Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Address Their Organization’s Lack of Diversity

Jessica Vazquez Torres of Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training works with APCE leaders to address white privilege, racist systems and oppressive practices within its structures. (Contributed photo)

Knowing that the membership and leadership of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) is nearly 100 percent white — and that its organization didn’t reflect the diversity of God’s beloved community — APCE formed a task force this year to look at white privilege, racist systems and oppressive practices inherent in its structures.

That task force met with APCE’s Coordinating Council, which includes representation from all the ministry teams in the organization and denominational leaders, during its fall meeting at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. During the meeting representatives participated in a Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training workshop. Entitled “An Introduction to Systemic Racism,” the training was made possible through a partnership with the Office of Christian Formation and the recently-formed Christian Formation Collective, to which APCE belongs.

“We partnered with this training because we felt it reflected commitment to support the church in dismantling systemic racism,” said Christian Formation associate coordinator Stephanie Fritz.

According to APCE’s task force chair, Susan Young Thornton, the organization was brought face to face with the many ways the church has been — and is — complicit in North America’s history of exclusion and domination. It was also confronted with the demographic that APCE membership reflects the churches it’s been part of — congregations that are about 90 percent white and about 10 percent people of color.

“APCE’s problem is not diversity, but white control,” Thornton said. “We must be ready to honestly assess who holds power and if we are willing to share.”

Thornton said she believes APCE must be prepared to alter its decision-making process and yield control of the purse strings while asking the question of whether it’s willing to allocate resources differently.

“We’ve tried to be as diverse as possible within our organization,” said APCE president Carl Horton. “But that has led to a sort of token representation.”

The Crossroads training, which was led by Jessica Vazquez Torres and Jyaphia Christos Rodgers, encouraged APCE to see its work not strictly as an effort to diversify, but rather as an act of justice and equity.

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Source: Presbyterian Mission