Presbyterians meet at Stony Point to address issues of race and racism

At the direction of the General Assembly, a churchwide conversation will explore solutions to visible and invisible discrimination

November 5, 2015

Stony Point, NY

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.

  1. May God lead these faithful and committed servants toward new and vital insights which will help the PCUSA in our quest to fulfill God's will. Thank you to each one who is giving of her or his time and energy to serve us all.

    by Heath Rada

    November 11, 2015

  2. This stellar panel, multiethnic and multiracial, looks like the right group to talk about church growth, renewal and evangelism. Our denomination is vanishing into thin air. The issues they are addressing will soon be irrelevant without growth, renewal and evangelism.

    by Louis S. Lunardini

    November 6, 2015

  3. I really hope that the people at the conference well really look at racism in the Presbytery Church. The Presbyterian have been dealing with this issue for a long time. It seems to me if someone really wanted to make a difference in how people are treated in the presbyterian the nominations something could be done. I have been a Presbyterian for a long time and we are still talking about this issue. Don't someone think that if we really wanted change that it could happen. As people of faith we are supposed to love one another. Sometimes I really think that we need to practice what we preach.

    by Bertha Marsh

    November 5, 2015

  4. After attending the Ecumenical Advocacy Days last April, theme: Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration & Systems of Exploitation, a group of us from New Brunswick Presbytery have organized and will have a day long conference on November 21, 2015, theme: Mass Incarceration: Moral Outrage and the Faith Community's Response. For more information go to www.presnb.com and click on the pictures until you see the image for Mass Incarceration.

    by Ted Settle

    November 5, 2015