Reunion, Council and inclusion of African Americans

by John Chilton

Throughout the history of The Episcopal Church its Constitution and Canons have named the annual meeting of a diocese a convention. The Diocese of Virginia used that terminology until 1862 when it acceded to the constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America and adopted its terminology, Annual Councils. Editor of the Southern Churchman and member of the diocesan Standing Committee, the Rev. D. Francis Sprigg, reported the change in nomenclature was not well received, writing it was “very unnecessary as we think.”

Its reason for being removed, the PECCSA in 1865 reformed itself as a voluntary association, the Protestant Episcopal Church of Associated Dioceses in the United States. At its next Council in 1866 Virginia became the last Confederate States diocese to renew its ecclesial relations with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The reunion debate was heated even though the option of being a lone diocese raised serious concerns over apostolic succession and the principle that Anglican provinces could not be subnational.

During debate of the reunion measure a partiality for the PECCSA terminology “council” was expressed. More significantly, retention of the term was promoted to sell reunion. The Church Journal, paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. C. W. Andrews, reported

Very possibly some declaration of settlement might be advisable, or for retention of the word Council, - the word Convention was one they all wished to get rid of. If this concession should be asked by the opponents of this measure, he hoped the Council would grant it. By supporting one another and conceding a little to one another, unanimity might yet be reached.

When the vote for reunion was taken the tally was Clergy aye 57, Clergy nay 9, Laity aye 36, Laity nay 11.

The same 1866 Council debated the status of African Americans in the church and adopted the following:

Resolved That whenever the colored members of the Church in any parish desire to form a new and separate congregation, such action shall have the sanction of this Diocese. They may elect their own Vestry, Wardens, and Ministers. They shall be considered as under the care of this Council, and their interests as represented in it by the Standing Committee on Colored Congregations.

The decision on whether to retain the terminology council carried over to the 1867 Annual Council. As reported by the Southern Churchman,
Mr. Tazewell Taylor, chairman of the committee, to which was referred what changes were rendered necessary in the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese, by reuniting with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States proposed only the following:
That the word “Confederate” be stricken out and “United” be inserted in lieu thereof. He said there had been some conversation in the committee in regard to changing “Council” to “Convention;” but as it was not obligatory, and as the word “Convention” was a disagreeable one, and as he thought the General Convention would alter their title to Council, or something equivalent, the committee preferred to retain “Council,” and as it was the liturgical and ecclesiastical nomenclature, he hoped Virginia would have the honor of retaining the use of the word Council.

The report’s recommendations were approved making Virginia the first diocese of PECUSA to use the terminology. Virginia reunited on its own terms.

At the General Convention of 1868, Nebraska applied for admission as a diocese. Like Virginia, and by this time Minnesota, Nebraska used the term council. A debate spanning days ensued in the House of Deputies over whether any word but council was constitutional, with Virginia given as a positive unchallenged exception. Ultimately, the constitutional question died when the House of Bishops voted to admit Nebraska.

At the 1871 General Convention, the Committee on Canons reported “no action is expedient” regarding “such changes into the Constitution and Canons of this Church as may provide for the representation of minorities.” It also reported it “would be inexpedient” to change “the name of this body from Convention to that of Council.” Both reports were accepted by the convention.

Originally, Diocese of Virginia included the territories of the present dioceses of West Virginia, Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia. Upon creation as a separate diocese, each inherited the terminology “Annual Council” from the Diocese of Virginia. In 1956, West Virginia made changes to its Constitution and Canons: Annual Council was renamed Annual Convention, and the condition “of the Anglo-Saxon race” was struck from the conditions for election to Annual Convention. In 1949 Virginia had removed the de facto bar to African Americans in its Council, striking all references to “Colored Convocation” from its Constitution and Canons.

Today, the Dioceses of Virginia, Southern Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia still retain the name Council for their annual meetings. Altogether eight domestic dioceses of The Episcopal Church use terminology of Annual Council. In the 20th century, twenty dioceses switched from Council to Convention.

The Race and Reconciliation Committee of the Diocese of Virginia has submitted a resolution to Annual Council to study restoring the name Annual Convention.

Acknowledgement. Most of the details in this article are the result of the research of Julia E. Randle, Archivist of the Diocese of Virginia. All errors of fact and interpretation remain my own.

An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of the Virginia Episcopalian.

John B. Chilton is currently an economics lecturer at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a member of the Committee on Race and Reconciliation in the Diocese of Virginia. A child of the diocese, he taught economics at the University of Western Ontario, the University of South Carolina and the American University of Sharjah before returning to his home state.

Our worst fears

by Lawrence L. Graham

According to the evidence presented at trial, Trayvon Martin thought the man following him might be a sexual predator. On the other hand, George Zimmerman thought the young man he was following was a prowler who was up to no good. As it turns out, both of them were tragically wrong in their assumptions.

There’s not much point in rehashing the case. The jury has spoken and under our system of laws, that’s that. Even so, an innocent young man lies dead and the person who killed him walks free. For a lot of us, the conclusion of this case remains unsettling.

Fingers, including the fingers of the Attorney General and the President of the United States, are pointing to the various Stand Your Ground laws; laws also sometimes characterized as "shoot first laws." But those laws are only a symptom of a much deeper and more unsettling, persistent problem that lies deep in the American soul.
That problem is fear. Fear of the “other” has always been a problem in our country. Sowing the seeds of fear is easy, and there are always people who are eager to do that. Our history is full of it: Fear of dark-skinned people; fear of Irish Catholic immigrants; fear of Jews; fear of Japanese-Americans; fear of LGBT people; fear of Muslims.

