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PC(USA) offering three virtual anti-racism training sessions in 2021


Online trainings based on pre-pandemic in-person training, follow a year highlighting systemic racism

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Denise Anderson, at left, and the Rev. Shanea D. Leonard lead anti-racism training for the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People in Las Vegas on Jan. 17, 2020. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Gender, Racial & Intercultural Justice will be offering three virtual anti-racism training sessions in 2021, starting this month.

The first Introduction to PC(USA) Anti-Racism Policy Training session will be at 6 p.m. Eastern Time on March 23. It will be led by the Rev. Denise Anderson and Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, who have led anti-racism training sessions in person for more than two years. There will be additional offerings of the training in June and September.

Note: Since this story posted, the March 23 training has filled up, and registration is closed. Registration is now open for the June 29 training from 6 to 8 p.m. ET. Click here to register. (A previous version of this story contained the wrong date for the training. This is the correct date, and we apologize for the error.)

A key component of the Matthew 25 invitation is dismantling structural racism, and the sessions aim to introduce concepts around racism and explore the anti-racism policies of the church. To learn a bit more about what people can expect from the sessions, we caught up with Leonard to ask a few questions.

Q: What is the importance of Presbyterians participating in anti-racism training?

A: As the truth of the underpinning of racism and white supremacy culture are continually revealed in our church and our society, we as people of faith have a moral commitment to stand against the sin of racism. Racism is a divisive evil that has caused much harm even in the church. Therefore, we must rise to the call of Micah 6:8 to do justice, the mandate of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, and the overall mission of faith in building beloved community.

Q: Tell us a bit about anti-racism training before the pandemic. When did you and Rev. Anderson start developing this, and to what sorts of groups did you present the training? 

A: We have been doing this work of dismantling racism and systemic oppression even before our work at the [Presbyterian] Center. However, we have developed a series of trainings we have done both individually and collectively for the denomination for approximately two years. We have done these trainings for PMA staff, mid-councils, congregations, and many other PC(USA) groups and gatherings. As the pandemic hit, we had to alter our presentation to fit the needs of social distancing. In doing so we realized the best way to reach as many people as possible in a concise and responsible way is to create this training to be offered collectively a few times a year.

Q: What will be major differences from the live training sessions, aside from it being virtual?

A: The only major differences will be the lack of personal interaction that we have felt during this pandemic. However, we plan to offer the same level of in-depth and engaging training as ever before.

Q: Who do you hope to see sign up for this training?

A: We hope to see a variety of folks, especially those who need/want more information about our PC(USA) anti-racism policy and those who are working to dismantle racism within their own context. This training is for both the novice and the intermediate learner as we all still have so much work to do to overcome the sin of racism.

Q: How do you see the events of the past year, from the coronavirus and its disproportionate impact on marginalized communities and the uprising against police violence and systemic racism, impacting what you present in the training and how it is received?

A: These events further inform the need to continue to dismantle systemic oppression and racism. What has always been clear is that the church has been implicit and complicit in how this sin has shown up and harmed Black and brown people. Therefore, it is also up to the church to be engaged in the work of calling out this sin when we see it all around us. Furthermore, this training will help give insight on after you call it out, how you need to engage it to continue the work of eradicating this sin.

The Office of Gender, Racial & Intercultural Justice is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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