A Letter to The Episcopal Church From the Presiding Bishop, President of the House of Deputies

Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday

Posted Sep 1, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have issued a letter calling on Episcopal congregations to participate in “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” on September 6.

The letter follows:

September 1, 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

On June 17, nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were murdered by a white racist during their weekly bible study. Just a few days later at General Convention in Salt Lake City, we committed ourselves to stand in solidarity with the AME Church as they respond with acts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and justice (Resolution A302).

Now our sisters and brothers in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church have asked us to make that solidarity visible by participating in “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” on Sunday, September 6. We ask all Episcopal congregations to join this ecumenical effort with prayer and action.

“Racism will not end with the passage of legislation alone; it will also require a change of heart and thinking,” writes AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson. “This is an effort which the faith community must lead, and be the conscience of the nation. We will call upon every church, temple, mosque and faith communion to make their worship service onthis Sunday a time to confess and repent for the sin and evil of racism, this includes ignoring, tolerating and accepting racism, and to make a commitment to end racism by the example of our lives and actions.”

The Episcopal Church, along with many ecumenical partners, will stand in solidarity with the AME Church this week in Washington D.C. at the “Liberty and Justice for All” event, which includes worship at Wesley AME Zion Church and various advocacy events.

Racial reconciliation through prayer, teaching, engagement and action is a top priority of the Episcopal Church in the upcoming triennium. Participating in “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” on September 6 is just one way that we Episcopalians can undertake this essential work. Our history as a church includes atrocities for which we must repent, saints who show us the way toward the realm of God, and structures that bear witness to unjust centuries of the evils of white privilege, systemic racism, and oppression that are not yet consigned to history. We are grateful for the companionship of the AME Church and other partners as we wrestle with our need to repent and be reconciled to one another and to the communities we serve.

“The Church understands and affirms that the call to pray and act for racial reconciliation is integral to our witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to our living into the demands of our Baptismal Covenant,” reads Resolution C019 of the 78th General Convention. May God bless us and forgive us as we pray and act with our partners this week and in the years to come. In the words of the prophet Isaiah appointed for Sunday, may we see the day when “waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.”

Faithfully,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church

Liturgical Resources

The AME Church has developed prayers for use on Sunday, September 6

The ELCA has developed liturgical resources for “End Racism Sunday.” (click on the Liturgy tab).

These collects from the Book of Common Prayer may also be appropriate for use:

Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Comments (48)

  1. I have been what the Bishop called “a fallen away Episcopalian” for 50 years. I will go to 11 o’clock service this Sunday in Atlanta for the first time, to join in confessing, repenting, and committing to end racism. I have lived here 20 years.

    1. C Foster says:

      Thank you, my Sister!

    2. Martha Jane Patton says:

      Thankful for your response, Peggy.

  2. Rich Basta says:

    I’m not sure what “white privilege” is. How can I confess to a sin that I did not commit? One can not be considered sinful and evil just because one has lighter skin than others, just as those with darker skin tones can’t be considered evil on the basis. We are all sinners in need of Jesus’s mercy. I don’t recall Jesus elevating the status of sins based on skin color. But, then again, I could be wrong.

    1. Jack Zamboni says:

      White privilege in my mind (and my experience as a white man) is that every day I can navigate easily in a society that was designed, consciously and unconsciously, by and for people like me. It means, for instance, that I don’t have to worry about being followed by a security guard in a department store, that I can assume that if I’m stopped for a traffic violation, I’ll be treated with respect and will drive away safely; that it never, ever occurred to me that I needed to teach my son how to respond in encounters with police so as to reduce his risk of being harmed, as black parents routinely must — all because I am white. I didn’t create this world, but I benefit from it enormously; I continue to re-create it whenever I (most unconsciously) rely on this privilege, and whenever I fail to challenge it — all of which I do every day. My sin in regard to white privilege is in continuing to draw on that benefit and in not working to dismantle a system that has enormously high costs for my sisters and brothers of color who, unlike me, each day must navigate society that very often deprives them of respect, power and safety.

      1. John D Poynter says:

        Racism in America is a continuation of the
        abasing if other human beings with slavery.
        The human costs are incalculable, all races lose
        when someone is murdered, and when the creative
        contributions of youngsters, upon which the
        fate of life on the planet may ultimately depend,
        are also lost, the suffering will not end, there
        will be no closure without major confession
        and absolution.