The list is not inclusive. But it is illustrative of groups that have been, and in many cases still are not only feared but often hated, too. But it does not end there. Fear and hate become calls to action. So, acting on our very worst instincts, we enact unjust laws for our courts to enforce and make public policies intended to ensure perpetual second-class status for those we hate and fear.

Perhaps the most pervasive and long lasting of these fears is expressed in our continuing national embrace of racism. We have become very good at sweeping racism under the carpet by being polite and politically correct. But make no mistake. The evil of racism is still alive and well in America. We have constructed a whole subtle system to perpetuate it. And the Stand Your Ground laws are just the latest evidence of that on-going effort.

The way the Stand Your Ground laws work is simple and their real objective is pretty obvious. These laws do away with the old English common law requirement to flee trouble if you can. Instead, everybody has the right to shoot first and claim self-defense later. But it is how the objective of these laws is perceived that really matters. They can be perceived as a hunting license for hunting other humans. And anybody guilty of being black after dark can be a legitimate target. So, the real objective of the law, which is to intimidate, is accomplished through that perception.

Nor is this some far-fetched idea. Not when seen through the lens of African-American experience. There is a long and awful history that makes up that lens. It begins with the Constitution itself that enshrines slavery, and counts slaves as somehow less than fully human. And it continues with the Second Amendment, which legitimized enforcing slavery through state militias. And it continues on with Jim Crow laws, school segregation and the on-going efforts at voter suppression. Through that lens Stand Your Ground looks pretty awful. And it is. It is a frightful continuation of the same old fearful, hateful, purposeful perpetuation of racism.

But, Stand Your Ground can also become a reason for a national conversation. Not just about these particular laws, but about our whole system of enshrining fear and hate in our laws, shaming the promise of America, and searing our national soul thereby.

Larry, as he's known to his friends, has been a parishioner at All Saints', Atlanta for more than thirty years, where he has served as a chorister and verger. He says he is overdrawn on his alloted three-score and ten, but still enjoys his work as a designer of theatres, auditoriums and concert halls.

The boundary walker: Nathan A. Scott, Jr.

By Frederick Quinn

Nathan A. Scott, Jr. died, four years ago this December, in Charlottesville, Va. He was one of the most significant Christian commentators on contemporary culture of the second half of the twentieth century and merits a place in the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1925, the only child of a 51 year old father and 41 year old mother, he was raised in Detroit, Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan at age 19, from Union Theological Seminary at 21, and completed his Ph. D. from Columbia University at 24, while teaching religion at Howard University. A prolific author, Scott wrote seventeen books, edited nine others, and produced a steady stream of articles, book reviews, and essays. From 1955 to 1977 he taught at the University of Chicago and spent ten years as a canon of St. James’ Cathedral in Chicago, where he was a regular preacher and celebrant, and organized weekend seminars on spirituality and literature for Chicago clergy. In 1976 Scott and his wife, Charlotte A. Scott, became the first tenured black professors at the University of Virginia, she in business-economics, he in religion. He retired in 1990 and hoped to take a small Virginia parish, but by then lacked the stamina to do so.

Scott emerged as a leading Christian literary voice at a time when modern cultural criticism was turning toward Marxism, deconstructionism, new historicism, postcolonial, reader-response and a variety of other specialized schools of criticism. Drawing on the work of Paul Tillich, Scott staked bold claims – that religion gave culture its substance and that the great themes of alienation and the quest for unity central to writers as varied as Kafka, Camus, and Beckett were at heart religious issues. In a memorial sermon titled “The Boundary Walker” Samuel T. Lloyd III, a former graduate student of Scott’s at the University of Virginia, and now dean of Washington National Cathedral, recalled, “Nathan sought to articulate the Christian faith, within the language and thought forms of our time so that we can understand it in fresh ways. He believed that the faith conversation had to flow both ways. Secular thinkers had much to gain from recognizing the spiritual dimension at work in even the most non-religious works, and the church too had a great deal to gain from having its convictions tested and stretched in conversation with the spiritual quest of its time.” Lloyd, who Scott hoped would follow him in an academic-clerical career, described his mentor as a compelling preacher and lecturer. “He lived and wrote on the boundary between religion and literature, between the sacred and the secular, between the ancient and the modern, between theology and culture. But there were other boundaries he walked as well…As a black man from the North living out his climactic years in the heart of the Confederacy, he wrote eloquently about this crucial boundary divide in our culture.”

Despite making a substantial mark in his time, Scott is infrequently referred to now. Cultural criticism moved like a tornado in other directions during his professional lifetime. Scott called some of its trends “hermeneutical terrorism,” in a decade before such terminology had entered common usage. He was not a polemicist; his genius was in probing the depths of about forty key world authors over half a century, and relating them and their texts to biblical and contemporary issues. His collected sermons remain to be gathered and Scott awaits a biographer. His comments about himself were often guarded. But in a 1993 interview he reflected on the key influence of his father, who had been taught to read and write by the local postmaster in Laneville, Alabama, and who, after struggling to obtain an education, eventually became a lawyer in Detroit. “He had been taught Greek and Latin classics. By the time I was twelve years of age, he had taken me through the Latin text of Caesar’s Commentary on the Gallic Wars. I was the despair of my Latin teachers in junior and senior high school; they had noting to offer me. His daily devotional reading of the New Testament involved the koiné Greek text. He had an enormous passion for the Book. And when I was a small boy, he had already set me to reading the Fireside Poets (Greenleaf Whittier, Wadsworth Longfellow, and so on), as well as Browning and Tennyson. He had required me to commit to memory large blocks of this poetry by the time I was ten or eleven years of age. He contributed more to my formation than anybody else has ever done!”

