Co-Moderators announce new book study program

LOUISVILLE (OGA) The Co-Moderators of the 224th General Assembly (2020) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have announced a new book study program. Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart and the Reverend Gregory Bentley say the first book to be recommended in their two-year term will be “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance,” by Edgar Villanueva.

The announcement came during the first broadcast of “Good Medicine,” a new online program hosted by the Co-Moderators on Facebook Live.

“This is a very important time where the church and our country are trying to shift reality around how we repair and bring equity to our ideas, while resolving concerns that are being raised by our communities,” said Street-Stewart. “This book will help address these issues as a Matthew 25 church.”

“This is a very important book and Villanueva’s perspective on philanthropy is important to grasp and I hope we take our time with this study,” said Bentley. “This should be a ‘crockpot’ study, not microwave. You use a microwave when you want to cook something fast, but a crockpot is for cooking something slowly, taking time. This is a crockpot project.”

To write the book, Villanueva (an award-winning philanthropy executive) looked at Native traditions on prescribing medicine to restore balance and healing.

“The root of philanthropy is a love for people. Money should be seen as a way to engage across differences so we can build relationships. Unfortunately, there’s been a hierarchy as to who benefits from wealth and who doesn’t,” said Street-Stewart. “Philanthropy has reflected colonial practices. Approximately 92 percent of foundations are white while 80 percent of boards are white. We need to close this racial wealth gap.”

Villanueva offers seven steps to healing in the book:

  • Grieve — Stop and feel the hurt that’s been endured.
  • Apologize — for the hurts we’ve caused.
  • Listen — Acknowledge the wisdom of the excluded and exploited by the system.
  • Relate — Share and understand; you don’t have to agree in order to respect.
  • Represent — Build whole new decision-making table rather than rearrange the seats.
  • Invest — Put money where the values are.
  • Repair — Use money to heal where people hurt and stop more hurting from happening.

“We have the capacity to really make a difference,” said Bentley. “If we take the steps seriously, we can see a measurable difference.”

Street-Stewart and Bentley both say the church needs to talk about a national reckoning that leads to spiritual renewal.

Co-Moderators of the 224th General Assembly (2020) Elona Street-Stewart (left) and Gregory Bentley (right). –

“It’s rooted in biblical traditions. We have to move away from this punitive notion of criminal justice. It should be restorative, about every person having what they need to thrive and flourish, carrying out God’s desires and designs for our lives,” said Bentley. “This is not about punishing anybody, but how we best amplify the heart of God and use the resources God has put at our disposal.”

Street-Stewart is encouraging churches to embrace the book in discussion groups.

“We have to acknowledge that people are feeling exhausted in managing ministry and working in their communities,” she said. “It is a challenging time, but we hope they are able to support it in Sabbath time and study together.”

The Co-Moderators say the book aligns closely with the Matthew 25 vision, particularly around the dismantling of racism.

“As we always say as Native people, we have not vanished, we are still here and there is a purpose to why we are on this continent and that is the same for the church,” said Street-Stewart. “The church truly has a purpose at this time and place, and we must live out what we understand and bring good medicine to the world.”

Street-Stewart and Bentley chose to launch “Good Medicine” as a way to reach out to the church about issues facing the denomination and the world. The pandemic has forced church leaders to suspend travel, opening numerous opportunities to meet online. The two were the first Co-Moderators elected in an all-digital General Assembly in June.

The next “Good Medicine” broadcast is scheduled for Wednesday, November 11, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, on the 224th General Assembly Co-Moderators page on Facebook.

by Rick Jones, Office of the General Assembly