Below is the list of changes that Rev. Chanda asks of each Bishop/Annual Conference.
- Publicly acknowledge the harm churches are perpetuating against clergy of color by highlighting their stories as a call to repentance and accountability. In the same manner that clergy are held accountable for abusing their pastoral authority, congregations should also be held accountable for the harm inflicted on pastoral leaders. Pastors are called to be servant leaders among the people of God, not to be targets for assault and abuse.
- Conduct an annual anti-racist and diversity training for members of your cabinet. Many of my colleagues of color have shared stories of the lack of support they receive from their District Superintendents. Often, clergy are consecutively reappointed to churches to their emotional, mental, and even physical detriment. Most clergy just want to use their gifts for ministry, not climb the “corporate” church ladder.
- Establish a Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural Ministry Task Force to lead mandatory anti-racist and diversity training workshops for local churches receiving cross-racial/cross-cultural appointments immediately and a plan to do this in all local congregations by 2024. This task force should include both clergy and lay members. Diversity trainings should not only be the responsibility of the clergy, as is often the case. It is time to bridge the gap so that the laity is included as part of this important work.
- Create a conference staff position that focuses on diversity, inclusion, and equity training for your annual conference. Diversity and inclusion training is becoming the norm in many institutions, yet the Church lags in this trend. This can no longer be the case because the lives of persons of color are at risk daily. This position should work closely with the Cross Cultural Task Force in conducting mandatory training for local churches and districts. Additionally, this office will hold the conference accountable to its commitment of dismantling white supremacy and creating healthy work environments for ALL clergy.
Desert Southwest Conference Response
Click here to read the response letter from the Desert Southwest Conference
Dear Rev. Lee,
Thank you for sharing your experiences as a Black woman in cross-racial appointments, and for challenging our leadership to do something about it. Some of your colleagues here in the Desert Southwest Conference (DSC) too easily identify with what you shared. It is past time for us to take action as the United Methodist Church and as the Desert Southwest Annual Conference toward ensuring we Do No Harm to our clergy of color. We receive the four things you ask us to do, and commit to doing our part to meet or exceed them. Out of our 2020 Desert Southwest Annual Conference proceedings, upon the will of the body, we significantly increased funding for our Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR) and Ethnic and Local Church Concerns (ELCC), and we formed the DSC RACE Coalition (Reflection, Action, Courageous dialogue, Engagement), a diverse group of clergy and lay persons promoting education and dialogue in our conference, and actively working to eliminate all forms of racism in the DSC. CCOR and ELCC have been working hard over the last year; one of the things they have done is release a document titled Foundations for Cultural Competency and Cross-Racial and Cross-Cultural Appointments in April of 2021.
This document calls for cross-racial/cross-cultural congregations (intended to include congregations receiving a cross-racial/cross-cultural appointment) to “participate in cross-racial/cross-cultural vitality programs annually at a minimum” (section 1.6). This is in line with your third request, and already shares the timeline of implementation by 2024.
The document goes on to address guidelines for cross-racial/cross-cultural appointments, with direction for the bishop and cabinet, local churches (including PPRC/SPRC), cross-appointed clergy, and for other clergy who will help prepare congregations for cross-racial/cross-cultural appointments.
We invite you to view this document here: https://dscumc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/DSC-Foundations-For-Cultural-Competency-04.29.2021.pdf. The RACE Coalition presented this document in our recent Annual Conference session, and asked the DSC to approve the provisions of the document. We as members of the 2021 DSC Annual Conference body are committed to supporting and implementing this document in our local churches. The DSC is steadfast in encouraging all persons in the conference, lay and clergy, to be involved in and committed to this work. DSC clergy will continue to lead our congregations in working against racism and against harm, under the direction of the RACE Coalition, our CCORR, and ELCC. The DSC cabinet will continue to learn and challenge themselves with annual anti-racist and diversity training, as well as through other activities including book studies, seminars, conversations, and participating in the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge, as they have been doing already this year. This work is not limited to the current moment, but will continue to be a priority in our conference and in our local churches.
The DSC has been making efforts to reduce Conference staff recently, and while a staff person focusing on diversity, inclusion, and equity training would be worthwhile, currently the RACE Coalition, along with a renewed Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR), is leading this kind of work. The CORR receives support from a conference staff member who is part of the Connectional Ministries Team.
Finally, we will work on creating healthy forums for our clergy of color to share their stories. Over the last year, the RACE Coalition has offered opportunities to listen to and engage with stories from our wider Church, including a study with Rudy Rasmus on his book I’m Black, I’m Christian, I’m Methodist.
We know there is work to be done in our Church and in our Annual Conference. We are grateful for your partnership in ministry, and we look forward to joining with you in efforts to Do No Harm.
Sincerely, Robert T. Hoshibata Resident Bishop The Desert Southwest Conference Phoenix Area The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Brooke Isingoma DSC RACE Action Team Pastor, St. Matthew United Methodist Church www.stmatthewmesa.org
Desert Southwest Conference RACE Coalition (Reflection, Action, Courageous Dialog, Engagement)