The titles of some of Scott’s books suggest the range of his interests, Rehearsals of Discomposure: Alienation and Reconciliation in Modern Literature (1952), Modern Literature and the Religious Frontier (1958), Albert Camus (1962), Samuel Beckett (1957), The Climate of Faith in Modern Literature (1964), and The Wild Prayer of Longing (1971). Scott did not identify himself primarily as an African-American author, although he dedicated a book to his friends, Ralph and Fanny Ellison, and wrote a chapter on “Black Literature” in The Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing (1979). Some black authors felt he had sold out in writing about so many “dead white males,” a Jewish critic wrote in amazement in The New York Times Book Review that a black American should be writing about figures like Gerald Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, and Martin Heidegger. If a Jew had written about the same authors he did, Scott later reflected, it would not cause special comment. “Virtually no phase of American cultural enterprise is uninvaded by the racial animus that still ruinously indwells our national life, and I have not escaped its lashes,” he said in a 1993 essay, "A Ramble on a Road Taken", but added elsewhere, “American citizenship, for all of what is rotten in the country, is one of the great blessings in the world. And I believe it to be that.”

Scott’s manner was formal. An attentive listener, he could be initially guarded in conversation, then capable of exploding in laughter. He knew and interacted with almost all of the cultural greats of his time, but was equally engaged with college students as he was with Jacques Barzun or Lionel Trilling. Lloyd, who began his ministry at Scott’s old parish of St. Paul and the Redeemer in Hyde Park, Illinois, recalled evenings of generous hospitality in the spacious living room of the Scott’s Charlottesville home. Its walls contained original African and American art and its bookcases were overflowing. Gustav Mahler or Samuel Barber might be playing on the hi fi, avant-garde selections in that era. Nearby stood Nathan. welcoming guests and encouraging conversation, with a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

If he wrote of tragedy and disruption in the human condition, his was at heart an incarnational theology, affirming of life and creation. Lloyd recalls his pointing a finger toward the congregation in one sermon and urging them to cherish “such things as fine linen and good crystal.”

Cautiously accepting of the Prayer Book revisions of the 1980s, Scott was glad that the excesses of penitential material and the morose vision of the Cranmer era had been removed, but cautioned that its “language is not a language calculated to convey to us a sense of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.” Scott was optimistic about the future of the Episcopal Church, yet sounded a note of alarm about the way the Religious Right had entered the political arena “to make an enormous amount of mischief on the American scene.” “The conspiratorial posture of the Religious Right in this country is ever so bothering. But so far as our mainline Reformation churches are concerned, and so far as the Roman Catholic communion is concerned, though these are imperfect affairs, I don’t have any sense of great looming crisis.”

As a leading writer and teacher on Christian culture for over four decades, a university professor and chaplain, and parish priest and Cathedral canon, Scott was a leading voice for a hopeful Christian message in a torn world. His many achievements make him an admirable candidate for the Episcopal Church’s calendar of exemplary witnesses.

Frederick Quinn is an Episcopal priest, holds a doctorate in history from the University of California at Los Angeles, and has written books about law, history, and religion.

Playing with fire: Black freedom struggle and the Great Cloud of Witnesses

By Bill Carroll

"By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented-- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 11:29-12:2)

"Jesus said, 'I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.' He also said to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, It is going to rain; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, There will be scorching heat; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?'" (Luke 12:49-56)

On the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (August 15), we heard a harsh Gospel at the Eucharist. So harsh, I nearly punted and went running to Hebrews for cover. But, after talking to our Thursday Bible study, I decided to give it a go. I started with something our deacon suggested in a conversation at the Bible study, and began with the image of fire. Before Jesus talks about his role in creating division--about setting family members against each other--he says he came to "bring fire to the earth."

Preaching on the difficult sayings of Jesus is like playing with fire. True, fire is quite useful. It warms us, cooks our food, and, for good or ill, liberates much of the energy that powers our civilization. Fire also cleanses, purifies, and refines. But fire is incredibly dangerous and destructive. If you play with fire, so the saying goes, you're gonna get burned.

But Jesus isn't speaking of just any fire. "I came to bring fire to the earth," he says, "and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!" This calls to mind John the Baptist, screaming at the crowds on the banks of Jordan: "I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming. I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

Throughout the Scriptures, fire is a symbol for God. In particular, it points us to God's purity, power, and freedom. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit falls on the disciples in tongues of fire. A pillar of fire leads God's ancient People out of the house of bondage. Among the prophets, Isaiah's lips are cleansed with a coal of fire, while Jeremiah burns with a hidden fire, buried deep in the marrow of his bones. God appears to Moses in the burning bush. Fire falls from heaven to consume Elijah's offering. Fire and smoke cover the heights of Sinai as God gives the Law. As the letter to the Hebrews insists, "our God is a consuming fire."

In the mystical tradition, St. John of the Cross speaks of the "living flame of love." In the liturgy for ordinations, we pray "Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire." But it all comes down to baptism, where we are washed outwardly with water but inwardly with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus plunges us into his death and resurrection and fills us with the fire of his love.

Like fire, LOVE is dangerous. Here too, experience teaches, we may well get burned. Following Jesus is not safe, for his love carries us out of ourselves. God calls us to risk ourselves--to put ourselves on the line for love. It is indeed a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." For the fire of God's love burns wild and out of control. If we give ourselves over to God, we do not know where God will lead us. The fire of the Spirit burns away much that we have come to depend on, including those sinful patterns that have become second nature to us--those "disordered loves" that have come to define our lives. Love can plunge us into deep darkness, where all the familiar landmarks are gone.

God's love is powerful. Powerful enough to tear families apart. But God's love is for our good. God is strong to SAVE. And God will save us, if need be, through fire. But we need to trust Jesus and let him show us the way. For he is the "pioneer and perfecter of our faith." He is the one who traces out the path we are to walk in. And he stands at the summit of that great cloud of witnesses, who faced death and the sword, who wandered the earth "destitute, persecuted, and tormented," for the sake of their witness to the God of righteous love. For this, Jesus endured even "the cross, disregarding its shame."

