Union of Black Episcopalians, partners honor four women

Group holds 44th annual meeting prior to General Convention

By Pat McCaughan
Posted Jul 4, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] Two clergy women and two lay women were honored July 3 by the Union of Black Episcopalians Partners in Mission as the “Legendary Tribute & Gala: Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church.”

The event, held at the Indianapolis Marriot Downtown Hotel in connection with the 77th meeting of General Convention, featured the inaugural Pauli Murray Humanitarian Service Award and three honor awards in the names of Verna Josephine Dozier, Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Mattie Hopkins.

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson received the Verna Josephine Dozier Honor Award.

The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, professor of religion at Goucher College and associate rector at Church of the Holy Comforter,Washington, D.C., received the Anna Julia Haywood Cooper Honor Award.

Deborah Harmon Hines, vice provost for school services and professor of cell biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, received the Mattie Hopkins Honor Award.

The Rev. Altagracia Perez, rector, of Holy Faith Episcopal Church, Inglewood, Calif., and an Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow received the Pauli Murray Humanitarian Service award.

The awards, part of Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) Partners in Mission includes the Union of Black Episcopalians, Episcopal Women’s Caucus, Episcopal Women’s History Project, Episcopal Church Women, Episcopal Church Foundation, Church Pension Fund, Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes and others, concluded the organization’s July 2-3 annual business meeting.

At that gathering, themed “Practicing our Faith: Reconciling God’s People” UBE members grappled with familiar issues—restructuring, budgetary concerns, attracting new members and possible relocation of the group’s national headquarters.

The Rev. Angela Ifill, Episcopal Church missioner for Black Ministries, made an impassioned plea for involvement in the “School to Prison Pipeline” which aims to offer support to youth of color, who are often at-risk and disproportionately incarcerated, she said.

At the opening UBE Eucharist a day earlier, the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts, called for the forging of “a true coalition for justice, freedom and equality for all people” above and beyond church walls.

Harris, preaching before more than one hundred people at St. Philip’s Church near downtown Indianapolis, said “sometimes we’re so concerned with our own situation, … our own equality that we see others as competitors for the same piece of pie of America. Instead of battling over crumbs, I think it’s time we get together and honor all the children of the same God.

“Instead of fighting over a larger piece of pie, let’s get together and take over the whole darn bakery,” she said amid laughter.
Harris also name-dropped.

She invoked historical names, like Absalom Jones, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and many others as examples “of those whose shoulders we stand upon.”

And she also cited more recent examples, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire; Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson, inviting the congregation to become the shoulders for someone else.

“Jesus said for if you love those who love you who look like you, talk like you, smell like you, live like you, what reward is that, that you have,” she asked the gathering.

“In terms of justice, freedom and equality we celebrate on this, the anniversary of the birth of this country and of this gathering of the UBE, it is time to pass the particular case of our own struggle to the case of the universal, to do the work that will ever be before us because no one is free or truly liberated or has equality until all of us are.”

The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.