      2. Bruce Marshall says:

        Thanks you, Jack, for a very sensitive and thoughtful response.

        1. Frances Cone Caldwell says:

          Exactly! Thanks for the perfect response.

      3. Keith Adams says:

        Excellent answer, Jack!

      4. Minnie Steele says:

        Thank you for your comment. Well said.

      5. Ronald Fox says:

        “… that it never, ever occurred to me that I needed to teach my son how to respond in encounters with police so as to reduce his risk of being harmed, as black parents routinely must”

        While I am of mixed race, I readily present as white. Yet my parents taught me exactly that. If your parents did not they were foolish – as is anyone else who does not, regardless of race.

      6. Rosemary Gooden says:

        Well said.

    2. Elane Jenkins says:

      White privilege isn’t about us “sinning” it is about the preference that the majority culture is given in pretty much all aspects of life and it is not about white folks needing to feel guilty. There is an essay by a white female theologian, Peggy McIntosh, who talks about white folks not needing to worry about things like being followed in the store because people think you will steal, of finding a hairdresser that knows how to deal with your hair, of not worrying that if you make a mistake or do well, of being able to find the ethnic food you like, or being able to find your race being included in the history book your child reads from, that it won’t be a reflection of your race. It is about all the little things we can take for granted in our lives. It calls for awareness, not for guilt. My self examination and sin has more to do with not listening to the stories of others through their eyes instead of through mine own, and by silently colluding with those who oppress others on the basis of their skin color by bringing it to their attention.

    3. Benjamin J. Wilson says:

      Hi, Rich – Your question is a good one. Jack Zamboni above me has done a nice job of explaining white privilege. The only thing I would like to add is that white privilege is not a personal sin. As a white person, I was born with a certain amount of privilege that people of color don’t have, and that is not my fault. It is our society’s sin. What we as Christians can do is to examine ourselves to see how that sin may (or may not, I pray!) have taken root in our own hearts. Then we can look around us to see how we can help eliminate it from our society. It’s all part of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. I understand that the term “white privilege” is not a comfortable one; frankly, I would prefer another terminology. But the concept itself is solid. No one is telling you you’re guilty of a sin. Instead, we’re inviting you to join in the reconciling work of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

      N.B.: My commitment to articulating that black lives do indeed matter springs not from my political orientation, but from my faith in Jesus and the hope of the Resurrection, not from my faith in politicians. I hope you can appreciate the difference. Be well, my brother.

      1. Benjamin J. Wilson says:

        By the way – to clarify – when I said that “white privilege is not a personal sin,” what I meant is that being born with white privilege is not in and of itself a sin that one commits as an individual. Certainly appropriated in a way that is racist and exclusive it becomes a sin of commission.

    4. Martha Jane Patton says:

      White privilege is not an individual sin, and not an intentional sin. It is a systemic evil occasioned by corporate unawareness, a “group” sin of which white people can be blissfully ignorant. White people take certain privileges for granted, for example the ability to shop undisturbed by suspicion of shoplifting, to be free of police harassment when walking in a wealthy neighborhood, to be respected in social situations. I am reminded that a woman once thought Barak Obama was a waiter at a formal dinner and asked him to bring her a drink. One is no longer innocent of this systemic, racist culture once the realization of this privileged status takes place, and it is right to repent of it and seek a change of heart.

    5. Jon Delano says:

      Racism is evil and a sin whether committed by a White, a Black, an Hispanic, an Asian, a Native American, or any combination thereof. I fully support any effort to condemn racism in all its forms and varieties, regardless of the perpetrator. When a White racist kills church-goers in Charleston or a Black racist murders two journalists near Roanoke, the sin is just as evil in God’s mind. If +Katherine and Gay+ and the AME Church are calling on all sinners, regardless of race, to repent of racism, what Christian can object to that?

      I understand Rich’s concern over the emotionally-charged phrase “White privilege” which seems to assume automatic guilt by virtue of the skin color of the person rather than the words or actions of that person. If meant that way, that notion is racist itself by condemning people of a certain race simply for being White. On the other hand, Jack offers a sensible explanation of “White privilege” which does not condemn the individual but rather societal practices (hopefully fewer each day) which impact non-Whites on the basis of their race.

      To be honest, the use of the phrase “White privilege” seems more polemical than helpful. Is affirmative action a form of “Black privilege” because it has an adverse impact on Whites? In my view, it is much better to call out the specific act of racism correctly noted by Jack (i.e., profiling, disrespect, improper police conduct, etc.) as racist itself rather than impose a “collective guilt” on any people on the basis of their race.

      Finally, I agree with those who suggest that the short notice to set aside this Sunday to confess, repent, and commit to end racism makes it difficult for some to participate. Indeed, a single Sunday is hardly sufficient for this goal. While I thank +Katherine and Gay+ for supporting this effort — and for all the thoughtful comments by others on this page — this ought to be the first of many Sundays! Regardless of our race, we’ve all got a lot of work to do to be better Christians.

      1. Priscilla Ballou says:

        To clarify for Jon Delano, in today’s parlance, “Privilege” and “Racism” are terms that are understood in the context of power relationships.

        “Privilege” is the group of benefits (conscious or unconscious) that one accrues from being a member of a group that is in a position of power over other groups. Groups which are not in positions of power accrue no “Privilege” to their members. Thus Affirmative Action is not “a form of ‘Black privilege.’” It is instead a tool which can be used to work towards repair of the power dynamics which put whites over all people of other colors. I also don’t see Affirmative Action as having “an adverse impact on Whites.” I am white, and I benefit from Affirmative Action insofar as it increases diversity in student populations and the workforce. Any move towards a more just and egalitarian society benefits all its members.

        “Racism” is abuse of power by a racial group against a racial group over which it has power. While racism can consist of individual acts of abuse by members of a racial group, it is currently used more to refer to systemic injustices benefitting the racial group in power over the racial group not in power. In our society, “Racism” can refer to abuses performed by the white power group against non-white groups. Actions by members of the group which doesn’t have power cannot be termed “Racist” since the power dynamic is reversed.

        Without looking at the power relationship(s) between groups, one’s view of privilege and racism can be confused.

        I hope this is helpful.

  3. Elizabeth Bennett says:

    This letter makes me proud to be an Episcopalian. Thank you for doing this.

  4. Randy Marks says:

    I wish the Church could have given more notice. I believe it does a disservice to the cause of “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism” to give so little time for preparation.

    1. Susan Buchanan says:

      That was my feeling exactly when I just saw this. Bulletins have already been prepared. Sermon preparation started. Music planned. Weekly e-news already sent out this morning. No chance to prepare myself or the congregation to actually do this justice.

    2. Joseph M. lIotta says:

      I agree. The notification was too late!

  5. Rita Sibert says:

    Rich, I know that it can be very difficult to accept the fact that you can be a beneficiary of ‘white privilege” and not realize that fact. I am one of those mothers who had to teach her son how to behave when you are stopped by a policeman. I am even one of those mothers who had to tell her son not to jog in our neighborhood.(I directed him to the nearest jogging trail or to his school’s track that might be a little safer) I am also one of those children of the 60’s, who grew up in an environment of being one of the “first”,( the first of my race in an all white class), which was a very difficult role to experience. Yes sir, whether you realize it or not, you are a product of white privilege. I appreciate the church stepping forward in participating in a much needed response to not only the heinous crime against humanity at Emmanuel A.M.E., but the countless acts of violence against people of color in our country. There must be a continuous prayer and dialogue for not only our country to wake up, but for individuals to acknowledge the fact that we have a long way to go in admitting our failures, and working toward a better world for love and peace.

  6. Dale Coleman says:

    There have been many opportunities to preach about this not in some rarefied gaseous “White privilege” way, but as we have been remembering the Civil War, Selma, Jonathan Daniels, even Republican Jackie Robinson. This is not helpful. It doesn’t make sense. We are not some general guilty group, in fact I am part Lumbee Indian. And would this speak to the experience of Hank Greenberg? Or survivors of the Holocaust? Here’s how this is remedied in the Episcopal Church:
    Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you, in thought word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.