Over the past few weeks, I've found myself drawn to other stories of suffering. Back on August 6, which was Hiroshima Day and the Feast of the Transfiguration, National Public Radio ran a story about a horrific event that took place eighty years ago.

On August 7, 1930, two African American men were lynched in the middle of town in Marion, Indiana, with a white crowd looking on and pointing. They were photographed hanging dead from a tree in what has become one of the most enduring emblems of racist violence in our country.

You've probably seen the photo, which inspired the song "Strange Fruit," sung most famously by Billie Holliday. Perhaps you've heard her sing poignantly about "black bodies swinging in the breeze." The song concludes as follows: "Here is fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, for the sun to rot, for the trees to drop. Here is a strange and bitter crop."

This crop was sown in hate, and it will choke anyone who tries to swallow it. Even today, we find the same perverse violence alive and kicking in our nation. We see its hideous, Satanic smirk in the use of President Obama's likeness in a carnival shooting game. We see it in recent death threats against black students at our local community college. And we see it, tragically, in a sign at a rally, quoting Leviticus, displaying two nooses, and announcing "God's solution to gay marriage."

As I meditated on these expressions of hatred in the shadow of Hiroshima and the Cross, I came across the following observation on Cornel West's Twitter feed, "The black freedom struggle is the key that unlocks the door to America's democratic future." I would add (and I think West would agree) that this struggle is also a test for the credibility of the Gospel, for it is here that we find the preeminent North American martyrs--members of the great cloud of witnesses who shed their own blood in service to God and humanity. The election of President Obama, hailed by politicians of both parties as a sign of how far we've come, does not mean the freedom struggle is over, any more than the important victories of the 1960's did. In recent months, West has been quite critical of Obama, asking how his administration measures up against the movement politics of Dr. King. Fair enough, since Obama has invoked the memory of Dr. King time and time again.

And so, at the risk of dividing the household, we dare to ask the kinds of questions Dr. King might ask us today. We might even dare to imagine the president standing, as we all must, before the great judgment seat of Christ. Why, Jesus is asking him (and us), did the first military tribunal convened by your administration rule that a confession obtained under the threat of rape was admissible as evidence? Why did you seek to silence whistleblowers who expose some of the costs of your policy in Afghanistan? Have you done enough to create justice, especially for poor people, immigrants, and people of color? We can imagine Jesus asking more pointed questions than these.

Without necessarily having the answers, we must keep such dangerous questions alive. This is part of our own witness as followers of Jesus. For, in this way, we tend the fire that smolders within us. In this way, we keep hope for justice and human dignity alive. As I scan the horizon and try to read the signs of the times, I sense a great welling up of rage, looking for a target to land on. I see this all around, from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Many believe that the fix is in, and the dream has died. We only differ about who's to blame.

As Christians, we know that hatred can only destroy; it takes LOVE to build.

And so, we turn to Jesus for mercy, and we bid him light his fire. For he is eager that this fire be kindled. It brings with it love, justice, and freedom. It is the same fire that consumed the prophets--the very same fire that burns within his own Sacred Heart.

Come, Lord Jesus, and light your fire.

May it cleanse us from all violence, greed, and fear.

Come, Lord Jesus, and light your fire.

Let it burn. Let it burn. Let it burn.

The Rev. Dr. R. William Carroll is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His sermons appear on his parish blog. He also blogs at Living the Gospel. He is a member of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.

The saints of Black History Month

By J. Carleton Hayden

Black History Week, now Black History Month, was founded in 1927 by Carter G. Woodson, chair of Howard University's history department, in the week that contains the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12), and Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14). For us Episcopalians, the month contains three remarkable descendants of Africa commemorated as saints of the church.

The first African American to be added to our liturgical calendar was Absalom Jones, a slave who through hard work purchased first the freedom of his wife, Mary, and then his own, founded the Free African Society, America's first formally organized social welfare association run by blacks, the Episcopal Church's first black congregation, St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, and became, in 1802, this country's first black priest. For the past 30 years, the Washington Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians has held a diocesan-wide commemoration of Jones, which this year is set for Feb. 14 at Calvary, D.C.

Janani Luwum, the martyred Archbishop of Uganda (feast day, Feb. 17), was recently added to our liturgical calendar. He denounced the brutality of Idi Amin, Uganda's dictator, and asserted the right of the church to promote justice and protect the oppressed. Summoned to the presidential palace, Luwum went boldly, declaring "I can see the hand of God in this." Idi Amin ordered him shot as a traitor, with some reporting that Amin himself had pulled the trigger. At the cathedral in Kampala, thousands gathered for a memorial service at an empty grave that had been prepared for Luwum next to that of James Hannington, Uganda's first bishop. Hannington, an English missionary, also had been martyred in Uganda on Oct. 29, 1885 (feast day, Oct. 29). A statue of Luwum now stands among the martyrs of the 20th Century at Westminster Abbey.

Anna Julia Cooper, a devout Anglican, feminist, educator and civil rights advocate, is currently my favorite Black History Month saint. She was added to the liturgical calendar in 2006. I first became aware of Cooper in 1969 as a Howard University graduate student. After the daily morning Eucharist, her grandniece, Regia T. Bronson, often treated this small congregation to breakfast at Cooper's stately but decaying residence at 201 T. Street NW, about a half block from St. George's, D.C. Bronson gave me some of Cooper's books, which are to me sacred relics, and her papers, which I deposited at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. These contain letters from such notable historical figures as Frederick Douglass, William Still, Alexander Crummell, and Mary Shadd Cary, a leader among African American refugees in Ontario and later America's first black lawyer.

