Spurred by the National Racial Ethnic Ministries Task Force’s referral at the 221st General Assembly (2014), 40 participants selected from throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will gather at Stony Point Conference Center in New York, November 5–7, for a conference on race, ethnicity, racism and ethnocentricity.
Referral Item 09-14, Rec. 3, directed Moderator Heath Rada to appoint a planning team of 10 people to plan a churchwide conversation on race and racism. The attendees were selected for their dedication and work around the issue of race and racism. The conference will help participants, and eventually the whole church, learn, discuss, and reflect on these issues and will ultimately issue a call to action.
“We cannot do the work of becoming God’s intercultural community without facing the sin of racism,” says Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries. “The system of institutional racism is so pervasive that is continues to impact the ability of people of color to fully live out their calls in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The churchwide conversation on race, racism, ethnicity and ethnocentricity is a very significant conversation at this time in our nation. Unfortunately, we often recommend and ask people of color to attend these kinds of conferences, when many of the persons who we want to partner with us to change policies and practices to dismantle the system of institutional racism are often white Americans and, in our church, white Presbyterians. I am hopeful that we will find willing partners who can commit to the achievable goal of ending racism, becoming a more culturally humble church, and creating an environment of equality for all of God’s children.”
The conference begins in full on Friday, with Dr. Eric Barreto and Dr. Jennifer Harvey, who will articulate a biblical foundation for the discussion and provide a framework for deeper reflection on the church’s responses. Stacy Kitahata will use her experience as a skilled facilitator to help the group acknowledge the past and discover a vision for the future that “cultivates tangible changes in the denomination.”
The planning team responsible for developing the framework for the conference includes Larissa Kwong Abazia, co-chair and vice moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014); Elona Street-Stewart, co-chair; Afaf Girgis, Amaury Tañón-Santos; Eliana Maxim; Jerrod Lowry; Joanna Kim; Jessica Vasquez Torres; Byron Wade and Shivonia Singleton. Presbyterian Mission Agency staff support will be provided by Sterling Morse and Sera Chung.
“There is nothing haphazard about the call for this Conversation on Race, Ethnicity, Racism and Ethnocentricity,” says Morse. “Since the dawning of racial integration, we have struggled to cross boundaries of separation and work together to dismantle the historical systems that serve to keep racism and oppression in place. This conversation will provide a socio-institutional scan—to properly diagnose the impact race and diverse discriminatory practices have had on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and offer innovative recommendations that would lead to the healing of the church and its witness to the world.”
A report on the conference will be submitted to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) in Portland, Oregon.