  7. Chaplain Tom Chapman says:

    As a member of the Anti Racism Committee of the diocese of Arizona I applaud the efforts of the leadership of our denomination to bring this issue to the forefront of our public policy/ ministries in the Episcopal Church. I live in hope that the Church will collaborate with other faith based groups and denominations to work for ” confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism. Blessings abundant always all ways Tom Chapmam

  8. John Paddock says:

    Thank you, Randy. I, too, see this as a disservice. At my parish we plan special observances with more than five-days notice. In an emergency (9/11, Katrina etc.) it is possible to do a good job because everyone is caught up in the news cycle and emotion of the moment. We have already been dealing with racial issues in overt ways for over a year with extensive work on white privilege, black internal oppression, and institutional racism. These are long-haul issues.

    This also happens to be Labor Day weekend. Our worship planning has been focused on that. Certainly, labor and jobs has a significant racial component. But our planning focus has not been on Confession and Repentance.

    Please, Episcopal Church leaders, give us a “heads up” with more time. Here at ground level (congregations), there are two days until worship bulletins are printed. Weekday calendars are full so there are few hours to make all new plans. Some of us try to involve laity in our worship planning, and there’s no way to call and hold a Worship Committee meeting within the next two days . . . especially with the chair of the Worship Committee’s daughter being married this Saturday and
    several other members out of town for the holiday.

    Just as White Privilege is largely invisible to White people, the reality of congregational life seems to be invisible to our leadership.

  9. Joseph L. Graves Jr. says:

    Racism is not discussed in the New Testament simply because what we understand as racism did not exist in the time of Jesus. Two excellent books written by Episcopalians can inform us about the history of racism in the western world, the first is Thomas Gossett’s, Race: The History of an Idea in America, (Oxford University Press), 1997 and my own The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium, Rutgers University Press, 2005. Certainly the precursor’s of modern racism existed at this time (ethnocentrism, bigotry), but Bible does address that in several stories and parables, including text in the Exodus, Amos, the Good Samaritan parable, and in Acts of the Apostles.

    Racism as we understand it today was the result of the age of colonialism, which can be symbolically associated with the voyage of Columbus. The theories of humanity developed at first by the Christian church, and then further developed by the coming of modern science produced the ideology which buttresses institutional racism in our society (I discuss this at length in The Emperor). In my second book The Race Myth (Dutton Press), 2005 I outline how institutional racism has benefited and continues to benefit the European American population of the United States. In this system, people who are not themselves active racists continue to gain life advantages from institutional racism. This does not mean that non-European Americans do not engage in bigotry and prejudice, what it means is that these people do not have institutional support of government, corporations, and church to carry theirs out. Thus, if we say we are Christians who believe in the words that Jesus left us, we have a moral obligation to take down all the institutions of oppression that exist in this world, including the ongoing racism of the United States and other colonial settler regimes.

  10. The Rev. Lucretia Jevne says:

    I agree that not only is this short notice but it is also a weekend when many people are away. That’s not an excuse not to do this important work, but rather that it is so important that it needs preparation. We are just starting to celebrate the “season of creation”, also an important topic for today’s world, and now we will need to put that off at almost the last moment. However I also realize that it is not our leaders who have called for this Sunday but rather a community calling for solidarity in the midst of prejudice and oppression. And we need to acknowledge our own role in this glaring injustice and work to stand in solidarity with those suffering injustice.

  11. Richard Taliaferro says:

    I would like to know what I am supposed to do about white privilege however defined. If I did not create it and practice respect for all people, what is there to repent of? I do not believe in repenting for something someone else has done.

    1. Julie Quick says:

      The sin of practicing White Privilege is so ingrained in our lives that we who are white usually don’t notice when it is happening. We need to take a hard look at our daily routine behavior that goes on almost unconsciously. We cannot just blithely assume that our own behavior is above reproach without taking such an inventory. Repentance must include becoming aware of our own behaviors and changing them.
      Father, please help us to become aware of the privileges we routinely claim per our brothers and sisters of color and help us to make your world a loving home for ALL your children.
      In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen

