From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
RACISM DISCUSSED AT ZEPHYR POINT CONFERENCE
04 May 1996 20:43:30
95374 RACISM DISCUSSED AT ZEPHYR POINT CONFERENCE
by Eva Stimson
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev.--Less than a week after the O.J. Simpson verdict turned
the spotlight on racial divisions in the U.S. population, an unusually
diverse group of West Coast Presbyterians came together to talk about
eradicating racism in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The timing was coincidental. For the past 23 years a steadily growing
number of racial-ethnic Presbyterians from northern California and Nevada
have gathered annually in October for a conference sponsored by the Ethnic
Concerns Committee of the Synod of the Pacific's Sierra Mission Area.
"I'm troubled by statistics that show that in 1993 our denomination
was approximately 95 percent white," the Rev. Elliot Bernadel-Huey told the
group of nearly 100 people who attended this year's conference, Oct. 6-8,
at Zephyr Point Conference Center here on Lake Tahoe. "Does this mean that
God's love is primarily for white European-Americans?"
Bernadel-Huey, a Chinese-American who works as a physical therapist in
Hayward, Calif., led the group in an intense six-hour session of "diversity
training." Participants included persons of Asian, Hispanic, European and
Middle Eastern ancestry and a large contingent of recent immigrants from
Assisting Bernadel-Huey were Sarah Reyes, a high school assistant
principal and member of the multiracial Trinity Presbyterian Church in
Stockton, Calif., and the Rev. Les Sauer, associate for justice and social
concerns for the Sierra Mission Area.
Unfortunately, said Bernadel-Huey, some Presbyterian congregations
have begun reaching out to racial minorities only because they see their
membership shrinking. "Our concern for diversity must be about more than
institutional maintenance and survival," he declared.
On a more pastoral note, he commented, "So much in church and society
works to undermine this central truth: that Jesus loves us fully and
completely. We are called to let go of a vision of ourselves that has been
twisted by racism."
"We need to redefine the word 'American' so that it does not just mean
people of European ancestry," said Alice Nishi, a Japanese-American from
Davis, Calif., who received one of the denomination's annual Women of Faith
awards at the 1992 General Assembly. Although she was born in the United
States, Nishi says, people still come up to her and comment, "My, you speak
Fellowship and mutual support were major components of the Zephyr
Point conference. Participants rejoiced at an announcement by five young
members of the Indonesian Presbyterian Church of Fresno, Calif., that
their congregation had just purchased its own building. They also
applauded the upcoming Oct. 29 ordination of Bruce Reyes-Chow, the first
Filipino man to be ordained in the PC(USA).
Founded in 1972, the Ethnic Concerns Committee (ECC) represents at
least a dozen racial-ethnic communities in the four presbyteries (Nevada,
Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stockton) that comprise the Sierra Mission
"The purpose of ECC has been to nurture racial-ethnic persons in
leadership and advocacy for access and service at the various governing
body levels of the Presbyterian Church," Sauer explains. In his work with
the committee in the past few years he has noted that the longtime members
have begun serving as mentors to a growing number of recent immigrants and
"ECC has been a gateway for the racial-ethnic folks to get them into
the Presbyterian Church," Sauer says. "It has also been a prod to the
denomination to make a place for these people in the church."
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
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .