From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Season of Prayer Declared in Pittsburgh Presbytery

Date 04 May 1996 20:49:38


96021   Season of Prayer Declared in Pittsburgh Presbytery 
            Following Actions Deemed Racist and Sexist 
                         By Julian Shipp 
PITTSBURGH, Pa.--Responding to actions by Pittsburgh Presbytery it believes 
"racist and sexist" toward ministries among the poor and African-American 
communities throughout the city, the Black Caucus of the presbytery has 
declared a "40-day Season of Prayer and Fasting" through Jan. 15. 
     Following a walkout during a regularly scheduled presbytery meeting 
Dec. 7, the Rev.  Johnnie Monroe, pastor of Grace Memorial Presbyterian 
Church in Pittsburgh, said the Pittsburgh Black Caucus and African-American 
pastors have also called upon their membership to not attend any gatherings 
or meetings of the presbytery during that time. 
     According to the Rev. Samuel W. George of Pittsburgh, who said he also 
attended the meeting, approximately 30 Black Caucus members and two whites 
participated in the walkout.  
     Monroe said the presbytery's recent actions have not been supportive 
of women, racial-ethnic minorities and children.  He said mission programs 
have been cut in the name of financial conservation while institutional 
self-support has become the presbytery's central focus. 
     "When we put things together we began to question where the presbytery 
is in terms of inclusiveness and things of that nature," Monroe said, 
adding that protesters are seeking divine guidance for the spiritual 
strengthening of the presbytery and undertaking devotional readings from 
the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. 
     Specific actions cited by the Black Caucus include 
       the closing of poor churches in African-American communities -- 
Melrose Church (now Pleasant Valley Shelter) and Blackadore Church (after a 
promise to build a new church never materialized) -- and cutting mission 
funding at Hazelwood Church. The trustees and presbytery also refused to 
lend the financially self-supporting Grace Memorial Church $150,000 for 
needed repairs to make its building handicap accessible. (These actions 
reportedly were taken to save funds. According to the Black Caucus, 
however, the presbytery granted more money to congregations in 
predominantly white communities than it was willing to lend Grace Church.)  
       the cutting of mission funds during the middle of the fiscal year, 
damaging the presbytery's assistance efforts toward the most needy segments 
of society, including services to the elderly, poor children, feeding 
programs and help for the homeless. 
       the firing of seven female administrative assistants (four of whom 
are African American) to save $65,000 next year.  These women were given 
less than three months' notice of termination.  Yet, according to the Black 
Caucus, the presbytery  approved a much more costly severance package last 
year for its former executive presbyter, who was offered nearly a year to 
find other employment. 
     The Rev. Beverly James, newly elected moderator of Pittsburgh 
Presbytery, said the presbytery has not officially responded to the 
allegations and concerns of the Black Caucus, but will do so during the 
next Pittsburgh Presbytery Council meeting Jan. 24. She said the next 
Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting is scheduled Feb. 10, but added that meeting 
agenda has not been finalized and won't be until after the council meets. 
     "While there has been no official response from the presbytery, there 
have been a number of informal conversations," James said. 
     James said a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial worship service scheduled 
Jan. 7 at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh was canceled due to 
inclement weather. Ironically, James said, she is not aware of any African 
Americans or Black Caucus members who were planning to boycott that service 
as part of the protest. 
     "I was called by a member of the Black Caucus who'd been part of that 
group who'd walked out and had been asked to bring greetings from the 
presbytery for this service," James said. "I was going to do that even 
though it was within the 40 days of the Season of Prayer."  

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   Web page: 


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