July 1, 2024

Friends in Christ,

When I introduced myself recently at a gathering of new Executive Presbyters and Stated Clerks from across the county, as I said "from the Presbytery of Detroit," there was a collective expression of "Ooohh," and many expressions of sympathy and concern. The reputation and struggle of Detroit Presbytery is nationally known.

Since my arrival in January, I have held seven gatherings to meet and hear the hopes and concerns of Presbytery; from White Lake to Port Huron to Saline, from Ann Arbor to Broadstreet to St. Clair Shores. I have preached at eight churches and am scheduling now through November for more. I have participated in worship and events at an additional four churches. I have attended the majority of all Trustee, Commission on Ministry, Commission on Preparation for Ministry, and Administrative Commission meetings. I have attended the Anti-Racism training offered by the Anti-Racism Team and I have met multiple times with the Anti-Racism Team and with the Executive Board of the Michigan Black Presbyterian Caucus. I have met for lunch and coffee with area pastors. In short, I have listened deeply.

I hear the frustration with the dysfunction in the Presbytery and the desire to address the injustices that have been perpetrated.

I hear sadness about the loss of a particular ally in the staffing structure of the Presbytery of Detroit, loss of connection with the working groups in the Presbytery itself, loss of connection with other churches and committees that made the previous work together here fruitful.

And I hear the cry for justice—a cry that comes out of the real harm that structural racism has done in previous iterations of Presbytery leadership, and continues in the lack of clarity about decisions, financial policies and procedures, and structures that lift some voices and silence others.

There is urgency and necessity for us all to move forward as quickly as we can with the work of naming harms that have occurred in the Presbytery, correcting those harms, dismantling the structural racism that has occurred and will continue to occur if it is not addressed, and providing structure to equip the people and churches of Detroit with all that they need to minister with and among the people of God.

Here are the concrete actions that are already in progress:

  • Continuing work with the Commission on Ministry, Commission on Preparation for Ministry, Trustees and the Administrative Commission on dismantling structural racism with our collective study of Silent No Longer, Reflections on White Supremacy.

  • Work on the most recent policy passed by the Commission on Ministry that includes reparations written into the policy on proceeds from the dissolution of churches.

  • Work with AEP Rev. Dr. Barbara Wilson of the Presbytery of Chicago on restorative justice conversations, planning for those groups, (and then adjusting those plans after further information and realizing that we are nowhere near that stage,) and now working on the best way to name ALL of the harms that have occurred, with concrete practices of full inclusion and reparations. Until all of those harms are named and claimed, there is no way to move forward.

  • Work with Trustees on ways to address financial transparency, including an audit with the Skillman Group.

  • Work with the Strategic Planning Committee on structures, and systems, including financial structures and bylaws, that will allow for full transparency moving forward. They have met with other presbyteries and gotten valuable feedback.

  • Work with the Synod to organize additional teams to assist in building POD financial structure, particularly around grants and funding.

  • Continued care for all of the churches, Elders, Pastors and members that they might join together in reestablishing connection and community.

That said, this will take some time, and it will not be fast enough for those who have been waiting for years. I am eager to continue the work that we have begun; and I ask for your prayers so that wisdom, discernment and grace would be present in our interactions.

Mostly, I am exceedingly grateful for the hardworking, justice loving, kind, truthful people that I am coming to know, colleagues and allies and friends that give me a glimpse into Beloved Community that the Presbytery of Detroit was, is, and can be again.