Anna Julia Cooper was born into slavery on Aug. 10, 1858, in Raleigh, N.C., to Hannah Stanley and her slave master, George Washington Hayward. Cooper praised her mother for her sacrifices and guidance but stated she owed nothing to her white father "beyond the initial act of procreation." A cradle Episcopalian, she was one of the first students at what is now St. Augustine's College, established by the church shortly after the Civil War to educate teachers and priests to serve newly-freed slaves. She married her Greek professor, the Rev. George Augustus Christopher Cooper of Nassau, and the young couple labored in the Episcopal mission there until he died of pneumonia in 1897, just two months after being ordained as a priest.

Cooper earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Oberlin College, the first American college to enroll both women and blacks, and went on to teach at the AME's Wilberforce University, -- which was named for William Wilberforce, England's anti-slavery champion (feast day, July 30) – and at St. Augustine's.

In 1886, she read a sensational paper on the need to educate women at a meeting of the Conferences of Church Workers Among the Colored People at St. Luke's, D.C. The next year, she accepted a teaching position at Washington's segregated M Street High School, America's best high school for blacks. She worshipped at St. Luke's, boarding with several other professional women at the home of her rector, the Rev. Alexander Crummell. She was named principal of M Street High School in 1902. Four years later, she was not re-appointed following allegations by the white director of high schools that her discipline was insufficiently severe and her academic standards too high for black students. She taught at Lincoln University in Missouri and Langston University in Oklahoma, and spent summers at Columbia University pursuing her doctorate, eventually returning to M Street High School as a teacher.

Always an advocate for the rights of women and African Americans and a builder of institutions to prepare them for full equality in American society, Cooper wrote in her best-known book, A Voice From the South by a Black Woman From the South, (1892): "When and where I enter, the whole race enters with me." A prolific writer, she also penned an autobiography, A Third Step, Legislative Measures Concerning Slavery in the United States, among other works.

At the 1893 Women's Congress in Chicago, she lectured on the intellectual progress and achievements of African American women. When Crummell founded the American Negro Academy, a forerunner of the NAACP, to counter racism in the U.S., Cooper was its only female member. At the first Pan-African Congress, held in London in 1900, she presented a paper titled, "The Negro Problem in America," which described the plight of African Americans as pathetic for a Christian nation. Congress attendees included fellow Episcopalians William E.B. DuBois and Bishop James Theodore Holly, of Haiti, the Episcopal Church's first black bishop. Cooper also prepared the Congress's memo to Queen Victoria, protesting apartheid in South Africa.

At the age of 55, Cooper's life changed dramatically when she became the guardian of Regia Bronson and her four siblings after their mother died. She purchased a home on T Street, and became one of the first black residents of Le Droit Park.

At the age of 66, she was awarded her PhD from the Sorbonne, becoming the fourth African American woman to earn that degree. And in 1930, after more than 40 years at M Street, she accepted the presidency of Frelinghuyuen University, a struggling group of vocational evening classes taught by volunteer faculty and meeting in black churches. As finances declined, she moved the classes into her home, accepting neither rent nor salary.

She died peacefully in her sleep on Feb. 29, 1964, at the age of 105, and was buried in Raleigh, N.C. On her tomb were inscribed the words she had chosen, "Somebody's teacher on vacation… Resting for the fall opening."

What a blessing that every Feb. 28, we can celebrate her heavenly birthday and ask her to pray for us, her students, always being shaped as disciples waiting for the new school year.

The Rev. J. Carleton Hayden is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington and a professor of history at Howard University. This article first appeared in Washington Window.

On being excluded

By Deirdre Good

I was born in Kenya and my first memories are of Mombasa and the Indian Ocean, pawpaws and passion fruit, boarding school and mosquito nets. Years later in 1983, I traveled to Nairobi for the UN Decade of Women Conference with several students from the college where I was teaching at the time. I stayed at a convent of Roman Catholic sisters near Matare valley. When they heard that I was attending the conference, they were very pleased. They studied the conference program and began to plan which events they could fit into their busy schedules.

And so it was that several sisters and I went to the opening lecture together on the first evening of the conference. I was as excited as they were: Angela Davis was the speaker and I had recently read her book, Women, Race and Class. I wanted to hear in person what she had to say. As we made our way to the venue for the lecture, a sister who had gone ahead turned back and spoke to me before I could enter the building, "You are white," she said, "and Angela Davis has said that only blacks may attend." I was crushed. I had journeyed thousands of miles to come home only to be told by a foreigner that I was not welcome.

The next morning, Sr. Geraldine, one of the sisters who had attended the lecture came to me at breakfast. "I have only one thing to say to you," she exclaimed, "Romans eight!" I hugged her in gratitude.

After the conference concluded, Sr Geraldine took me to see the work of her community including that of several sisters who were teaching in a local school and other who were working in a clinic for the neighborhood. Wherever she went in public, groups of local children ran to her, crying out greetings and joining our little tour. One particular child saw us from a distance and ran happily towards us calling out in Swahili upon seeing me, "Jambo, mzungu!" ("Hallo, white person!")

Not long after these two incidents, we had a good discussion in the convent after dinner about differences, race, and racism. The European sisters had no time for what appeared to be racist behavior on the part of African Americans at the conference. And they had no time for my hurt reaction to being excluded from the opening conference lecture either. The sisters from Kenya and Uganda, on the other hand, were fascinated and astonished by the exclusion of whites from parts of the conference. For them, exclusion of anyone transgressed God's love for the entire human race. They wondered at the level of hurt that might have prompted such behavior. And they were taken aback that it had been a shocking discovery for me just before the opening lecture rather than being announced in the conference publicity.

