ACREC meeting summary
July 23-25, 2009 • Louisville, Kentucky
The committee received a presentation from representatives of the Presbyterian Foundation on the history and status of the church’s Creative Investment Fund. In its report to the 216th General Assembly on "Creating a Climate For Change," ACREC recommended that the creative investment fund be expanded “to encompass greater participation with Racial Ethnic Presbyterian Ministries and to gradually increase the Creative Investment Fund, for purposes of investing in community economic projects, particularly in areas where there is an established Presbyterian racial ethnic presence.” The conversation with Bland Bennett and Anita Clemons will help the committee explore ways to be supportive of the spirit and intent of the GA-approved recommendations from "Creating a Climate For Change."
J. Kameron Carter, author of RACE: A Theological Account, talked to the committee about the process of getting inside the "racial imagination" to see how Christianity is involved. Dr. Carter used the experience of a recent visit to Brazil to raise issues about the social ethos of “mastery” (enforced authority and superiority) and Christianity’s long history of complicity in this system. In Salvador, Brazil, he saw evidence of how slaves were baptized into a system of mastery from the day they arrived on Western shores — a baptism into captivity. Christian icons and images were used to both portray and reinforce this ethos with the intent of producing obedient, compliant servants. The effect of this indoctrination in mastery was a people whose view of themselves as human was distorted. Dr. Carter sees this religious experience as related to the experience of the Jewish people, initially during the first century when the early church was developing and race was used to promulgate the superiority of European Christianity over against its Jewish origins, and later when the Third Reich used the ethos of mastery to elevate itself and rationalize unspeakable acts against Jews. It’s this latter experience that Dietrich Bonheoffer, who Dr. Carter quoted often, writes about in his theological treatise. According to Dr. Carter, God disrupts the logic of mastery, and he constructs a theological account that demonstrates how the category of race is not adequate for talking about the human reality in Christ. Christ steps in between the way we see ourselves as humans (a view often distorted by race) and helps all of us regardless of race project ourselves onto the divine.
Christian Iosso, coordinator for the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, brought a proposal to ACREC requesting its participation in a consultation at Stony Point Conference Center. The consultation would focus on the World Alliance of Reformed Church’s Accra Confession and the Belhar Confession from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa (1986). ACREC recommended that the 218th General Assembly “initiate the process described in G-18.0201b by appointing a committee, separate from any committee assigned to the Heidelberg Catechism, to consider amending the confessional documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to include the Belhar Confession in The Book of Confessions.” Essentially, the Belhar Confession is a collection of statements about unity, reconciliation and justice among Christians, while the Accra Confession is based on the theological conviction that the economic and environmental injustices of today’s global economy require the Reformed family to respond as a matter of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The committee voted to affiliate with the consultation.
Review Committee questions
In anticipation of an interview by representatives of the Advisory and Advocacy Committees Review Team the committee reviewed 15 questions sent in advance of the conversation. The questions focused on the review team’s charge to “examine the interaction, cooperation between such committees and commissions, as well as their scope and authority, and the collective role each contribute complementing and implementing the General Assembly’s total mission program or directives.” The committee invested a considerable amount of agenda time and attention to this subject. The interview, held later that day, was both congenial and helpful to each of the parties involved.
Roles and responsibilities discussion
Restructuring and accompanying staff changes of the last 10 months have had the effect of thrusting the committee into a transitional period in which it has an opportunity to order its priorities and align its work around its responsibilities as an elected, policy level committee. This was the message delivered to the committee by its interim staff person, Curtis A. Kearns. In order to take advantage of this opportunity the committee is asked to think about its priorities for the next two to four years — priorities influenced by what can realistically be accomplished by an elected committee with a defined amount of time, energy and resources. Information from this conversation will be used to write the job description for the permanent staff person to be advertised at the first of the year.
The committee received many reports from affiliated groups and took a variety of related actions. These actions included:
- Requesting a copy of the employee handbooks for GA agencies located at 100 Witherspoon Street to be examined for consistencies or inconsistencies whichever happens to be the case.
- Responding to the GAMC’s announcement to study the possibility of combining Asian ministries at the national level by recommending that Korean and Asian ministries not be combined.
- Commenting on racial ethnic force reductions at San Francisco Theological Seminary by sending letters of concern about the resulting lack of representation among faculty and staff.
- Voting to seek a conversation with representative from the Cooperative Committee on Examinations out of concern for racial ethnic performance on these examines.
- Initiating an inquiry of the Presbyterian Washington Office to determine what is being done to support health care legislation.