As we approach the 223rd General Assembly (2018) in St. Louis, the Covenant Network of Presbyterians is sharing some of our hopes for the business before this Assembly. We hope that commissioners, delegates and friends across the church will carefully consider the ways their discussion and votes can make for a more generous and just Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Access is everything. When one of our confessions, A Brief Statement of Faith, makes reference to “peoples long silenced,” those are not theoretical words. In a variety of ways—some structural, some linguistic, some rooted in centuries of exclusion—many are not given equal access to conversations and entities where decisions are made, power is exercised and resources are distributed. Whether intentionally or not, our church silences voices every day.
The Assembly Committees on the Way Forward (#4) and Mission Coordination (#10) have a lot on their plate this year. The Way Forward Committee will consider various proposals to substantially change church structures, while Mission Coordination will handle matters of budgeting and strategy for the church’s work around the nation and world. Each committee is considering some proposals that haven’t received much attention, but which we think could make a significant difference in ensuring that voices do not go on being silenced. Supporting these measures can help all of God’s children have a place at our tables.
We support Item 04-02, which directs all General Assembly agencies – and encourages every council – to provide for translation and interpretation of their proceedings into all the languages spoken (or signed) in their midst. This basic step toward including all ideas and contributions is overdue in a church that is evolving and whose growth is frequently occurring in immigrant communities. The recommendation also calls for greater attention to resourcing blind and vision impaired and deaf members of our communities with advance copies of materials and appropriate interpretation.
Because we don’t know what we don’t know, we also support Item 04-07, which calls for external, professional race audits of each General Assembly agency as part of the regular agency review process. Systemic bias and prejudice are real, and can sometimes only be identified through an outside pair of eyes. This modest step ensures that we confronted with reality so we can better ensure access and equity for all.
Finally, we support Item 10-03, which takes initial steps to explore creating an advocacy committee for LGBTQ+ concerns, similar to existing committees for women’s and racial/ethnic concerns. As the church has grown more inclusive of people of varying sexual orientations and gender identities, it has heightened awareness that – even with substantial progress the last few years – the voices of those “long silenced” are still often muted or absent. This proposal would start a process to consider whether such a committee would be helpful, which seems the least we can do.
In approving these three proposals, the Assembly can take significant steps to expand the table, and show forth our commitment to truly welcoming all.
If you have questions or ideas, let us know. To learn more about Covenant Network activities at this General Assembly, see this link. and for a preview of business in other committees, click here. Finally, we would be grateful if you would consider helping us make our G.A. witness possible with a donation. Thank you!