When I returned from the conference, I was interviewed for the college newspaper about the trip. The reporter decided to publish a glossy photograph of me holding a baby in my lap to accompany the article. It had been taken on the tour with Sr Geraldine through Matare valley. Years later I found out that this was the first picture of a white faculty person holding an African baby in the southern college's newspaper and that it caused a stir.

I'll always be grateful to Sister Geraldine for reminding me of Romans eight, and to the little child who called me a white woman that day in Matare Valley.

Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. An American citizen, she grew up in Kenya and keeps the blog On Not Being a Sausage.

The Presenting Issue 50 Years Ago

By John B. Chilton

Fifty years ago the consequences of the Supreme Court’s 1954 school desegregation ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, were taking hold and racial tensions were high. This was certainly true in the State of Virginia. And the Diocese of Virginia. So, as is often the case with a divisive issue, the matter was referred to a commission. In January 1959 the Council of the Diocese of Virginia passed a resolution forming a Racial Study Commission charged with investigating racial problems within the Church. The commission had 30 members, equal numbers lay and clergy, three women, three blacks, a geographic balance, and with a representation of views from across the spectrum. Its report, The Race Problem and the Church, was submitted to Council the following year.

One section of the report seems especially germane to the presenting issue of today:

The Last Six Years

In 1954 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that public schools could not be segregated on the basis of race. The effects of this decision in the State of Virginia and within the area of our Diocese are known to all. Certain of these effects on the life of our Church require mention here.

We are acutely aware that every position taken by Church members in the political, legal and social struggle revolving around the public school issue is reflected within the life of our Diocese. We have tried to consider frankly the resulting fears, accusations and points of view. We believe that there are deep problems within the life of our Diocese. Primary among these is the deterioration of communication, not only between the races but also within the white race, where friends have ceased to discuss racial matters with other friends whom they know to take an opposing point of view.

“Lack of communication” is a hackneyed phrase but no other seems to do so well. By it we mean that often there exists an unwillingness or reluctance or inability to discuss. Lack of communication may also involve the conscious or unconscious lack of knowledge of facts. It likewise may be due to fear of scorn, ridicule or bitterness. We feel that lack of communication is a serious hindrance to the solution of many of our present difficulties in regard to racial matters.

Frequently, actions of the Council are not adequately communicated to the laity throughout the Diocese. As an illustration, many lay people were unaware that all distinctions of race were removed from the Constitution and Canons by the Council in 1949. In addition there has been division between laity and clergy, accentuated by resolutions and letters to newspapers. There have been assertions that the “authorities of the Diocese” are trying to lead us toward integration. There have been pronouncements and actions by the National Council which disturbed Church members in Virginia. Fear has been expressed by some white people that an effort was under way to abolish Negro congregations, leaving only white congregations with which the Negroes might worship. There has been a deep-seated fear that bringing whites and Negroes together will eventually lead to intermarriage.

We have examined, studied and discussed each of these and many other problems which have been brought to our attention. We have sought to understand what the Negro wants, his humiliation, his hurts, and his struggles – as interpreted to us by the Negro members of this Commission. In the sections that follow we state a few of the conclusions that we have reached.

(The Race Problem and the Church, pp. 19-20)

As the Commission underscores elsewhere in its report, while its members formed genuine bonds of affection and respect, the Commission remained deeply divided – a division that existed in the Diocese as a whole. It made few recommendations, and fewer firm ones. Given its composition it would be surprising if it were otherwise,

One area in which it did take a position was Church camp and conference centers, and there it advocated a retreat, perhaps reflecting blowback from the 1954 public school desegregation order. Certainly, a majority of the Commission concluded that the Diocese’s Department of Christian Education had gotten out ahead of the Diocese. The result was a compromise that called for segregated and desegregated camps and conferences. Again, from the report:

Camps and Conferences

We have given thorough consideration to the development of the policy of racial desegregation at the Camps and Conferences conducted under the auspices of the Department of Christian Education in our Diocese. We find that there is wide disagreement on what is best for the total life of the Diocese in the matter.

While the authority for determining how the facilities at Shrine Mont and Roslyn may be used, rests in autonomous bodies, the Council does determine policy as to Diocesan Camps and Conferences. Therefore, we respectfully submit the following recommendation to the Council:

We have found with great sorrow that at this time there are deep differences among us about the desegregation of Diocesan Camps and Conferences. Some of us feel desegregation was a step forward, others that it was a step backward. Still others feel that the change was made in a way that evoked deep and serious misunderstandings that have injured the unity of the Diocese. In the solidarity of Christian brotherhood, therefore, and with real suffering on all sides, we recommend that both segregated and desegregated Camps and Conferences be provided at this time. We are aware of the difficulties of administration that such a policy presents, but we believe it can be done on an alternating basis if necessary. This recommendation is motivated by a genuine concern for all of the children of the Diocese.

(The Race Problem and the Church, pp. 26-27.)

Despite that recommendation, camps and conferences were not re-segregated. And, with the passage of time, racial concerns in the Diocese subsided. They have not entirely disappeared, and the work of racial reconciliation continues although with ebbs and flows.

This episode in the history of the Diocese of Virginia is an object lesson for the church. In the years that followed, external and internal forces have created new divisive issues in the church with which we are familiar: women’s ordination, prayer book revision, same-sex marriage, and gay bishops. Parallels are there to ponder. Fear. Mistrust of bishops or of the national church. The pain of dialog. The friendships that can result in spite of deep differences. And despite engagement and listening, the flawed compromises that can result.

Dr. John B. Chilton is an economist on a busman's holiday. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of South Carolina and the American University of Sharjah. He is keeper of The Emirates Economist, a weblog on economic events in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf.

