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Revision to proposed 2023-2024 Mission Work Plan section on militarism is approved

The plan moves on to the complete Presbyterian Mission Agency Board next month and then to the General Assembly

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, then Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Navy and now Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, addresses commissioners to the 223rd General Assembly (2018). (Photo by Danny Bolin)

LOUISVILLE — A revised 2023-2024 Mission Work Plan won approval Friday by the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board’s Coordinating Committee, sending the document along to the full Board for consideration next month and ultimately to the 225th General Assembly meeting this summer both online and at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

One concern raised during last week’s meeting of the Coordinating Committee involved the Mission Work Plan’s section on militarism, which was revised to include, among other things, this sentence: “Recognizing the unique resource of specialized ministers serving and having served as chaplains in the uniformed services, the Presbyterian Mission Agency will invite their expertise alongside longtime international and domestic partners to engage in education, advocacy and partnership within and beyond the PC(USA) to address the dangers and impacts of a militaristic mindset from a Christological perspective.”

The Rev. Ken Godshall, a PMA Board member, last week urged “further discussion” on the section on militarism. He consulted with the Rev. Lyman Smith, a retired Navy chaplain, to help PMA staff arrive at the revision to the section on militarism. Godshall said the revision “provides a good foundation for moving forward, especially for chaplains as they seek to advance the Kingdom here on Earth.”

The Rev. Denise Anderson

The Coordinating Committee also approved an Antiracism Statement that received input and approval not only from the PMA but all six agencies and two entities of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), including the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Church, A Corporation. The Rev. Denise Anderson, interim director of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, was the chief writer of the statement. She and the Rev. Samuel Son, the PMA’s manger for Diversity and Reconciliation, presented on Friday.

“I myself find it inspiring,” Son said of the statement. “It’s a statement all agencies and executives have agreed to. The fact that we all agreed means there is a possibility of us moving toward the same direction together.”

Anderson said a statement was crafted rather than a policy “because each agency and entity has its own idiosyncrasies. We wanted something that guided those policies, not one uniform policy expected to work for all.”

“We state unequivocally,” the statement says, “that racism and all forms of discrimination and marginalization are sins against humanity and God, inconsistent with our Christian and corporate values and unacceptable within our agencies and entities.” Each of those organizations “must unlearn and undo existing racist values and structures that persist despite our expressed values and intentions if we are to create an antiracist church where all persons are treated with respect, all gifts are valued and encouraged, and diversity is a gift to be valued.”

According to the statement, as the PC(USA) strives to be an antiracist church, it commits to at least 10 actions, including these:

  • Developing and implementing practices and strategies to disrupt and dismantle racism and oppression in the church and the world
  • Striving for racial equity in recruitment, hiring and retention of employees
  • Expanding the use of diverse suppliers as directed by General Assembly actions
  • Managing church investments in ways that increase the Church’s witness to racial justice and equity
  • Taking steps of reparation and restorative action in response to disparities of wealth created and sustained by white supremacy
  • Working in partnership with mid councils in their antiracism ministries
  • Acting courageously and creatively against police brutality, voter suppression, educational and healthcare inequity, and other acts and practices of systemic racism on federal, state and local levels
  • Putting into practice General Assembly directives to build an intercultural church where justice and equity prevail.

“We acknowledge that this work will not be easy,” the statement says near its conclusion. “But as our churchwide antiracism policy affirms: ‘Because of our biblical understanding of who God is and what God intends for humanity, the PC(USA) must stand against, speak against, and work against racism. Antiracist effort is not optional for Christians. It is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship, without which we fail to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.’”

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