By Irv Heishman and Gail Erisman Valeta
The On Earth Peace Board met April 6-8 in Harrisburg, Pa. The meetings were hosted by First Church of the Brethren, a Christ centered, multi-ethnic community in the inner city. This was in keeping with an ongoing board commitment to meet in people of color majority spaces. First Church included the board in its regular Friday morning bilingual Spanish and English worship service. This service is jointly led by First Church and its partner congregation, Living Waters, for community people arriving for a weekly food distribution.
On Thursday afternoon, the board received updates from On Earth Peace staff. Executive director Bill Scheurer, Marie Rhoades, and Lamar Gibson shared highlights of their work. A remote report via Zoom allowed Matt Guynn (who is concluding paternity leave) to report. Nathan Hosler and Russ Matteson brought greetings and reports from their respective denominational boards (the Church of the Brethren and the Council of District Executives).
Board member Barbara Avent led a group-building exercise called Conocimiento (to know you). Participants were invited to share their family story of origin, immigration, generations, culture, and history of involvement in working for justice and peace. Later, On Earth Peace’s Anti-Racism Transformation Team (ARTT) members Amaha Sellassie and Carol Rose facilitated a group-building process. In particular, they helped the board focus on ways in which power and privilege play out in the board context. This led to new commitments to work at equity among all the various identities of board members, allies, and constituents, while a task team works on recommendations for implementing a shared power leadership structure and updating the calling process. The board called Barbara Avent and Jordan Bles to this task team. Additional representatives will include ARTT members and a staff person. In the meantime, an acting co-chair model was affirmed until the fall meeting with leadership provided by Gail Erisman Valeta and Irvin Heishman.
Revised anti-discrimination language for the staff polity manual was approved, as well as logistics for implementing anti-racism training for new board members and staff. The board also reviewed Annual Conference plans for the On Earth Peace booth, insight sessions, and the two recommendations coming as new business items at Annual Conference.
It is hoped that these recommendations serve the denomination well by illustrating the important choices that must be made. Will the denomination choose to be together in a way that values both community and conscience? Or will the denomination value conformity over conscience--more than being together in community?
The board closed with a service of anointing, calling each into continuing work for justice and peace.
-- Irv Heishman and Gail Erisman Valeta are acting co-chairs for On Earth Peace.