  12. Vicky Mitchell says:

    What to do about white privilege? First learn that you do have it and that it is present. At some point in time a person smiled at us who are white and we smiled back, and when they averted their eyes from a person of another race, we averted our own eyes as well. Where was our smile and greeting? We did not even think about it at the time but the person we turned our eyes from deserved our smile as well. I have been steeped in the overall ideas of “privilege” for many years and had to catch myself many times. An example for me was when I interviewed people for state employment where I had many applicants from across the racial and ethnic spectrum, and realized that at first it was easier to look at the qualification on paper of another white man (I was a man back then) where as I would catch myself looking at other races and judging them on different standards when they in fact were superior candidates for the job when I actually listened to them and their qualifications. I had thought myself respectful of these people, and to most people seemed open and honestly friendly and would have sworn that I was not prejudiced, which I was not, just privileged toward giving my own race an edge I would not have done if I had known. I got hit in the face with my privilege back at the time Martin Luther King was assassinated being a white minority., “May I see my true brothers and sisters in Christ in their hearts before I look to their skin,

    1. Vivian C Graham says:

      I am also a child of the 60’s, but I grew up moving around abroad. Being white, American and abroad during the Cold War was not always such a safe thing. I’m not trying to compare my life with any black American, that’s not it. My first experience with racism was when we returned to America while desegregation was in full swing. It baffled and confused me. To me, people are people. The package they come in, while interesting, does not matter. This is how I approached the prejudice others had toward me when I was the ‘wrong’ nationality, faith, color, language, politics. It’s what I taught my children and what my daughter teaches her children. There’s not much I can do about privilege or people shooting each other, but teaching my children not to hate anyone for being different has far-reaching consequences. From what little I know, racism begins with hatred and ends with simple acceptance. My mother taught me, my granddaughter will teach her children.

  13. Robert Kinsey says:

    That prejudice is rife in the U.S. is clear to me, and a national dialogue on the issue is warranted. I live in a multi-cultural city and have noted that this “sin” is not limited to one ethnic or economic group. Try as I might, I could not find a reference to “group sin” in the New Testament. I am only a lay person; perhaps clergy or a theologian can direct me. In the meantime I respectfully recommend that the debate on intolerance be broadened beyond notions of “white privileges”. Only then will we as a nation and a church begin to solve the divisions vex us.

    1. The Reverend Sandy Webb says:

      I struggled with this question of group sin for a long time, too. Admittedly not from the Bible, Reinhold Neibuhr’s _Moral Man and Immoral Society_ (1932) was very helpful. I’m going to be using it in a class this fall with my parish as we grapple together with the sorts of questions you raise. We’re also going to look at the Barmen Declaration of 1934, and Dr. King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail (1963), which are also both worthy reads if you want to dig into this further.

  14. Toni McGauley says:

    i have loved this discussion. To quote Verna Dozier: “if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” That hit me squarely in the face when I heard her say that.

  15. The Rev. David Fulford says:

    My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

    James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17 from this week’s readings

    Kinda makes you think about all forms of -isms. When we cannot see God in our fellow man because we are blinded by skin color, social status, ethnic origin, or whatever, we are falling short of the our obligation to respect the dignity of every human being.

    1. Jack Zamboni says:

      This text from James is going to be the starting place for my sermon. The author names (and condemns) the practice of economic privilege in the church (and world); from there I plan to speak some of my experience of white privilege (and may borrow from what others have said here, with attribution. My white privilege, I’ve realized, includes the privilege of considering the observance of this Sunday optional, as I personally can always do in regards to issues of racism (even though I serve a wonderfully diverse congregation). I have the privilege of imagining that racism is “not my problem” — hence not my responsibility — in way that people of color do not.

      Like others upstream, I wish there had been more notice for preparation and that the date were one when more people will be in church. But I feel called to aside my white privilege at least to the point of responding to the call of our sisters and brothers in the AME Church by participating in this Sunday as best we can, including whatever inconvenience or change of plan that entails.

      1. Jack Zamboni says:

        P.S. I’m very much hoping that this Sunday (and the other times I’ve preached in response to events like Ferguson and Charleston in the past year) will be part of the utterly needed ongoing work of conversation, prayer and action in the congregation I serve. Had already started conversations with our Wardens and diocesan Anti-Racism team people as to how we might move forward with this in the coming year. Prayers for faithful follow through are welcome!

