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Young adults weigh in on PC(USA)’s efforts to dismantle racism

Opinions given at Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network’s post-Big Tent event

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

ST. LOUIS – “This is what the future of the Presbyterian Church looks like!” Co-Moderator T. Denise Anderson declared to a group of nearly 40 young adults attending this year’s Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network’s post-Big Tent gathering. Sponsored by Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, the assembly of multicultural young adults ages 19-35 included individuals with ethnic backgrounds from five continents.

“This gathering is a great networking opportunity for young people from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences,” said Sarang Kang, a young adult Christian educator and conference facilitator.

Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network at Big Tent. Photo by Gail Strange.

Keeping in step with the Big Tent theme of “Race, Reconciliation and Reformation,” the gathering allowed participants to give their perspectives on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s efforts to dismantle racism within the 93 percent white denomination and the country.

This was Byron Elam’s first Big Tent experience. Elam, a recent college graduate and member of First Presbyterian Church, a predominantly white congregation in Jackson, Tennessee, answered the question, “How can conferences like Big Tent help congregations make a difference in race relations in the PC(USA)?” He said, “Conferences like this can educate Presbyterians on the issues surrounding race and racism. It can provide tools and resources for individuals to take back to their churches to dismantle racism in their congregations and communities.” Elam added that most Sundays he’s the only African American attending the worship service at his church.

Aliea Rothwell, a college junior from Chester, Pennsylvania, and member of Thomas M. Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church, a predominantly African American congregation, responded to the question, “How can events like Big Tent equip young adults in the church to handle their biases related to racism?” Rothwell said, “Big Tent helped me see that all white people are not bad. Before coming here, I always had my guard up. Big Tent helped me to recognize that there are genuine people in the PC(USA) that care about racism and its effects on individuals and communities.”

Another question posed to the attendees was, “Why is it important for young adults to be involved in efforts to dismantle racism and bring about reconciliation in the Presbyterian church and in communities across this country?”

Lorenzo Wuysang, youth and worship leader of Indonesian Presbyterian Church in Fullerton, California, said, “As a Christian it’s very important for young adults to take the lead in a conversation to dismantle racism because we see things through a different lens and from a different culture … that adds another perspective. As the future leaders of the Presbyterian church it’s important for our voices and opinions to be heard because we are the future voices of the presbyteries and the PC(USA).”

This was the third year that a Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network event was held after a Big Tent conference. The event is planned, organized and run by the attendees, who also determine the gathering’s content. “The young adults bring fresh ideas to the gathering and the staff learns from them,” said the Rev. Mei-Hui Chen Lai, associate for Asian Congregational Support.

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