Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) racial and ethnic leaders, nominated by their Presbytery or Synod, began a three-day executive leadership training institute Wednesday evening at the Montreat (N.C.) Conference Center, sponsored by Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries (RE&WM).

Featured speakers for the event include the Rev. Wendy Tajima, executive presbyter of the San Gabriel Presbytery; Moderator Heath Rada; the Rev. Art Canada, pastor of McClintock and Catawba Presbyterian churches in Charlotte; Valerie Small, assistant stated clerk; and the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director of RE&WM for PMA.

The institute provides racial ethnic leaders with an opportunity to grow their leadership skills, network and be intentional about pursuing leadership roles in the PC(USA). Workshops are kept small to provide participants with one-on-one and networking opportunities with national church leaders.

“As we prepare for leadership in a changing landscape, we realize that we are in a time of major transition in the church,” said Hunter. “We are called to a deeper exploration of the understanding that is revealed in Ephesians 4:11-13, that some would be ‘apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.’”

Several previous attendees have gone on to assume leadership roles within the church, been elected to General Assembly committees and received prestigious national awards.

RE&WM staff serving on the planning team included Vince Patton, the Rev. Dr. Sterling Morse, Jewel McRae and the Rev. David Loleng.  The stated goal of the event was to “create an environment to connect, inspire and equip leaders to serve Christ's mission. “

Some members of the group will continue their stay at Montreat for an event beginning Friday evening: “Dr. King’s Unfinished Agenda: A Teach-In for Rededicating Ourselves to the Dream.”

The weekend event is expected to draw more than 900 people to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s address to the Christian Action Conference in Montreat. A number of church leaders, including Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist and others, will take part in worship services and plenaries to discuss how the church of today can answer the challenges King posed in 1965.