Race, Reparations and Reproductive Justice fulfills the role of the Race and Gender Justice Committee of the 225th General Assembly in June 2022
“We, as people of faith, recognize that the only proper path to healing and reconciliation is to recognize the wrongs that we, the Presbyterian Church, within the institutional structure of the Church, have been and are complicit in perpetuating… We apologize for this. transgression.”
This call for acknowledgment and confession – explicitly stated in RGJ-08, a resolution “on apologizing to African Americans for the sin of slavery and its legacy” – underlies all resolutions considered by the 225 Race and Gender Justice Committeee General Assembly. When the committee structures were announced by the General Assembly Bureau on December 21, 2021, “RGJ” was tasked with reviewing “elements related to justice issues associated with racism, gender identity and their intersection.
Its commissioners will meet in person in Louisville June 23-26, 2022, with virtual access also available. Of the ten resolutions under consideration, four items are referred by the 2020 General Assembly. Three others are reports from special committees and working groups formed at previous assemblies.
On Thursday, June 23, the committee will consider resolutions related to acts of violence, oppression and health crises experienced by women and transwomen of color and two items of business related to specific instances of past and present racism within of the PC (USA) congregations.
RGJ-03: A Resolution on Reproductive Justice: Black/Birthing People and Child Mortality
RGJ-02: A Resolution on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People.
RGJ-04: A resolution for trans women of color
These resolutions co-sponsored by the Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns (ACWC) and the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC) call on the Presbyterian Missionary Agency, through the Office of Public Witness, to advocate on behalf of black women. and Indigenous and transgender people in public policy and through the Presbyterian planning calendar to raise awareness through designated days to honor and remember victims of silence, violence and racism.
The other points on the agenda concern the possibilities of reparations to better finance the congregations of color.
RGJ-07: A resolution addressing the lack of installed pastors in congregations of people of color in the PC (USA)
RGJ-09: On the directive to the General Assembly Office to issue an apology and reparations for the racist closing of Memorial Presbyterian Church, Juneau, Alaska.
“Currently, 80% of predominantly black congregations in PC (USA) do not have pastoral leadership installed. At least 40% of Hispanic/Latino congregations do not have installed pastors” explains the justification included in RGJ-07, which proposes “to forgive the indebtedness of congregations without installed pastoral leadership for loans, per capita and dues to the Board of Pensions (BOP) until parity is established. RGJ-09, sponsored by the Northwest Coast Presbytery, deals with a reparations case regarding the Memorial Presbyterian Church, “a thriving multi-ethnic and cross-cultural church in Alaska” whose “wrongful 1963 closure” by the presbytery of Alaska aimed to end segregation but “simply substituted assimilation racism for the past practice of segregationist racism. RGJ-09 seeks $300,000 in reparations from the Presbyterian Missionary Agency for the Preservation of Native Languages and Native American church property funds.
On Friday, June 24, the committee’s agenda contemplates statements of broader scope.
RGJ-08: Apologizing to African Americans for the Sin of Slavery and Its Legacy
RGJ-10: Resolution on race, restorative justice and the PCUSA
RGJ-12: Report on the Special Committee on Racism, Truth and Reconciliation
The apology for the sin of slavery and its legacy and related resolution on race and restorative justice have financial implications totaling $63,890 that this GA committee must consider. Many of the points in these resolutions are supported by the report of the Special Committee on Racism and Reconciliation (RGJ-13) which is presented to the committee on Friday, June 25, halfway through their work.
The Special Committee on Racism, Truth and Reconciliation was formed in 2016 at the 223rd General Assembly and reconstituted in 2018 at the 224e. In addition to its 11 recommendations which cover other actions by the General Assembly Office, the Presbyterian Missionary Agency, the Presbyterian Historical Society, the Pension Board, the Presbyterian Foundation and the Intermediate Council Ministries Office, the report of the special committee offers a glossary of terms and a litany of past and present defensive responses to anti-racism work that serve as touchstones for the General Assembly as it considers other resolutions of this committee. In a section titled “Limitations of Our Work,” the report acknowledges anticipated structural changes across the PC (USA) that “naming all necessary changes at all levels of the denomination, although our desire, is beyond the scope of the work of this particular special committee.
On Saturday, June 26, the Race and Gender Justice Committee will consider its final resolutions focused on understanding the role of systemic racism as it constitutes a public health crisis affecting people of color and worsening violence and discrimination against women, girls and transgender people.
RGJ-11 – A resolution on racism as a public health crisis
RGJ-12 – Report of the Task Force on Disparities Experienced by Black Women and Girls
These cases presented by REAC and the Task Force on Black Women and Girls, respectively, are intended to raise awareness across the denomination. Additionally, RGJ-11 calls on the PC (USA) to use the power of its advocacy with public policy as well as with the insurers with which the Board of Pensions contracts “to alleviate disparities in the health care received by people of color”. RGJ-12 focuses on the need for greater financial resources to support scholarship funds and legal defense funds for black women and “to increase budget support and equity for the equity field Race and Women’s Ministries in the Presbyterian Mission Board”.
Before presenting their resolution at the 225e GA, the Task Force on Black Women and Girls identified five specific areas following an equity audit in 2020 following the organization of the task force by Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries (RE&WIM). The third area was related to reproductive justice which is also the focus of RGJ-03, the first agenda item that this committee will consider in June. The work of the Racial and Gender Justice Committee and its resolutions regarding the intersection of racial and gender justice issues may precede or follow a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“The wider Presbyterian community would benefit from knowing the history and evolution of advocacy on reproductive rights and sexual health and well-being, and being better informed about agencies and other resources offering programs on this topic,” said the Disparities Experienced by Black Women and Girls Task Force report.