The agonizing issue of reparations

This President's Day essay will appear on Monday and Tuesday..

By Deirdre Good

This morning, through the falling snow, Reuben the dog and I trudged up 10th Avenue. People were shoveling the white stuff or going to work. We saw a young woman of color trying in vain to hail a taxi. Several passed right by her with their vacant signs alight. She waved her arm again. One of them rushed past her only to swerve to the opposite side of the street in the next block to pick up a parent and child outside a school. I witnessed this racist behavior and tried in vain to wave the next one down. I don't know if she got to where she was going this morning. I do know that this kind of thing happens all the time.

Isn't seeing injustice the first thing we need to do?

Marco William's 2007 movie Banished (shown on PBS last February) is an unforgettable exploration of three (out of 13 so far) known incidences where blacks have been violently and aggressively run off their land or out of town between 1890-1915 in Forsyth County, Georgia, Pierce City, Missouri and Harrison, Arkansas. In each case current residents probably know this shameful history but the present community deals with it in varying degrees of avoidance and denial, much of which was captured on film in conversations between Williams and a member of the KKK or a person who deliberately chose to retire to a community he knew had no blacks. Well-intentioned groups in local communities attempted to come to terms with this shocking history in baby steps by identifying the presence of the KKK as the problem. An outside discussion leader confronted them: "The KKK is comfortable here." White supremacist groups do not operate openly and above ground in communities where they know they are not welcome.

And after we witness these events, we are challenged with the question of reparations. Should black families whose ancestors suffered horribly be given land or money, grave markers and plaques or at least a public acknowledgment and apology at the cost of the descendants of the white families who abused them? What about removing statutes of limitations from legal cases filing claims to lost land?

This is particularly pertinent in the case of the Tulsa riots in 1921. On the evening of May 31, 1921, a mob gathered at the Tulsa, Oklahoma Courthouse threatening to lynch a young black shoeshine boy accused of attacking a young white girl who worked as an elevator operator. When blacks appeared to stop the lynching, a riot erupted. The Tulsa police chief deputized several hundred white men from the mob. Beginning the next morning, white mobs invaded the black section of Tulsa, Greenwood, and left it in ruins. By noon, more than one thousand homes had been burned to the ground and thousands were left homeless. Eyewitness accounts http://www.tulsareparations.org/Vignettes.htm tell of the terror of traumatized children in the riots and desperate efforts of adults who died trying to protect their homes in Greenwood.

In 2001, the Tulsa Reparations Coalition recommended:

1. Direct payment of reparations to survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot.
2. Direct payment of reparations to descendants of the survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot.
3. A scholarship fund available to students affected by the Tulsa Race Riot.
4. Establishment of an economic development enterprise zone in the historic area of the Greenwood District.
5. A memorial inclusive of the reburial of any human remains found in the search for unmarked graves of riot victims.
But the Supreme Court dismissed in 2005 reparations to survivors and descendants of those affected by the riots.

Today sees the publication of the "Consultative Report on the Past" dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland co-chaired by Dennis Bradley and Lord Robin Eames, retired Primate of the Church of Ireland. Lord Eames' opening statement recognizes that many people told the Commission that no one acknowledged their losses during the troubles of the past 40 (or even 400) years. Victims, victims' groups, widows and survivors wanted the assurance that their grief would be recognized. They want their deep hurts to be noted by people in power.

The Consultative Group makes 31 recommendations, amongst which is the creation of a Legacy Commission for five years as an alternative to the justice system or to a public inquiry. This Commission would continue the work of bringing cases to prosecution when there is a realistic possibility of this. It would provide answers about the death of loved ones. Perhaps the most controversial recommendation is the acknowledgment payment of 12,000 pounds for each victim to the nearest relative. The Consultative Group maintains that this does not represent the value of a life but rather the recognition of loss and pain. Also recommended is an annual Day of Reflection and Reconciliation supported by the government and the private and voluntary sectors, including the churches.

The work of reparations does not stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma or in Northern Ireland. When we bring our troops home out of Iraq and Afghanistan, what process of reparations will we engage? How seriously will we take the loss of all lives in this war? Will we acknowledge the mistakes of our past so that they can never happen again? Will we recognize a moral imperative to create better relationships with those of different religions and societies? Will we for the first time see those we have never looked at and hear those we have never listened to, despite the hard work involved? Do we have that kind of moral courage? Will people in power ever take steps to make reparation if the rest of us do not lead the way?

Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. An American citizen, she grew up in Kenya and keeps the blog On Not Being a Sausage.

Seeking answers in a summer of pilgrimages

By Martin L. Smith

This has been a summer of pilgrimages for me. I have crossed the Euphrates to meditate in Harran—the city where Abraham and Sarah settled before risking the further move to Canaan—on the way faith calls us to pull up our roots. I have prayed alongside pilgrims at the shrine of Job in Sanliurfa, who were weeping silent tears as we descended to the spring linked with his legend, meditating on the place of loss and suffering in our spiritual journey. I have shared my joy with throngs in Konya praying at the tomb of the most beloved mystic of Islam, Jalaluddin Rumi, now the most read poet in the world, eight centuries after his death. But I have planned a further pilgrimage. As you read this I will be in Berlin, where I intend to spend some time in prayer at the memorial to the gay victims of the Holocaust, dedicated just a few weeks ago.

It is agonizing to recall the fate of the gay men who were condemned by the Nazis to torture and devastating forced labor that killed most within months. But this is what most people don’t know; when the camps were liberated by the Allied armies many surviving gay inmates were not set free. The ‘liberators’ jailed them. Hundreds continued in prisons until they were deemed to have ‘served their time,’ years after the war ended. They were truly the forgotten.

