Presbyterian Adopts New Human Rights Language

Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, then Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Navy and now Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, addresses commissioners to the 223rd General Assembly (2018). Source: Presbyterian Mission

In a recent news release, the Presbyterian Mission Agency as a part of their 2023-2024 Mission Work Plan moved to declare militarism a threat to human rights. 

The report adopted by the agency’s governing board –Coordinating Committee–will proceed forward to the 225th General Assembly of the church in Louisville, Kentucky for final approval.

The Mission Work Plan says:

“Recognizing the unique resource of specialized ministers serving and having served as chaplains in the uniformed services, the Presbyterian Mission Agency will invite their expertise alongside longtime international and domestic partners to engage in education, advocacy and partnership within and beyond the PC(USA) to address the dangers and impacts of a militaristic mindset from a Christological perspective.”

The Rev. Ken Godshall, a PMA Board member, said further discussion on the section on the topic of militarism remains ongoing but hopes that the church’s stance will help pave a way towards peace and prosperity. He said the plan “provides a good foundation for moving forward, especially for chaplains as they seek to advance the Kingdom here on Earth.”

Additionally, the Coordinating Committee approved an Antiracism Statement. PMA’s Manager for Diversity and Reconciliation, Rev. Samuel Son, said remarking on the agency’s holistic approach to human rights, “I myself find it inspiring. It’s a statement all agencies and executives have agreed to. The fact that we all agreed means there is a possibility of us moving toward the same direction together.”

Rev. Denise Anderson, Interim Director of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, and principal author of the Antiracism Statement. She acknowledged that the statement is just words but hopes the words will help inform policy within each agency’s unique  idiosyncrasies.

“We wanted something that guided those policies, not one uniform policy expected to work for all,” Anderson said.

The Antiracism Statement says:

“We state unequivocally that racism and all forms of discrimination and marginalization are sins against humanity and God, inconsistent with our Christian and corporate values and unacceptable within our agencies and entities.” Each of those organizations “must unlearn and undo existing racist values and structures that persist despite our expressed values and intentions if we are to create an antiracist church where all persons are treated with respect, all gifts are valued and encouraged, and diversity is a gift to be valued.”

In a statement from the Presbyterian Church, USA announcing the PMA’s new language, the said that it strives to be an antiracist church committed to:

  • Developing and implementing practices and strategies to disrupt and dismantle racism and oppression in the church and the world
  • Striving for racial equity in recruitment, hiring and retention of employees
  • Expanding the use of diverse suppliers as directed by General Assembly actions
  • Managing church investments in ways that increase the Church’s witness to racial justice and equity
  • Taking steps of reparation and restorative action in response to disparities of wealth created and sustained by white supremacy
  • Working in partnership with mid councils in their antiracism ministries
  • Acting courageously and creatively against police brutality, voter suppression, educational and healthcare inequity, and other acts and practices of systemic racism on federal, state and local levels
  • Putting into practice General Assembly directives to build an intercultural church where justice and equity prevail.

“We acknowledge that this work will not be easy, but as our churchwide antiracism policy affirms: ‘Because of our biblical understanding of who God is and what God intends for humanity, the PC(USA) must stand against, speak against, and work against racism. Antiracist effort is not optional for Christians. It is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship, without which we fail to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.’”

Source: Presbyterian Mission