In June, our National Leadership Team (NLT) shared a letter grieving over the loss of life within the Black and Indigenous communities, and the systemic racism and injustices that are increasingly visible and now on display in our world. The letter included a few reflections from the NLT as well as a commitment to work on a long-term plan as an organization. Since then, many conversations have taken place, research has been done, and decisions have been made on what we will do next.
We are still on a journey to understand how the systems we have built implicitly favour the experience of those in the majority culture. Over two years ago, Power to Change began to ask questions about our organizational culture regarding how we support staff of all cultural backgrounds. In conducting surveys, interviewing staff, and participating in discussions with the Lenses Group, we recognized that, despite good intentions, we have fostered attitudes and behaviours that have left our own staff members of diverse backgrounds feeling marginalized and overlooked. We also realized that we have overlooked or ignored the experience of students from minority cultures in the ways we ministered on campus, asking them to assimilate to us rather than honouring their experiences. The more we’ve listened to our staff and students, the more convinced we’ve become that we need to pursue change.
We recognize the need for change, and we want it. It is not because our culture demands it, but because our creator commands it. We see Jesus commanding his followers to “be one, even as we [Jesus and the Father] are one” (John 17:22). We hear a command to eagerly pursue the unity of the Spirit in the example of the early church and the writings of Paul (Ephesians 4:3).
We recognize the need for change, because we aren’t yet what we ought to be. We want to be an organization that celebrates the inherent value, dignity, and differences of people from all cultures and ethnicities, as we all are created in the image of God. We want to celebrate cultural differences, believing that they afford us a unique perspective on the God who invites worship from every tribe, tongue, and nation. We long to be a community marked by love, one that would be welcoming for all, paying special attention to what it means to welcome and platform voices from minority cultures.
Our path towards this kind of love will follow these steps:
- Pause: We are taking a pause from making public comment on the racism we see in the world, while we pay attention to what is in our own hearts as staff, to see what racism resides within ourselves. We don’t want to speak out as hypocrites, blind to the log in our own eyes while we lecture on the specks that we see in the eyes of others. During this pause, when there is a need to speak to issues of race, we will intentionally point to trusted voices outside of P2C-Students. As an organization, we will unpause in a staggered format, involving staff training and development as well as agreement on the posture the organization will take on the topic of race. One of the requirements for unpausing will be for staff members to attend a four-day training and development experience called Lenses Reframed. As staff members attend this training and adhere to the posture we are deciding to take on the topic of race, then they will be able to organize events or discuss race in their ministry contexts.
- Recognize: We will engage with both internal and external consultants who will help us see our blindspots. We have begun working with the Lenses Group to this end, and as part of their recommendations, we are forming an internal guiding coalition, composed of staff from across the country, representing primarily those of minority cultural backgrounds, to help us pay attention to our own biases.
- Lament: We will lament the ways in which we are complicit in implicit and explicit racism as an organization. We will do this both privately and, when appropriate, publicly.
- Change: Over the next two years, in partnership with the Lenses Group, we will provide development experiences for our staff in the area of intercultural competence, through Lenses Reframed experiences and conversation groups. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge, so this training is a key part of us recognizing and eliminating discriminatory practices and policies.
- Report: Since our intention is to pursue change, we will annually review our progress in becoming an organization that reflects the inherent value and dignity of all people.
We hope that as we take these steps, as an organization and as individuals, we will be able to better reflect God’s love to one another and to the students we serve. We need to change. We want to change. We will pursue change, for the glory of God and the good of others.
The National Leadership Team of P2C-Students (Andy Smits, Bonnie Van De Mosselaer, Charlotte Martin, Dan Sherman, Esther Wong, Graham Watt, Heather Campbell, and Josh Wong)
Read more in the Letter from the National Leadership Team of P2C-Students from June 10, 2020.