2019 General Synod Delegate Summary:
I participated as a member of Committee #15. Our group was responsible for the Resolution speaking to the NEW GREEN DEAL Policies and Legislations that was introduced earlier this year. Because the legislation was introduced after the cut-off date for submitting resolutions, our group received this resolution as an “emergency” resolution. The formal title of the resolution is LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN -- DECLARING SUPPORT FOR THE GREEN NEW DEAL AND AFFIRMING THE INTERSECTIONALITY OF CLIMATE JUSTICE WITH ALL JUSTICE ISSUES”. This is a Resolution of Witness Submitted by: Vermont Conference UCC, Pacific Northwest Conference UCC, New Haven Association of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ and New York Conference UCC.
The resolution of witness was approved by almost 90% by the delegates of General Synod #32. During our session we discussed any concerns about the proposal and specifically that this resolution’s whereas statements focused primarily on the issue of intersectionality, or where issues of climate change and ecology are critically affecting the quality and longevity of life in the urban core and in disenfranchised or marginalized communities. The importance of these statements and the fact that the New Green Deal are proposed legislation and not actual laws was not as much of an issue, since we all agreed that the support of the policy combined with the intentionality of intersectionality was at the core of our support and recommendation for approval.
Summary of my General Synod experience
How does leadership succession happen? Well, I’m glad you asked... I have several ideas and I believe they are very relevant for the church we desire... As one who chimed-in during the debate at #GS32, I realized that many who spoke out about the lack of African American female leadership were upset that the current duly elected leader had not made room for this to happen. I found this argument to be flawed at best and here are but a few of the reasons why: First, leadership does not begin to happen because we decide it should, it must be cultivated over time. That means that at the point of first engagement we should be looking for the potential for leadership abilities as our COMs engage in the MID process. Instead, I have found these to be places where the importance is placed on assimilation, outdated processes and less on cultivation of a unique group of people with systemic issues of oppression that should be addressed on every level for them to be successful in our predominately white, patriarchally entrenched, heavily political polity. But I digress.... We should be asking: Does this person have the ability to engage in cultural competence, lead across several hierarchical levels, communicate effectively, and administrate a team effectively, while also handling lean and often impossible budgetary oversight? If so, how can we provide opportunities and/or educational access where they can utilize their talents and skills in such a way that they are not penalized during the learning curve while they are also growing in ability. If not, how can we provide the same to help further their knowledge?
Secondly, how have we prepared the road for their arrival? Now this question, is important because it has little to do with the person and everything to do with us — those seeking change! Have we adequately prepared our congregations, not-for-profits, or communities for the next shift in leadership? Have we applied a racial equity lens in our Christian Education? Have we preached prophetically for transformative change? Have we challenged bad theology that undergirds stereotypes and white supremacy? If we have not we should not expect a person of color, a female, a LGBTQIA+ person or anyone from a marginalized group to want to sit with us and risk their self-care and emotional well-being because we believe the time has come without putting in the time ourselves!
Next, what are we willing to sacrifice for this to happen? Often times we wait for the financial security, decline and despair of our institutions, academies, congregations and the surrounding community to signal the need for change. How about we DON’T... Don’t wait until the endowment has run out. Don’t wait until the community looks more like those people than us. Don’t wait until we can only afford a 3/4-time, 1/2 time or supply Pastor to then consider a woman of color, becoming an Open and Affirming Congregation, or welcoming someone who looks more like the community than like us! Instead, I would challenge each of us to look at our congregations in the prime of their lives as the perfect time to make a shift. Just as we have suggested that after a career in the church, another should move over in his prime to a position he applied for, was thoroughly vetted for, underwent an extensive process and was ultimately nominated for, ...maybe white women and white men should do this in their local congregations? By doing so, you will help to set a precedent of change that won’t be so foreign when presented on the General Synod floor! Furthermore, we can provide an avenue and training ground for those future leaders to learn how to lead a denomination that only ordained their first woman of color in 1974, two years after I was born!
Lastly, when we do achieve the triumphant goal of electing a woman of color in the position of GMP — don’t sabotage her or her administration when we don’t agree with every decision. Instead, do what you would want someone to do for you — talk to them. Then, if they don’t take your advice realize that your privilege does not mean you will always get your way! It’s a new day — the one you demanded on the Synod floor! Because you realize it is a new day of leadership and stylistic engagement, you will allow grace to abound because you are more interested in the change of leadership that you have professed at the beginning, rather than owning all of the outcomes. Furthermore, don’t scapegoat this person, or expect more out of them than you did out of their previous predecessors! They should have the same opportunities to either prove or disprove their abilities! I figured you have allowed over 50+ years of other mostly white men to either rise to the occasion, stumble out of the blocks, or simply fail — what’s another four years for the sake of change.
As much as I heard severe criticism, I heard very little qualitative or quantitative suggestions toward real change! It has always been my understanding that those who desire change understand that they must change the system that has upheld white, cisgender males as the normative and dominate species, yet we all have been “raised-up” in and have “fed-off” of and have thrived in and continued to use to our advantage this system we now detest. Therefore, my simple suggestion is that we make the change happen at our current level of engagement, so that when we get back to General Synod in 2021, 2023 and beyond, you can speak on behalf of those who you have a personal relationship with and attest to their readiness to lead!
Find all resolutions in their final form at http://ucceverywhere.org/synod/.