  16. Sara Baldwin says:

    “The sin of racism” has been much discussed in our Diocese (Atlanta), especially since the ministry of Bishop Rob began here. As mentioned above, the weekly (and daily if you practice the Office) confession of “corporate” sin does wash me well. Lately (since Bishop Rob came to us?) I have started the daily Examination of Conscience as well. It gives me something specific to remember during our corporate prayer. The Examen I use begins with remembrance of gifts. Then a confession of their abuse. For your consideration, I escaped the South in 1970 doing much damage to myself and family in the process. I did not even know why I had to leave. I live in Georgia, again, now, and it has changed. Yes, we have miles to go, yet I ask your prayers for the sensitive white and black souls who dispersed from the South on a great journey, first of escape and later of exile, maybe of return. For them/us the task is healing more than penitence. The two go together, though. I now live in a neighborhood that is half or even quarter “white”. Black mamas may not want to HAVE TO teach their children how to behave but the fruit may be a better life. Perhaps white mamas should consider teaching their children the same things. In the old days we used to say “walk a mile in my shoes”. Maybe that is what this day of prayer is about.

    1. Ronald Fox says:

      “Black mamas may not want to HAVE TO teach their children how to behave but the fruit may be a better life. ”

      While I am of mixed race, I readily present as white. Yet my parents also gave me “the talk” at a young age, and I too have had a policeman’s gun pointed at me. White mamas as well as black mamas have to teach their children how to behave.

  17. Doug Desper says:

    I cannot deny that there is racism, and that there are systems that work ill against one group in preference to another. At its core, racism is essentially “elitism”. Ever since people in Jesus’ day pegged his heritage as that of a hillbilly (“can anything good come from Nazareth”), and even before that we don’t need much convincing that elitism has been a wicked sin. Racially motivated elitism, however, is not the sole possession of whites. I have working eyes and ears that dissuade me from ever believing that. So, yes, let us repent but only do so if we are going to tell it all. All of it, not just some of it. While there is repenting to do let’s tell more about slavery and racial elitism and understand more of the responsibility for where we are today.

    In the early 1600s in Virginia, Anthony Johnson was an indentured servant who earned his freedom. He worked his way up to be a successful tobacco planter and, in turn, employed five Africans as indentured servants, one being John Casor. (Africans, like poor whites, were indentured servants who earned their freedom). Once Casor had completed his term of seven years, he requested his freedom, a request that Johnson turned down. Johnson persuaded the Northampton County court that John Casor should be his permanent slave, and the court granted Johnson’ request. Anthony Johnson was an African. The first slaveholder in America … was himself an African.

    Slavery in America would have been impossible without the complicity of Africans who aided in slave trading. Tribal elitism (equated to racism) made it justifiable in the minds of those who slave hunted among their fellow Africans. Since Anthony Johnson’s time, and before, both whites and Africans have practiced racially charged elitism that engendered a sense of being owed something from those that they considered less than themselves.

    Four hundred years later, there must be ownership of THAT essential fact. Placing ourselves as more important or more entitled than another – no matter the skin color – is the sin to repent of. Let’s tell it all.

    Two white news reporters were gunned down last week by a gay black man because of their race.

    Police are being targeted and murdered due to their race.

    Some police target minorities.

    Elitism by any race is a sin.

    “ALL LIVES MATTER.”

  18. Eva Arnott says:

    Maybe white Episcopalians who tend, as a group, to have above-average incomes, could help in practical ways, possibly by paying for that church to be air-conditioned.

  19. Joyce Vining Morgan says:

    This reminds me of the concept of original sin, the idea that we humans are flawed right from our beginning. American racism is a socio-cultural original sin – at the heart of our nation from its earliest days – against those brought to our shores by force as well as those displaced from the land by newcomers from Europe. We do not have to “commit” the sin itself; we need to recognize the rot it has created in our society and own the problem.

    1. Doug Desper says:

      Joyce — two things (neither of which are in total disagreement with your point).

      First: This country is the greatest country worth living in, despite its flaws. Work on the flaws, yes, but let’s end any more talk about who was here first, how pristine the land was until whites came, and other myths. The truth is that human sacrifice, war, and genocide were practiced by native peoples on these shores long before a white man was ever seen. When the Jamestown colonists arrived Chief Powhatan was at war with his neighbors and tried to enlist the new white weaponry in his cause. The truth is that goodness and Christian virtue were also brought to these shores by people of good will. Every societal change has its disruption, evil threads, and betterment all striving alongside each other. The big question is who – among any minority or newcomer group – wishes to return to “the good old days”? None, I venture.

