It’s a big task: Name the top three things the Presbyterian Mission Agency can do to address issues of power and privilege within the church and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.
The board’s Power and Privilege Ministerial Team that’s been focused on this is still working – but in its interim report, submitted for the board’s Sept. 21-23 meeting in Louisville, points to the need for systemic, organizational change.
The ministerial team that wrote the report is one of a group of short-term teams, consisting of both board members and representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s national staff, that the board has created to consider specific issues.
Budgets as moral documents
The team refers to the urgency that the 2016 General Assembly “placed on issues of racism, privilege and power.” And it suggests that matters of power and privilege should be considered central as the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) develops its budgets for 2019 and 2020.
“We are concerned about funding priorities when budgets are developed for the PMA,” the team’s report states. “Budgets are moral documents. We note that the budget for the Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministry Area is one of the smallest in the PMA,” about 13 percent of the overall PMA budget.
“We must investigate how our budgeting in the PMA is consistent with our theology and priorities of the Assembly,” the report states.
The team suggests that the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns and the Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns should have both voice and vote on the board.
Both those advocacy committees are urging the board to vote down a recommendation from the Governance Task Force, due to be voted on Sept. 21, that would reduce the board’s size from 40 voting members to 16 and reconfigure its committees, among other things.
The team proposes creating a permanent committee that would sit above the structure of the board “to continue to hold it and the agency accountable around these interlocking issues.”
The report also says this:
“Left to its own devices, any system/institution will continue to operate in ways as it has in the past unless outside interventions over a long period of time are made. This is especially true around deep issues of racism, power and privilege. This will require investment of time and funds but if we are truly committed to this work that is about confession, repentance and resurrection then we must step up to the task and understand that it is work that will be for our lifetimes (and beyond) and therefore must have full integration into all we do and have systems in place to address and connect agencies within the PMA and the PMA to the PMAB.
“We also recommend a full power analysis of the PMAB and the PMA and a process observer at all PMAB meetings.”
The Power and Privilege Team will report again at the board’s next meeting, set for Feb. 7-9, 2018 in Louisville.