooperative roles and responsibilities for the existing General Assembly committees (General Assembly Committee on Representation, Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns, and Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns).
The recommendations delineate responsibilities between monitoring achievement of affirmative action goals and the implementation of a strategic plan for cultural proficiency:
• The General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) has responsibility for affirmative action employment and supplier diversity goals. Numerical goals and accomplishments are a critical measure of compliance and progress. Affirmative action is one tool in the larger process of equipping agencies to be culturally proficient organizations. This role for GACOR is consistent with their responsibilities as defined in the Book of Order. They are also the one General Assembly-related body that has explicit charter to advocate for persons with disabilities within the system.
• The Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC), working in partnership and consultation with the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC), serves as the lead committee to monitor implementation plans for cultural proficiency in General Assembly-related agencies. This review, assessment, and consultation process will now happen in a six-year cycle, in conjunction with each agency’s overall review. While GACOR gathers the biennial statistical reports from each agency, ACREC will be able to look at longer trends as part of their review of cultural proficiency and the agencies’ implementation plans.
• The participation of the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC) in the process will ensure a gender lens is part of the on-going assessment of cultural proficiency.
There is an intentional intersection in the work of these committees, recognizing that the roles and responsibilities of each committee complement the others, and that each committee works more effectively when they are working in consultation with each other.
Finally, reflected in the name chosen for this document, the task force wants to underscore what it considers an essential shift in focus required if vision is to become reality. Unexamined systems of privilege and entitlement in any organization are powerful barriers to change. Recognizing and redefining racism, sexism, and other “isms” as systems that create privilege is critical to understanding what is at stake and what kinds of change need to occur to create an organizational culture that is truly welcoming of all people. De-centering privilege means redefining power within an organization—who holds it, how it is used, and how people within a system participate.
In a truly culturally proficient organization the diversity of the members helps to shape organizational life and define organizational identity—it does not expect all newcomers to adapt and conform to what is. This is the transformation that needs to happen to move General Assembly policy from words on paper to lived reality in the agencies of the denomination and throughout the life of the church.
At its roots, the transformation that must happen is a spiritual one. It is the call to give expression to Christ’s abundant hospitality in the life of our institutions. It is the call to all Presbyterians to recognize the commitment to sustaining diversity in community as a fundamental expression of our deepest held theological beliefs and values—our spiritual DNA—the call to embody God’s boundless love in creation to be God’s agents of justice and reconciliation in the world.
The emphasis (in italics) is added in our quotation of the summary for this paper. We look foward to the conversations and collaborative work charted here for our committees and corporate entities to implement in the years ahead. We covet your prayers for these processes and for the persons called to fulfill them. To God be the glory...