      Secondly, I spent six years as a social work counselor for my State. My job was to hand out second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. These chances were given to ex-offender youth – mainly minorities – who had committed crimes (murder, sex offenses, theft, and more). My job was to help them see their juvenile offenses buried and to start over. Jobs, housing, references were all lined up. Some – only some – took advantage. The main barrier was a criminal and grievance/entitlement world view (such as this misguided but well-meaning “white privilege”-centered Letter to the Church engenders). Good jobs, good homes, good new starts were refused by over 70% of these minorities because it was easier to be a victim and predator than to be legitimate. One young man turned down a job getting his GED and learning a trade at his local shipyard –all with housing included! The reason? He said that he could make more in drug sales in two weeks than by working all year at the shipyard. Another young man went back to New York state where his grandmother, mother, and siblings all lived in government housing, and had done so for over 30 years. Not one had a job and yet had everything provided at no cost. He had the opportunity to break the cycle but wanted it easier “since they’re giving it away”. The “they” is you and I. He didn’t want to join the less-privileged class of people who have to strive and earn through life.
      Yes, we all have a responsibility. In fact, more people than one cares to admit choose the widespread privilege of grievance/entitlement as a cop-out. I saw that “rot” up close and it hasn’t lessened much since.

  20. Ronald Fox says:

    On Wednesday, August 26th, two white people at work in a parking lot were senselessly killed by a black gay man who left a letter behind specifically calling for race war. They, too, are victims of racism – racism committed by a black gay man. That act was as timely as the one referenced in the letter. Yet this letter only condemns racism committed by white people. This letter “others” white people. It presums that racism is a property of being white and that only white people have racist issues. This letter is not healing. It is divisive. This letter itself is racist. That greatly disheartens this cradle Episcopalian.

  21. The Rev. David Fulford says:

    Racism, elitism, sexism, or any other –ism you choose to put forth is not the sole providence of any one particular group of people. The issue as I see it is how we as human beings see and understand each other as well as how we understand ourselves. All people have a strong need to belong to some group; be it family, clan, fraternity, church, community, race or nation. That need then sets up boundaries to who is in and who is out. If the group is large enough the boundaries are often not easily seen. What these boundaries do is separate us from each other. Now combine that idea with a too often promoted dualistic view of the world; right and wrong, black and white, Christian and non-Christian, etc…, throw in a good dose of fear that those who are not part of your group are the enemy, and there you have the recipe for the –ism.

    If and until we can learn to look past those boundaries that we as humans set and see our fellow humans as God sees them, and I might say see ourselves as God sees us, we will be stuck living with our –isms. The hardest thing I believe we must do is embrace love over fear, open our closed hearts and minds and live in the moments that God provides for us. We did not get into this mess overnight, nor will we get out of it quickly, but each and every one of us can take a step in the right direction each day by being led by the Holy Spirit.

  22. Richard Craig says:

    I, too, wished that we had been given more time; however, I will give this day a go. I have personally printed copies of the litany and we will insert them into the bulletins already prepared. I will give a sermon that will be more of a spiritual autobiography to my all white congregation in a conservative small city in Wisconsin. In this personal reflection, I will tie in to the systemic realities like the state paying tuition when you have to go to a school outside Georgia to get what you could not get because the white Georgia schools would not admit you. I will use the collects at the end of the article above to conclude our Prayers of the People and the Litany. I’ll let God decide if we will get anything out of this day. BTW, I will steer my people to this article and particularly to the comment stream; I believe there is some good stuff here, worthy of reading and digesting.

  23. Selena Smith says:

    I think that the lack of preparation time for an important spiritual opportunity to ask congregations and members to foster an end to Racism seemed to trivialize the occasion. I see it as white privilege checking off of one of many to-be-done General Convention resolutions/direction without much thought.
    I think it would have been better to call for seasonal or quarterly opportunities as well as direct where resources can be obtained for those times. That could lend dignity and serious reflection to a call to live out the Gospel.

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