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An Open Letter to the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

You, the 224th General Assembly, particularly the white commissioners and advisory delegates, have harmed us. #GA224 1/
The 224th General Assembly took place in an unprecedented time. The result, however, was a set-up: a concentrated time of systemic maintenance with little room for the Holy Spirit to move. 2/
The process options and rules fostered divide-and-conquer, looking-good strategies at the expense of meaningful action. Your actions for Black Lives were insufficient. You deleted lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning/queer, Two-Spirit, intersex, asexual, and other 3/
orientations and genders (LGBTQ2SIA+) persons, Brown people, Black women and girls, Native Americans, Arab Americans, Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander/Desi Americans, and Hispanic/Latinx people out of hastily-written, unvetted policies. 4/
You focused like a laser on financial implications without any consideration of their oppressive, marginalizing, and colonialist implications and ramifications. You chose efficiency and expediency, while disenfranchising the exact communities 5/
which you then lifted up as illustrations of supposed denominational diversity and inclusion. Any shortfall was blamed on technology and the pandemic. 6/
Even as you desultorily participated in some racial justice oriented work, you made no space to mention the disproportionate impact of the pandemic:
the high rates of death among Black and Indigenous communities, 7/
Indigenous communities suffering from starvation and lack of resources while neighboring white communities grow rich from Native American money,
the high rates of infections among Hispanic/Latinx communities, 8/
the high rates of hate crimes against Asian Americans
the extreme vulnerability faced by undocumented immigrants, many of which are considered essential workers and are not afforded equal protections or resources 9/
People are dying, and you asked, “Can you hear me?” People are lamenting, living with fear, and you galloped past into hope and celebration with condescension - and without the genuine truth-telling, repentance, and humility which Biblical hope invites. 10/
You called upon the Creator of Breonna Taylor, of Nina Pop, of Oluwatoyin Salau, of Alexa Negrón Luciano with a prayer for Black women and girls that was exceedingly harmful. It was insufficient action at the time, and it was also offensive, patriarchal, and violent. 11/
You erased the impact of young adults. Not providing for committees to meet and do needed work during the assembly inhibited all advisory delegates, many of whom are young adults, from exercising voice AND vote as influence on the business of the assembly. 12/
You disenfranchised young adults who are a part of our body of leaders now, not just in "the future."

You dared, as a General Assembly, to correct and parse the definitions of Brown and Black, and Black female and Black male 13/
and in so doing you silenced Brown and Black voices.

We expect better. We expect compassionate, justice-oriented policies that systematically eviscerate the harm of oppression caused by the church that we love and support. 14/
We expect that our denomination will Trust Black Women and Girls.

Today we call upon the great cloud of witnesses, particularly the Black women and girls, Native Americans, Arab Americans, Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander/Desi Americans, and Hispanic/Latinx saints, 15/
those we name BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), who have suffered through the creation, splits, and reunification of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). They did not receive what was promised in the rhetoric of our Church in the past. 16/
We did not receive what is promised in our present. 17/
We never needed white folks, white institutions, or white systems to authenticate us. This lament is a declaration of justification, which does not require your permission (cf. Romans 5:1-5). 18/
This lament demands respect, and calls upon the justice of God to be made manifest in this denomination.

Do better, Presbyterians.

We also told the ancestors; jagenagenan bsendagewat. (All our relations - they are listening) 19/
Signed,

Kerri N. Allen, Teaching Elder, Corresponding Member to the 224th General Assembly; Moderator Predicament of Black Women and Girls Task Force; Chair Mission Responsibility through Investment 20/
Lindsey Anderson, Teaching Elder, Presbytery of Detroit; Corresponding Member to the 224th General Assembly, outgoing Chair General Assembly Nominating Committee 21/
Ashley DeTar Birt, Teaching Elder, Presbytery of New York City; Member Predicament of Black Women and Girls Task Force; Co-Moderator of More Light Presbyterians 22/
Natalily Kyremes-Parks, Student, Youth Advisory Delegate for the 224th General Assembly, Presbytery of the Western Reserve. 23/
Laura Mariko Cheifetz, Teaching Elder, Presbytery of Middle Tennessee; Corresponding Member to the 224th General Assembly, Co-Moderator of the Special Committee on Financial Sustainability and Per Capita 24/
Anna Kendig, Teaching Elder, Moderator of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area
Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks, Christian Educator, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Presbytery of the Western Reserve 25/
Shavon Starling-Louis, She/her/hers, Teaching Elder, Hunterville, NC, Presbytery of Charlotte
Lauren Theresa Mosadum Randall Sanders, Candidate, Ruling Elder, Heartland Presbytery
Eric A. Thomas, Teaching Elder, Presbytery of New York City
26/
Jessica Vazquez Torres, member, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
Larissa Kwong Abazia, Teaching Elder, Monmouth Presbytery
Amaury Tañón-Santos, Teaching Elder, Albany Presbytery
27/
Addendum

Some of you will ask what you can do. We have two suggestions:

The first is to actually act upon all the excellent policies already in place throughout the church. 28/
We suggest they be funded and everyone be equipped to live them out, instead of pushing them off onto one token staff member. 29/
The second is to create cultures that stop disempowering and start equipping your existing equity accountability systems (like CORs or anti-racism commissions) within the church, and that you raise the bar and hold yourselves to account 30/
in meaningful, personal and systemic ways. One possibility is to create roles at every council level whose sole purpose entails thinking strategically with commissions, committees, and entities about how to fulfill these expectations. 31/
These new positions need to ensure that there is lived accountability in 100 Witherspoon, and throughout the Church. No more lip service about how the right policy needs to be in place. In other words: do the work. 32/
And please, do not call any of the signatories to explain yourselves or commiserate. Some of us are tired. At this time, spare us from having to appease your guilt. Fin
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