From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Synod of Mid-Atlantic Approves Reconciliation

Date 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 
the facts. 
     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 
November meeting. 
     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 
find ourselves." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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