Racism

Racism is a sin, incompatible with Jesus’ teachings and a blatant denial of the Christian faith (from the church’s policy on Racial Harassment). The church also affirms that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating for superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust (A&P 2019, p. 35). The church has a responsibility to oppose all forms of systemic injustice and oppression and has a policy for dealing with allegations of racial harassment . It has committed to seeking ways for its leadership to reflect the diversity of the church (A&P 2008, pp. 227-229). The church has made several statements regarding diversity and inclusion.

Values and principles that General Assembly has endorsed opposing racism

  • Any form of segregation based on race, colour or ethnic origin is contrary to the gospel. All forms of racism and apartheid are contrary to the mind and will of Christ (A&P 1972, pp. 269-270, 59)
  • It is not enough for churches and groups to condemn the sin of racial arrogance and oppression. (A&P 1972, pp. 269-270, 59)
  • Racism practiced by the white-skinned people against black people darker-skinned brothers is one of the world’s basic problems, and a blatant denial of the Christian faith. (A&P 1972, pp. 269-270, 59)
  • Racial harassment shall not be tolerated, and all allegations shall be dealt with seriously and fairly. (A&P 2008, pp. 220-7)

Values and principles that General Assembly has endorsed about diversity and inclusion

  • We affirm the value and importance of congregations of distinct linguistic and cultural backgrounds for meeting the spiritual, social and cultural needs of their people and believe that the church should do everything possible to make people of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds welcome in worship, and congregational leadership. (A&P 1981, pp. 423-5, 92)
  • We recognize the need for congregations to reflect the increasingly pluralistic nature of their communities. (A&P 1981, pp. 423-5, 92)
  • The church should continue its efforts, with urgency, to enable all its members, existing and future, rural and urban, to feel a strong sense of belonging and having their identity rooted in a church that takes seriously what Christ has already accomplished for us: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). (A&P 2011, pp. 373-6, 32)
  • Presbyteries and synods making nominations to committees should use their utmost efforts to see that 15% of such nominations come from groups not usually represented (e.g. youth, minorities, disabled persons). (A&P 1984, p. 49)
  • Our pluralism must be creative and reciprocal with the majority as well as minority groups valuing what they can learn from others and indicating willingness to change assumptions and practices. (A&P 1984, pp. 478-9, 23)
  • The church believes that being intentional regarding diversity expresses a genuine care and respect for all those who call The Presbyterian Church in Canada their home. The church believes more diversity on committees and on [national] staff brings new voices and new perspectives. (A&P 2008, pp. 220-229)

Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

2011: General Assembly commended a number of initiatives to the church identifying ways the church can become more racially and ethnically inclusive, including increasing diversity in all church structures, programs and in leadership positions, and reporting on steps taken. The Committee to Nominate Standing Committees will maintain data on the racial and ethnic diversity of standing committees of General Assembly and make this data available to the church as appropriate. (A&P 2011, pp. 373-6, 32)

2008: General Assembly approved a policy to deal with allegations of racial harassment titled “Growing in Christ: Seeing the Image of God in Our Neighbour” and “A Statement of Commitment Toward Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Leadership at the National Level of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.” (A&P 2008, pp. 220-9)

1985: General Assembly mandated the Administrative Council to provide guidance to local congregations in complying with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial human rights codes in their capacity as employers. (A&P 1985, p. 44, 55)

1984: General Assembly urged presbyteries and synods sending nominations for committees to use their utmost efforts to see that at least 15% of their submitted nominations be from groups not usually represented, i.e. youth, minorities, the people who are disabled. (A&P 1984, pp. 49)

1981: General Assembly affirmed the value and importance of distinct linguistic, ethnic and cultural ministries in the church, and directed presbyteries to receive pastors from different racial backgrounds qualified for ordination in the Presbyterian/Reformed church of their homeland on the understanding that they would upgrade those qualifications to meet the standards of The PCC after acceptance, in their own language, if necessary. (A&P 1981, pp. 423-5, 92) In light of a recruitment drive by the Ku Klux Klan in Canada, it also endorsed renewed opposition to racism in all its forms. (A&P 1981, pp. 309-310)

1979: General Assembly urged presbyteries to “take measures to see that ethnic congregations are encouraged and enabled to participate fully in the main life of the presbytery and the church and to guard against the isolation of these congregations.” (A&P 1979, p. 414, 85)

1972: General Assembly adopted several statements on racism previously adopted by the WCC (in 1954, 1966 & 1968) and the 1971 General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church, USA. (A&P 1972, pp. 269-270, 59)

1964: General Assembly approved a statement calling on the church to study racial and ethnic discrimination in the church and commended the Government of Canada for passing the Bill of Rights and provinces which had enacted Human Rights Codes. (A&P 1964, pp. 353-354, 357, 95-96)

1960: General Assembly called on provincial governments to disallow discrimination in rental units based on race, colour, creed, religion, national origin or place of birth and asked the Government of Canada to include “no discrimination” provisions in National Housing Act transactions and Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation loan agreements. (A&P 1960, pp. 304, 50)

Looking for more context? Download the Social Action Handbook