Explore issues in depth
- Hurricane Katrina and Systemic Racism
- Environmental Racism
- Public Education
- Electoral Reform
- Fair Food Campaign
- Women of Color Consultation Task Force
When any of you sin and commit a trespass against God by deceiving a neighbor in a matter of a deposit or a pledge, or by robbery, or if you have defrauded a neighbor, or have found something lost and lied about it — if you swear falsely regarding any of the various things that one may do and sin thereby — when you have sinned and realize your guilt, and would restore what you took by robbery or by fraud or the deposit that was committed to you, or the lost thing that you found, or anything else about which you have sworn falsely, you shall repay the principal amount and shall add one-fifth to it. (Leviticus 6:1-5)
Responding to a recommendation from the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns, the 213th General Assembly (2001) created a Task Force to study issues of reparations for African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and others who have experienced unjust treatment.
The task force met over the course of three years, seeking input from a variety of Presbyterians. Consistent with its commitment to racial justice, the 216th General Assembly (2004) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) adopted the report of the Task Force to Study Reparations, “affirming that Jesus Christ calls us to repair wrongs done to one another and to work for personal and social reconciliation and renewal.”
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2: 19-20)
People come to the United States for many reasons, including opportunities for work, education and to seek asylum from persecution in their home country. Individuals enter the country both with and without required documentation. Most persons enter the United States legally, and then fall out of status, often because of the complex nature of the law. It is estimated that nearly 300,000 new undocumented persons come into the United States every year.
The dynamics of immigration are complex and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been working to understand the issues related to immigration, and what the response of the church ought to be. The 217th General Assembly adopted the resolution “Advocacy and Welcome for All Immigrants.” The resolution reaffirms previous GA “Resolution Calling for a Comprehensive Legalization Program for Immigrants Living and Working in the U.S.” (2004). The resolution highlights many relevant issues facing immigrants, the communities of which they are a part and the individuals who advocate for them.
For further study
217th General Assembly (2006) Resolution on Advocacy and Welcome for All Immigrants
Download from resource archives
Resolution Calling for Comprehensive Legalization Program for Immigrants Living and Working in the United States
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58:12)
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, causing widespread damage along the Gulf Coast. The city of New Orleans received some of the most severe damage in the aftermath as most of the city found itself under water — a result of the breach of several levees. In the time since the hurricane, there has been significant focus on the response — or lack of response — to the devastation the city continues to endure.
Hurricane Katrina highlights the interconnectedness of our systems and the ways in which they often neglect to respond to the needs and concerns of people of color and persons living in poverty. Immediately after the storm there was evidence that the hurricane had exacerbated issues in housing, voting rights, the criminal justice system, public education, immigration and worker’s rights and healthcare. It is evident that these issues existed before the storm and are having a significant impact on the right to return for many of New Orleans’ residents. As the Church continues to aid in the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, we must be mindful that we work to support, sustain and aid those who are the most vulnerable, not to recreate systems that marginalize.
O God, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both great and small. When you send forth your spirit they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104: 24-25, 30)
The manufacturing and disposal of hazardous materials have both profound and lasting consequences on nearby communities and the earth that is subjected to it. Communities of color and communities disproportionately affected by poverty are more likely to have hazardous waste facilities planned and developed near them. These communities are at greater risk to be negatively impacted by contaminated water, air and food sources. It is unjust for communities of color to be intentionally or unintentionally sought out for the development of hazardous waste disposal sites. All people are entitled to reside in safe and clean living environments and should be full participants in the planning and development of their own communities.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Hazardous Waste, Race and the Environment (207th General Assembly)
National Council of Churches, Environmental Racism: an ecumenical study guide
United Church of Christ, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987-2007
Jesus said to them, “ ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Matthew 22: 37-39)
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has continually affirmed the importance of a quality public education for children and youth. The 199th General Assembly (1987) declared in A Call to Church Involvement in the Renewal of Public Education: As Presbyterians, we believe that “an education of high quality for all children is an obligation of society and indispensable to the political and economic health of our democracy,” and that “we are called to respond in every possible way with measures that seek to evidence love and justice in the education of children and youth.”
At present, our public schools continue to face significant challenges when it comes to the full inclusion of students of color. Federal and state policies and programs often have a disproportionate negative impact on students of color, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Communities of color also face considerable barriers to equitable funding and needed resources, which are required to provide quality public education. The 216th General Assembly (2004) called for Presbyterians to “confront the stubborn continuance of racial prejudice, particularly the persistence of societal attitudes that discourage academic achievement among economically disadvantaged and children of color students and others at risk.”
For further study
Thus says the Holy One: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and do what is right. Cease your evictions of my people, says the Holy One. (Ezekiel 45:9)
The disenfranchisement of people of color remains pressing today. Throughout the history of the United States there have been policies and practices enacted to withhold the right or pose significant challenges to persons of color who wish to take part in the electoral process. Electoral reform is critical to ensure equal participation of all people in the governing of the United States. This reform must continue to address the issues of registration, voter education and supportive systems that allow for the inclusion of all eligible voters.
For further study
Task Force on Election Report and Recommendations
Through Christ, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that confess God's name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:15-16)
The Campaign for Fair Food is an ongoing effort of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in partnership with farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to establish purchasing practices within the retail food industry that ensure and advance fair wages and other human rights of tomato pickers who labor at the base of these corporate supply chains.
The premises of the Campaign for Fair Food are that:
- Retail food corporations have a responsibility to improve the wages of farmworkers because their procurement practices have helped to suppress those wages at a subpoverty level.
- Farmworkers must be full partners with retail food corporations — and the growers that supply them — in protecting and advancing their own rights (such as the right to overtime and the right to organize) as a matter of human dignity and effectiveness in changing the conditions in the fields.
- Consumers have a responsibility to influence retail food corporations to ensure the human rights and dignity of the men and women harvesting produce through purchasing decisions, shareholder actions and shared public witness
For further study
217th General Assembly (2006) Resolution in Support of Ongoing Partnership Work with the Coalition for Immokalee Workers and the Campaign for Fair Food
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.” (Proverbs 8:1-4)
The Women of Color Consultation took place in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2004, and brought together more than 200 Presbyterian racial ethnic women from around the United States. The gathering generated recommendations directed at all levels of the Church regarding the Church’s response to and inclusion of women of color. The recommendations from the Consultation were compiled into a report that was presented as a joint resolution from the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns to the 217th General Assembly (2006).
The resolution was adopted and a task force was created to monitor the progress of the implementation of the recommendations found in the report. The task force began meeting in October 2006 and will report back to the 218th General Assembly (2008). Their work has included discussions on the “Report for Creating a Climate for Change within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” and the lives of women of color who live at the intersections of race and gender.