From the Worldwide Faith News archives

GAC approves guidelines for racial-ethnic growth

Date 24 Feb 2001 09:26:44

Note #6397 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


GAC approves guidelines for racial-ethnic growth

Goal is to attract more immigrants, members of minority groups

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE -- With racial-ethnic membership in the Presbyterian Church (USA)
at just 6 percent, the General Assembly Council (GAC) on Friday, Feb. 23
unanimously approved recommendations outlining strategies for enhancing
racial-ethnic diversity in the denomination and cultural-sensitivity
seminars for presbyteries and middle governing bodies.

The recommendations were from a work group's response to an earlier
commissioner's resolution asking the GAC to make training available to
middle governing bodies in the implementation of the Racial Ethnic and
Immigrant Evangelism and Church Growth report approved by the PC(USA)
General Assembly in 1998.

The recommendations were put forward by the National Ministries Division
(NMD) Committee during the GAC meeting at the Hyatt Regency and will go next
to the GAC Staff Leadership Team for its endorsement. It represents the
first half of the group's final report, which will be presented during next
year's General Assembly in Columbus, OH.

The resolution calls for racial-ethnic staff members in NMD's Evangelism and
Church Development program area and in the Racial Ethnic Ministries program
area to develop cultural-sensitivity seminars for presbyteries and middle
governing bodies, and to establish strategies and timelines for
racial-ethnic church development, according to Neal Presa, the NMD vice
chair who served as chair of the work group.

"The work team looked at this and saw that the rationale for the
commissioners' resolution was to assist those presbyteries and middle
governing bodies that need extra assistance  in developing strategies,"
Presa said as he presented the work group's report to GAC, "and to address
the fact that there is not wide ownership of the strategies" suggested in
the church growth report (CGR), whose implementation "requires broad
church-wide ownership across the board."

The second phase will begin in April 2002 with a "test-case consultation"
and "cultural-sensitivity seminar" at Central Florida Presbytery, where
representatives of five surrounding Florida presbyteries and pastors of area
churches will be invited to discuss the challenges associated with
racial-ethnic issues and strategies that have been successful in dealing
with them.

"I just want to lend my voice of support and affirmation of the work of the
committee," said the Rev. Curtis Jones of Baltimore, MD, who's the advocacy
committee's representative to the council. "This is one that we were
watching very closely, and we are very happy to see it develop to this
point. We wait with great anticipation for the final report."

The issue of racial-ethnic leadership and membership in the PC(USA) is
becoming increasingly urgent, as the denomination continues to lose members
and has set for itself a goal of having 10 percent of its membership be from
racial-ethnic groups by 2010.

Just 5.9 percent of the PC(USA)'s 2.5 million members qualify for the
racial-ethnic designation, according to 1999 statistics from the
denomination's Office of Research Services, and that group breaks down this
way: African-American, 2.7 percent; Asian, 1.9 percent; Hispanic, 1.0
percent; Native American, 0.2 percent and other, 0.1 percent.

"When compared to the immigrant population of the United States, which
totals 10 percent of the U.S. population as of last year," the report said,
"these figures show that, as a denomination, we must be more active in
seeing that the goals envisioned by the report are realized."
Other recommendations made in the report:

* Establishing goals for growth in racial-ethnic membership and devising a
plan to accomplish them, including new-church developments, redevelopments
and immigration ministries;
* Employing demographic information to be more responsive to changes in the
communities and populations served;
* Recruiting and employing racial-ethnic staff;
* Developing effective intervention processes for situations in which
conflict has evolved and racial bias is implied.

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