Anti-Racism Transformation Team

Anti-Racism Transformation Team

Presbytery Staff Liaisons – Elder Ralph Lowe, Director of Justice Ministries and Adrien Domske, Administrative Assistant

What We Do
Background


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.

We invite you to prayerfully consider joining us in this awesome task.  To become a member of the team, submit an application online along with a cover letter.


Background

Implementation
Impact on the Community
Partnering in the Community
Conclusion

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.

Implementation

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.

Conclusion

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)