From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Synod of Mid-Atlantic Approves Reconciliation
04 May 1996 19:55:46
95437 Synod of Mid-Atlantic Approves Reconciliation
Measures Following Charge of Racism
by Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--After being charged in October with racism and "ungodly
behavior" toward synod executive the Rev. Carroll D. Jenkins by its
African-American caucus, the Synod of Mid-Atlantic is apparently taking
steps toward reconciliation and healing.
"I'm very relieved that this issue is coming to rest," Jenkins said
after the synod's Nov. 17-18 meeting in Richmond, Va. "I'm very relieved
that the synod might be able to go forward now and begin some of the things
that it needs to do. We've sort of been in limbo for over three years now
and we've got to move forward in order to help direct ... the mission that
needs to take place and to also resource the presbyteries as they attempt
to do their work."
Jenkins, an African American, has served as a synod executive since
1981 and was a presbytery associate executive for 10 years previously. Over
the last year, he has been connected to allegations of questionable
financial and management procedures and has been named in several synod
While the inquiries revealed some noncompliance with existing synod
policy, they did not reveal any serious financial or management
discrepancies. However, Jenkins has become a focal point of criticism and
controversy. Some say the criticism is racially motivated, while others say
the problem is poor adminstrative responsibility and misrepresentation of
During the synod assembly Oct. 14, a walkout by protesters in support
of Jenkins was led by the Rev. Lawrence Bethel, chair of the Black Caucus
of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic and a commissioner from Eastern Virginia
Bethel read a statement calling for all African Americans and
supporting Presbyterians to walk out. African American council members,
mission committee members and observers walked out with the 20 African
-American commissioners. Some whites and Asian Americans joined the
protest. Others left the room to listen to and talk with the African
"From my point of view Carroll Jenkins is competent, he runs a good
office," Bethel said. "But we saw during the synod meeting a conspiracy
where there were these constant attacks during the council's report on the
competence of [Jenkins] and some [synod council members] wanting to lift
items up from the council report to be discussed later. We saw white
commissioners whispering to one another, passing notes and nitpicking
But efforts apparently are now being focused in new directions. In
response to the allegations of mismanagement of the synod office, the
synod council adopted 10 specific statements and actions during its
In addition to filing no formal complaint, publicly acknowledging its
support for Jenkins and expressing its desire to move forward, the council
dissolved its controversial "Committee of Five," a recently formed
investigative body scheduled to report its findings to the council by Dec.
This committee, chaired by former General Assembly moderator the Rev.
Ben L. Rose of Richmond, Va., was composed of Presbyterians currently not
active in the synod's affairs and was authorized to again examine the
synod's financial and management practices -- a decision that drew
criticism from the synod's African-American caucus. The committee was
appointed by the synod council in June and, according to Rose, was unique,
since all previous inquiries had been conducted by persons within the synod
To eliminate what was described in the council's statement as a
"feeding frenzy of retribution or criticism" by factions within the synod,
the council also agreed to take the initiative in organizing a planning
team to provide symposiums in each of the synod's 13 presbyteries
addressing the subject of racism.
The Rev. James A. Payne, a synod trustee and commissioner from the
Presbytery of the James, said he can understand how members of the synod's
African-American caucus and community could "perceive racism" in this
situation, especially if the information they received is inaccurate.
For example, according to Payne, who is white, there were never any
allegations made solely against Jenkins or his administrative perfomance.
Several of the allegations were also connected to a white man, the Rev.
Joseph J. Pickard, the synod's former treasurer and associate for finance,
who resigned from his position in September of 1994.
"The record won't bear that out, so I have to believe that Dr. Bethel
and others are operating on some misinformation," Payne said. "It is not a
racial issue. I think the tragedy is Dr. Bethel and some others have been
misinformed by an inadequate representation of the facts."
The PC(USA) African-American Clergy/Lay Conference was held Oct. 30
through Nov. 2 in Atlanta. During the meeting, a "Carroll Jenkins Legal
Defense Fund" was established and over $1,200 was collected. The National
Black Presbyterian Caucus has been designated to oversee and administer the
Conference participants voted to create the fund for two reasons: to
aid Jenkins should the matter elevate to the civil courts and to help other
African Americans in the denomination who might require financial legal aid
as a result of actions taken by various governing bodies.
"I think the nature of what's going on in the church right now -- and
not just here but in many places -- is going to make [the fund] necessary,
unfortunately, for some folks to have," Jenkins said, alluding to systemic
racism in America. "It does cost money to consult with lawyers and to go to
court and it's unfortunate. But it's growing out of the times in which we
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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