UBE assembly honors four social justice advocates

Special celebration of Bishop Barbara Harris

Posted Jul 9, 2014

[Union of Black Episcopalians press release] The Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman, L.H.D., Nell Braxton Gibson, the Rev. Harold T. Lewis, Ph.D., and Dr. Anita Parrott George have been named the Union of Black Episcopalian’s 2014 recipients of the Rev. Dr. Pauline Murray Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award and the Verna Josephine Dozier, Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Mattie Hopkins Honors Awards respectively.

“We are very pleased to honor these four extraordinary individuals in this way,” says Annette Buchanan, National President of UBE. “They each have made significant contributions not only to the Episcopal Church but to their communities and exemplify that while we are here on earth, we should make a difference.”

As part of their 46th Anniversary Annual Meeting and Conference, UBE presented the awards at their Gala Awards Dinner on July 2, at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ.

This is the third year that these awards, named for Episcopal trailblazers, were given to individuals whose life work exemplifies the spirit of their award namesake.

Rodman, who received the Rev. Dr. Pauline Murray Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, said, “It is always special to be honored by one’s friends.”

Rodman is the John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry at Episcopal Divinity School. He is a former member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, one of the organizers of the Union of Black Episcopalians, a former urban hearings coordinator for the Urban Bishops Coalition, and the coordinator of the Episcopal Urban Caucus.

The Rev. Dr. Pauline “Pauli” Murray was the first black female priest ordained by the Episcopal Church. Committed to dismantling barriers of race, Murray was also dedicated to the feminist cause. She was appointed to serve on the civil and political rights committee of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). In the mid-1960s, Murray began serving as a member of the Equality Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) working to revise the ACLU policy on sex discrimination. She was also a founding member of the civil rights group of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Murray saw the civil rights and women’s movements as intertwined and believed that black women had a vested interest in the women’s movement.

Gibson received the Verna Josephine Dozier Honor Award.

“Having known Verna Dozier during her lifetime and been moved by her strong support of clergy and her prophetic call to the laity, I am deeply moved to have been chosen as this year’s recipient of the award named in her honor. Thank you, UBE,” said Gibson.

Gibson presently serves as Chair of the New York Diocesan Committee on Reparations for Slavery. She served for six years as National Coordinator for the Episcopal Urban Caucus, a social justice organization whose mission is to stand in solidarity with poor and oppressed people.

Verna Josephine Dozier was a teacher of English literature at the high school level and a noted Episcopal religious educator who focused on Bible study and claiming the authority of the laity. She was well known in educational circles for teaching scripture. For many, her approach was radical. She was also a courageous preacher. In 1992, Dozier preached for the consecration of Jane Holmes Dixon as Bishop Suffragan of Washington, one of only a handful of laywomen asked to preach at an Episcopal consecration.

Lewis was awarded the Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper Honor Award.

“As one who has attempted to be a bridge-builder throughout my ministry, I am delighted to have been chosen to receive this award from the UBE, especially as it is honor of Anna Julia Cooper, one of the great unsung heroines of American history and the Episcopal Church,” said Lewis. “Dr. Cooper, whom I quote extensively in my book, ‘Yet With a Steady Beat’, was born into slavery and lived to see the dawn of the civil rights movement 105 years later.  She believed in the Episcopal Church, not only as an instrument of uplift for the African American, but as an institution both “missionary and catholic” committed to building bridges of understanding and reconciliation among all groups in our society.”

Lewis is rector emeritus of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is an active chronicler of the African American struggle in the Episcopal Church and has participated on numerous church and seminary boards including the Office of Black Ministries as director from 1983 to 1994.

Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was an educator, advocate and scholar. Throughout her career, Cooper emphasized the importance of education to the future of black people, and was critical of the lack of support they received from the church. An advocate for black women, Cooper assisted in organizing the Colored Women’s League and the first Colored Settlement House in Washington, D.C. She wrote and spoke widely on issues of race and gender, and took an active role in national and international organizations founded to advance black people. At the age of 55, she adopted the five children of her nephew. In 1925, Cooper became the fourth black woman to complete a Ph.D. degree, granted from the Sorbonne when she was 65 years old. From 1930-1942, Cooper served as president of Frelinghuysen University. Her first book, “A Voice from the South: By a Woman from the South”, published in 1892, is often considered as one of the first articulations of Black Feminism.

George was awarded the Mattie Hopkins Honor Award.

“Surprise and humility are what I felt upon learning that the Union of Black Episcopalians had named me recipient of the Mattie Hopkins’ Award, a woman who it seems lived a life in service to Christ and community,” said George. “I offer gratitude to UBE for fitting together our lives, for connecting me with this devoted humanitarian and radical Episcopalian, and for rewarding me beyond measure with this award in her honor.”

George is a retired educator having served nearly 50 years in a variety of educational settings in Mississippi, Illinois, Florida, and Louisiana. She has served broadly in the Episcopal Church with local, diocesan, and church-wide responsibilities. A major focus of her life has been on issues of racial justice.

Mattie Hopkins was an Episcopal educator and social activist. Hopkins received degrees from the Tuskegee Institute and the University of Chicago and taught in the South, and for the Chicago school system from 1951-1983. She was active in many Chicago civic, educational, and church organizations. In the 1960s she was the president of the Chicago chapter of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU) and sought employment for blacks in the construction of the Diocese of Chicago headquarters. She was instrumental in the founding of the Union of Black Episcopalians and was also a board member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus. In 1988 Hopkins received the prestigious Vida Scudder Award for outstanding contributions to the social mission of the church, presented by the Episcopal Publishing Company.

Past recipients of these awards include: the Rev. Altagracia Perez,  Canon Bonnie Anderson, the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dr. Deborah Harmon Hines, the Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson, Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, the Rev. Dr. D.H. Kortright Davis, and Patricia Abrams.

The occasion also included a surprise honoring of The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the first female Bishop of the Episcopal Church, on the 25th anniversary of her ordination. There was a four-minute video presentation, on her life, that preceded the presentation of a commemorative photo album.

The 47th Annual Meeting and Conference will take place July 19-22, 2015 at the Maritime Conference Center, in Linthicum, Maryland.