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US Episcopalians step up anti-racism fight

Posted on: January 27, 2016 4:40 PM
Shawntelle Fisher of SoulFisher Ministries and Cornita Robinson, director of development for St Stephen’s & The Vine, lead pilgrims on a walk from Koch Elementary School to the Michael Brown memorial site
Photo Credit: Lynette Wilson / Episcopal News Service
Related Categories: race, Social Justice, USA

[Episcopal News Service, by Lynette Wilson] In the months following General Convention, the [American] Episcopal Church has been working to fulfil its mandate to confront racism and the institutional structures that support it.

On 21 January, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached the sermon at the opening Eucharist of the 2016 Trinity Institute, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. As he invited those assembled to embrace difficult conversations around racism, he offered some advice; “As you prepare to march, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus.” Keynote speaker Michelle Norris also offered her belief that “listening is an act of courage.” Trinity Institute is hosting this year’s institute on racial justice as a means of creating new understanding, opportunity, and encouragement for deeper conversations about racism.

February is Black History month, following the many celebrations this week of the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr, and the church’s collective hope for racial reconciliation. Next month, the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church will meet in Austin, Texas, to begin to discern how to move forward with Resolution C019, through which the General Convention made racial reconciliation a priority for the next triennium. Yet significant learning and leadership development around issues of racial justice and reconciliation began back in October of 2015, when the Episcopal Church sponsored a Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson, in partnership with the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Diocese of Missouri.

Fourteen months to the day after the 9 August 2014 death of Michael Brown, 25 Episcopal Church pilgrims visited the site where the teenager died after being shot in a struggle with a Ferguson police officer.

In the aftermath of Brown’ death much attention has focused on policing and racial profiling. The pilgrims travelled to Ferguson in search of a better understanding of what happened that day and the protests and community response that has followed, both in the context of Ferguson and in their own lives. The intention was that pilgrims would bring that understanding back to their work, churches and communities, and begin to tell their own stories.

“We need to create spaces where people are telling their stories and actually being heard. And I think part of it is young people doing the work in their own context and doing the work in the spaces they inhabit,” said Leandra Lambert, a young adult member of the Union of Black Episcopalians who helped plan the pilgrimage, adding that anti-racism committees and anti-racism trainings for leaders are not enough.

“There are also spaces where decisions are being made and it would be helpful to us to know exactly where those spaces are, what committees, what organizations, exactly where in the church do we need to be so we are at the table, because if you are not at the table you are on the table,” she said.

“A critical piece is not just saying it’s important to have people engaged, but really working towards that and taking those conversations to heart and putting the resources behind it.”

  • Click here to read the full extended report by Lynette Wilson for the Episcopal News Service.