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Presbyterian Mission Agency drafts a plan to focus on climate change, militarism, and gender discrimination

PMAB meets on Jan. 20. Screenshot by Leslie Scanlon.

The draft of a proposed Mission Work Plan for the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) for 2023 and 2024 would continue PMA’s commitment to being a Matthew 25 church – with the priorities of building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty – and also presents some expanded areas of emphasis in the work of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Mission Work Plan, which the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board will consider at its virtual meeting Feb. 9-11, will guide PMA’s work over the next two years and be presented to the 2022 General Assembly for its approval.

As part of a proposed comprehensive restructuring of PMA, the draft report calls for creating two new functions within PMA:

  • The Center for Repair. The center would work both inside and outside the PC(USA) to repair damage caused by structural racism. “Already many churches, mid councils and agencies are discovering new ways to repair the damage done by structural racism and white supremacy in this nation and throughout the world,” a draft report of the Mission Work Plan states. “The Center for Repair will construct teams tasked with partnering with churches, mid councils or other entities who are doing the work or interested in doing the work of repair.”
  • The Office of Innovation, Futuring and Discernment. “The Office of Innovation, Futuring and Discernment will be responsible for learning about future trends and values shifts that will impact churches, mid councils and international partners with the hope of helping the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) to prepare for such shifts, rather than simply react to them after the fact,” the draft report states.

The draft report, which was presented to the Coordinating Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board during a Zoom meeting Jan. 20, also identifies three “intersectional priorities” that would provide “critical overlays” for the Matthew 25 priorities.

Diane Moffett. Screenshot by Leslie Scanlon.

The report states that “intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”

And it states that PMA’s strategic visioning process identified these intersections as “persistent and serious threats to the well-being of communities thrust to the margins.”

Those three intersections – which would become focuses of PMA’s work – are:

  • Climate change. The PC(USA) “has long recognized our obligation to take actions as faithful stewards of God’s Creation to respond to climate change,” the draft report states, with General Assemblies repeatedly acknowledging the impact of global warming on “the least of these.” The report states that “climate change is a particularly acute threat for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia — the regions where most of the global poor are concentrated. It is estimated that 821 million people (1 in 9 of the world’s population) do not get enough to eat.”
  • Militarism. General Assembly actions have addressed issues related to militarism including peacemaking, human rights, drone warfare and gun violence, the draft report states. “Militarism includes the activities of corporations that produce and sell weapons, and the role of state militaries … Meanwhile, wages for enlisted personnel, many of whom come from low-income communities, are stagnant and veterans remain underserved by the system charged with their care.” The report states that PMA’s work in this area could “address issues such as police brutality, mass incarceration, migration, moral injury, drone warfare, violence against women and children, and healing historical harms.”
  • Gender discrimination/Heteropatriarchy. “Though the United States is becoming an increasing diverse country, we still live in a society dominated by white cisgender heterosexual males whose characteristic bias is unfavorable toward women, people of differing genders and the LGBTQIA+ community,” the draft report states. It adds: “In all corners of the world, women experience injustice because they are women. LGBTQIA+ people experience injustice because of their gender and sexual identities. And gender nonbinary people experience injustice because they do not fit into the categories of male or female. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is committed to work against gender-based discrimination and heteropatriarchy.”
Warren Lesane. Screenshot by Leslie Scanlon.

In presenting the report to the Coordinating Committee, Diane Moffett, PMA’s president and executive director, said support for the Matthew 25 initiative has been growing even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Christians are realizing how important it is to engage with systemic issues,” she said.

Congregational vitality is “about making disciples, nurturing them and sending them out so we can change the world,” Moffett said. “Dismantling structural racism is something we have to do. Racism is a sin.”

Board member Ken Godshall said he wants the language regarding militarism to reflect that “this country has a right and responsibility to protect itself” — Godshall said that needs to be part of any discussion of military force.

Warren Lesane, who serves as chair of the PMA Board, said he’s a retired Air Force chaplain. Lesane said of the draft report: “I really, really love it.” But he said the board will continue to work on the language, particularly involving militarism, because “we want to be comfortable with it” before the board votes on the document in February.