[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Efforts that began in 2015 with action by General Convention, when racial reconciliation was identified as a priority of the Episcopal Church, are bearing fruit in work done during the 79th General Convention.
That emphasis was made clear early on in the convention, when a joint session of deputies and bishops spent 90 minutes focused on racial reconciliation, one of three TEConversations.
The TEConversation featured three speakers: Arno Michaelis, a former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization who now works to get people out of similar hate groups; Catherine Meeks, director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta; and the Rev. Nancy Frausto, a “Dreamer” who come to the United States without documents as a seven-year-old child.
Framing discussions throughout the convention was the concept of “Becoming Beloved Community,” the Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation and justice. It represents a series of interrelated commitments around which Episcopalians can organize efforts to respond to racial injustice and build a community of people working for reconciliation and healing:
- Telling the truth about the church and race
- Proclaiming the dream of beloved community
- Practicing the way of love
- Repairing the breach in society and institutions
Resolution D022 provides $5 million over the next three years to help dioceses and other entities of the church to respond to racial injustice. The Rev. John Kitagawa, deputy from Arizona and a member of the joint legislative committee on Racial Justice and Reconciliation, said most of the money will go to grants to help this work in communities – dioceses, congregations and regions. “Many things in the past have been top-down,” he said. “This is bottom-up.”
Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester, bishop chair of the legislative committee, said he was most excited about a new initiative adopted by the convention – a Beloved Community summit. Resolution A228 provides for a gathering of leaders working in racial reconciliation and racial justice across the Episcopal Church before the end of 2019.
Singh said the summit will “share best practices, build networks and strengthen curricula. It’s building capacity so Episcopalians can play a leadership role in their communities and not just in the church.”
Kitagawa said the event will be an aid to people who are engaged in this work. “It can be lonely,” he said, so understanding who is in the work together will help.
The convention also tackled the issue of expanding anti-racism efforts to include racial reconciliation. That is reflected in Resolution B004, which started as a resolution calling for end to use of the term “anti-racism” as spiritually imprecise. It was amended to encourage continuing work to address institutional and systemic racism while acknowledging the need to work for healing, justice and reconciliation.
Singh said some people welcomed the chance to move forward with racial reconciliation, healing and justice, while others feared losing a commitment to dismantle racism.
He also said he was excited about a new framework for training that “can be a part of transformation and formation.” Resolutions A045 reaffirmed the necessity and importance of anti-racism training while calling for ongoing spiritual formation and education focused on racial healing, justice, and reconciliation.
“Racism isn’t a binary black-white issue,” he said, as it affects Asians, Latinos, Native Americans and others. With the church made up of diverse languages and cultures, “training needs to take that into account,” he said.
– Melodie Woerman is director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas and is a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.