Draft Plan for Racial Justice in the Metro D.C. Synod of the ELCA

The Metro DC Synod Council issued a letter on October 7, 2020 that called on the synod and its congregations to take steps to dismantle white supremacy within the church and society at- large. Moreover, the letter called on the synod to more fully support and embody anti-racism towards Black, Indigenous, and People of Color as a prophetic and central value in its witness of the Gospel. The letter committed the synod council to propose a plan related to the letter by April 1, 2021.

After the letter was issued, Bishop Leila Ortiz, the Rev. Lamar Bailey, Director for Evangelical Mission, and Jackson Droney, Synod Council Vice President, discussed forming a team to propose a plan to the synod council for living into the commitments of the letter. A Racial Justice Planning Team was formed and held its first meeting on February 23, 2021. The team includes: Bishop Ortiz, Vice President Droney, Sheena Foster, Jennifer Slagle Peck, the Rev. Ben Hogue, the Rev. Carmelo Santos, the Rev. David Trott, and Aaron Zeiler. This team includes members of the synod council and members of other synod teams, committees, and tables. The team met for a
second time on March 8 and has scheduled two additional meetings for April 6 and May 3.

Proposal

After reviewing the affirmations and commitments contained in the letter, the team proposes to divide its plan into the following three parts:

  1. Learning Spaces
    The synod shall provide regular opportunities for rostered ministers and laypeople to learn about racial justice and equity, particularly the ways implicit bias and racism taint systems and structures.  These spaces will aim to increase shared language and understanding of structural racism across the synod.  The synod will develop an annual rhythm of offerings, which could include curricula from our ecumenical partners complemented by events/gatherings specific to our context.
  2. Engage a Contractor to Review Systems
    The synod shall issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to engage a contractor to review the following systems of the synod:  candidacy, mobility, personnel guidelines, compensation guidelines, discipline, and appeals.  The contractor will help synod leaders review these systems for bias, propose changes that are more likely to yield equitable outcomes, and identify instances in which our polity makes change more difficult. 
  3. Reparations for Healing and Reconciliation
    A panel of laypeople and rostered ministers of the synod shall be formed to consider how the synod as an entity, as well as its constituent congregations, may issue reparations to people of color and work toward meaningful reconciliation.  The panel will have six months from the time of its inception to study proposals for reparations issued by academics, ecumenical partners, and other thought leaders, and issue recommendations to the synod council.  The panel will present options for how congregations to consider when choosing how to engage in making reparations.  The panel will take an expansive view of reparations, meaning that reparations may not be limited to cash payments.

The focus of the remaining two meetings of the Racial Justice Planning Team will be to add specificity to the desired outcomes of each part of this plan.  Further, the team will specify what individuals or teams, new or existing, should be responsible for the implementation of this plan.  A final plan will be presented to the synod council at its meeting scheduled for May 15, 2021.  

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