Anti-Racism Transformation Team
Anti-Racism Transformation Team
Presbytery Staff Liaisos – Elder Ralph Lowe, Director of Justice Ministries
What We Do
The Anti-Racism Transformation Team (ARTT) of the Pittsburgh Presbytery is a team that envisions an anti-racist presbytery that practices Christ’s teachings, as well as creating and sustaining a culture of racial reconciliation and accountability to the communities the presbytery serves.
The ARTT was born out of the hard work of the Amos 5:24 Ministry Team. Through prayer, study of scripture, and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the team hopes to be an effective resource and catalyst to dismantle institutional racism in our presbytery.
The sin of racism has neither been consistently addressed nor actively countered by the Presbyterian Church nationally or locally. Yet, periodic denominational and confessional standards call us to antiracism activism: “Racism persists as a cancerous reality in American life and our society as a whole has been irresponsible in dealing with it.” (1970 Statement – PCUSA General Assembly)
The Antiracism Transformation Team (ARTT) will respond to problems by proposing to Presbytery new ways of living together. It will be an organized, strategic and extensively trained team dedicated to identifying and working for the necessary changes to ensure that systemic racism is acknowledged and eradicated within the structures of the Pittsburgh Presbytery and member congregations. Just as the Civil Rights Movement’s success was predicated on the dedication, strategic training, and longterm commitment, the same process is necessary within the Pittsburgh Presbytery. The formation, appropriate training, implementation and longterm commitment of the Antiracism Transformational Team will change the lives of people, followers of Christ and those who observe them, that all might live in unity and peace, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income and love one another as Christ loves us.
In 1999, the 211th General Assembly declared that we will “assume an antiracist identity, provide adequate staffing and funding for implementation of the church-wide strategy for antiracism…and urge governing bodies and congregations to assume an antiracism identity, [making] available to the church training resources, which are essential for the implementation of the church-wide strategy.” (1999 StatementPCUSA)
Since 2007, the Amos 5:24 Ministry Team has investigated a variety of resources and programs to respond to this General Assembly mandated initiative and a 2007 Overture to the Pittsburgh Presbytery on Racism, Classism, and Justice. Upon reflection and based on direct experience, Amos 5:24 found that Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training (Chicago, Illinois) has the organizational skills and quantifiable history of changed lives, and that they are best suited to transform Pittsburgh Presbytery and help us assume the new, antiracist identity the church deserves.
In March 2012, representatives from Amos 5:24 (Rev. Karen Battle, Rev. Chad Collins and Ms. Jean Kennedy) attended three days of antiracism training in Chicago with Crossroads. The team returned, enthusiastically supporting a deepening of our partnership. Amos 5:24 then partnered with Crossroads in April 2013 to present the workshop, “Understanding and Dismantling Racism,” to forty members of the Presbytery leadership. The strong and positive response to this workshop lead to the creation of the Antiracism Task Force of the Amos 5:24 Ministry Team in 2014, and their charge to ascertain the strategy and means for dismantling systemic racism. Additionally, in the fall of 2013, the Executive Committee of the Pittsburgh Presbytery made the 2 commitment that 2014 will be a year of considering the cost of racism among us.
Established in 1986 by Joseph Barndt, author of “Understanding and Dismantling Racism: the Twenty-first Century Challenge to White America,” Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training has worked for nearly 30 years with institutional clients (churches, nonprofit organizations, school districts, universities, municipalities, and governmental organizations across the U.S.A.) to counter systemic racism and establish permanent institutional change.
Since 2012, Amos 5:24 has partnered with Crossroads staff (www.crossroadsantiracism.org) for training and consulting services. We fully anticipate that continued collaboration with Crossroads will allow us to translate the grassroots antiracism work we have been doing for the past eight years into lasting structural change. The goal of the new Antiracism Transformation Team will be to work within the Presbytery and with senior leadership to identify barriers and create antiracist and anti oppressive policies and procedures in order to change lives. The work of antiracism calls for a reordering of life, a dismantling of unjust structures, and an invitation to consider our complicity in systemic forms of oppression.
Impact on the Community
The city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are deeply in need of antiracist action and improved intercultural communication, as evidenced by the pronounced racial segregation of our region’s neighborhoods, and the uneasy relationship between police and minority communities.
The need for antiracism transformation is also evident in the Pittsburgh Presbytery and its member churches. There are few African American congregations and they lack resources more readily available to their European dominant congregational colleagues. Churches are closed in neighborhoods with changing demographics instead of transforming into multicultural congregations. Has our reliance on a worldly business model, distorted by societal patterns of racism and metrics of membership numbers and wealth, kept us from being churches whose spiritual foundations are shaped by faith in what God has done for us through Jesus Christ?
ARTT will be prepared to advocate for systemic structural change and dedicated to defeating institutional racism by ‘institutionalizing‘ antiracism. As expressed in Crossroads’ literature: “Because racism is a systemic problem structured into institutions, the antidote needs to be structured into institutions as well.” The purpose of the team is to keep antiracism work central in the Presbytery’s life and mission. ARTT will identify strategies and offer education, all with the goal of dismantling systems of racism. This work requires a significant level of training, initially provided by Crossroads, to the 2024 members of the newly formed Antiracism Transformation Team. Forty additional Pittsburgh Presbytery congregants will receive a two and a half day training to broaden support and awareness. The faithfulness, heightened awareness, and passion of these 60 people and others will create the momentum needed to birth the new antiracism identity of the Pittsburgh Presbytery.
Partnering in the Community
The selection criteria of ARTT includes identifying individuals who have influence in the Pittsburgh community such as the areas of Justice, Law Enforcement, Education, Real Estate, Business/Corporations/Employment, Government, and church denominational leadership. In that way, it will be positioned to foment a grassroots process of change as others observe us confronting our history of racism, and changing behaviors that subtly enforce this insidious system. ARTT will also prepare a public relations campaign and provide educational materials to raise awareness across our region. The newly formed Antiracism Transformation Team will build on past collaborations as well as seek new partners. It is expected that it will be working with various community organizations to support the ongoing work to dismantle institutional racism in our region. Likely partners and resources may include: Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN), Commission on Racism of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (past partner of Amos 5:24), YWCA Center for Race & Gender Equity (past partner of Amos 5:24), North Hills AntiRacism Coalition, The Alliance for Police Accountability, The Thomas Merton Center, and the Race and Reconciliation Dialogue Group of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
In conclusion, it is important to reiterate that antiracism work is necessary within Pittsburgh Presbytery now in order that we might live into our scriptural values and our professed denominational ideals. With education, honest confession, and humble action, our desire is that Pittsburgh Presbytery become a model for the entire region (and denomination) of lives being changed by policies and practices that confront the sin of racism and prevent future racially pejorative actions by creating antiracist structures for all church councils. Our hope is that the congregations will assist Pittsburgh Presbytery to support this faithful endeavor so that our “unity may become visible [and] that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted.” (Confession of Belhar, September 1986, 11.2)