by Anne Yee-Hibbs
As I write this blog article for the Advocate, we are living in social isolation because of the Covid-19 outbreak. During this time, we realize how much we are dependent upon our relationships with our family and friends. It is difficult, and yet we need to stay the course of keeping our distance, so we can prevent further spread of this dreadful virus. In Hebrews 12, which is the scripture for the 50th Anniversary celebration of APCE, we read these words: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” At a time like this we need to persevere. Over the last 50 years, APCE has persevered through many transitions in governance, finance, and membership issues.
I have been a member of APCE since 1992. I still remember the excitement of coming to my first Annual Event in Cincinnati. I was inspired and renewed by the worship, great plenary leadership, helpful workshops, and especially the fellowship. The Annual Event became my yearly continuing education conference.
At the 1997 Corporation Meeting, the Cabinet, in its quest to be more inclusive, presented a by-law change to broaden the membership of the Cabinet to include racial ethnic representatives to have full participation in discussion, planning, and decision making. I was invited to be the Asian representative, and joined Eric Toodles, African American; Jesus Sanchez-Reyes, Hispanic; and Betty Jacobs, Native American at the fall Cabinet meeting held at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky.
This was the beginning of racial ethnic participation on the Governing Cabinet. Each year at the Annual Event, the respective multicultural representatives would invite their cohort to a gathering, where we would have the opportunity to meet and get to know each other, and to share our ideas and thoughts as educators. These gatherings were also times to be aware of the work and mission of APCE and to discuss how we could help in this ministry, encouraging one another to become more involved with the organization.
While these opportunities were worthwhile, have they made a significant difference in our membership or attendance at the Annual Event? Well, at times, it would be difficult to find multicultural individuals to serve as representatives on the Cabinet because of people’s responsibilities and time commitments in their home congregations and the larger church. There were other barriers such as family and personal obligations which prevented their full participation.
In 2018, the Multicultural Task Force was formed to discern with People of Color how APCE could be more inclusive. At the Annual Event in Louisville, a Task Force luncheon was held to gain input from multicultural attendees. The overriding question was how does APCE transform and shift to reflect and include representation from all its members. The makeup of the APCE Leadership Council in 2018 was 91 members, with only 4 members who self identified as multicultural. The Task Force realized that the need was not only to increase multiracial participation, but also to have greater diversity on the ministry teams and in the membership of APCE.
In 2019, the name of the Multicultural Task Force was changed to Diversity Task Force. This group held a breakfast gathering while in Galveston which was attended by over 35 people. The round table discussions resulted in three key points concerning the matter of greater diversity:
- APCE membership must be diverse in order to recruit more people to serve on ministry teams.
- APCE must acknowledge, and deal with, the realities of social and financial disparities, which prevents attendance at the Annual Event and keeps educators from becoming members.
- APCE needs to work on becoming more equitable, and inclusive, in its leadership and membership
At the Little Rock Annual Event in 2020, the Diversity Task Force held a luncheon with round table discussion focusing on the following questions:
- What is the meaning of diversity and equity?
- What should the definitions of diversity and equity be for APCE?
The Diversity Task Force is evaluating the information gathered at the luncheon including input from the members of the Ministry Teams. The Task Force will present their report to the APCE leadership for further discernment and action.
APCE membership includes all educators, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, religious tradition, racial background, socio-economic status, or abilities. In like respect, even as we may invite others to know us, to join with us in our ministry, do we allow them full participation, and listen to their ideals and suggestions? Can everyone have a seat at the table and be heard and acknowledged? As an organization, can we make the necessary changes to be more inclusive and equitable in our leadership and membership so that everyone has full access to APCE?
As we anticipate the celebration of the 50th Anniversary, we need to continue working toward making APCE a more inclusive and equitable organization. Our circle needs to grow, so that our leadership and membership can be more diversified. We need to broaden our diversity so that the mission of APCE continues to connect, enrich, empower, and sustain all persons in the educational ministries of the Reformed family of churches.