During my training as a guide to the Holocaust Museum here in Washington, I remember the impact of the testimony of an old German man, who had survived torture in five camps, several years in the prison to which he had been immediately consigned after the camp was liberated, and then upon release made the journey home to his mother. She took him in, but never once asked—she didn’t want to hear what she suspected—where he had been all these years. These men were consigned to oblivion without recognition or restitution until recently.

Perhaps my pilgrimage will strengthen me to keep on trying to answer a common question: why is there so much at stake in the dispute about gay folk and their lives that it threatens to split the church and deepen the rift in American society? Here are some of the responses I have been working on: it isn’t really about sex, it’s all about power. It feels safer to wrangle about sex acts and tease out the sticky threads of disputed interpretations of Leviticus and the authority of the Bible than it is to talk about systems of privilege.

I remember my eyes being opened at a gathering of Christian leaders some years ago who were tackling the issue of racism. A distinguished academic made great headway demonstrating that racism was not merely a matter of individuals having negative feelings to those of a different race. The issue was the system of unearned privileges enjoyed by white folk. Gradually, most of the participants seemed to get it. They couldn’t absolve themselves by claiming personally to have no negative feeling towards persons of color. What they needed to reckon with were the hundreds of ways in which simply being white entitled them to all sorts of preferential treatment, privileges and perquisites.

It was a powerful turning point, and as lunchtime approached the participants were feeling good about the shift in perspective they were gaining. The session was ready to end earlier than scheduled, so the lecturer offered to add a supplement. “Let me use the final half hour before lunch to demonstrate how the same is true of heterosexism. What society is wrestling with in coming to terms with the gay and lesbian minority is not really homophobia—the nexus of negative attitudes towards them—but heterosexism, the maintenance by straight people of the system that awards them multiple, automatic advantages.” The lecturer illustrated her argument with a sample of these privileges, ranging of course from marriage to the right to display affection in public. Suffice it to say that many people in the audience were acutely uncomfortable that she had made this additional case. It’s far easier to talk about prejudice, because we can disclaim it, than about unearned privilege and power which just a little reflection makes undeniable.

My pilgrimages are a resource for gaining the strength to continue in the church. Because our real struggles are about relinquishing monopolies of power and influence, surrendering unearned privileges that are systemically entrenched, we are in for a protracted process of judgment and conversion. There are no short cuts. When everyone is sick of talking about sexuality, then we might get down to breaking the last taboo and learn to make real analysis of how power is so unequally distributed, in defiance of the Reign of God and the manifesto of the Beatitudes.

Martin Smith is well-known in the Episcopal Church and beyond as a priest, writer, preacher and leader of retreats. Through such popular works as A Season for the Spirit and The Word is Very Near You and in numerous workshops, lectures and retreats, he continues to explore a contemporary spirituality that encourages a lively conversation between new knowledge and the riches of tradition.

Celebrating Justice Marshall

Bishop John Bryson Chane writes to his diocese:

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As you may remember, our diocese is proposing that the Episcopal Church include civil rights leader and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on its liturgical calendar. By resolution of the 2006 Diocesan Convention, we recommended that May 17, the anniversary of Marshall’s victory in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case be observed as his feast day.

The 2006 General Convention referred the resolution to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, which, we hope, will bring it forward at the 2009 General Convention, next summer in Anaheim.

One important criterion that the Commission considers is whether there is widespread local observance of a candidate’s proposed feast day. So to strengthen our presentation at the 2009 General Convention and, more importantly, to hold up before our people the Christian witness of Justice Marshall, please plan to observe Saturday May 17 or Sunday May 18 as Thurgood Marshall Day in your parish.

You can learn more about Justice Marshall at edow.org.

In Christ’s Peace Power and Love,
Bishop John Bryson Chane


The Washington Window has written numerous stories on the effort to include Marshall's name in the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. (1, 2, 3, 4.) The mainstream media has also paid some note.

Liturgical resources for the feast of Thurgood Marshall, May 17

Propers suggested by the Diocese of Washington. Music suggested by students at Seabury-Western Seminary and St. Augustine’s Church, Washington, D. C.

Collect
Eternal and Ever-Gracious God, you blessed your servant Thurgood with special gifts of grace and courage to understand and speak the truth as it has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ. Grant that by his example we may also know you and seek to realize that we are all your children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, whom you sent to teach us to love one another; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Suggested scripture readings
Amos 5:10-15, 21-24
Psalm 34:15-22
I Corinthians 13:1-13
Matthew 23:1-11

Suggested Music
Song of Praise
Christ Has Arisen from Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS) 41

Sequence
Zimbabwe Alleluia

Offertory Hymn
How Great Thou Art LEVAS 60

Memorial Acclamation Sung to the tune of We Shall Overcome:

Jesus Christ has died.
Jesus Christ is risen.
Jesus Christ will come again.
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
Jesus Christ will come again.

Communion Hymn
Just As I Am LEVAS 137

Processional Hymn (and Marshall’s personal favorite)
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory LEVAS 226

Unknown Child

By Richard Helmer

While gathering paperwork to get our son registered for kindergarten a few weeks ago, I came across the hospital record of his birth in San Francisco. Beneath his gender designation, length, and weight at birth was his racial designation in big-block capitals:

UNKNOWN.

It stopped me dead in my tracks. Our son, born in 2003, holds immediate claims to two heritages: American and Japanese. Had his mother been, say, French or Swedish, he would have easily been classified as White or Caucasian. Had his mother been African American, chances are he would have been classified as Black. But because his mother is Japanese, and I am of European – mostly English – ancestry, Daniel is a mystery, an unknown quantity in the slippery pseudo-science of race and identity.

Part of me rejoices that he defies standard classification. Part of me worries that his heritage falls into that nebulous, but ever-growing population of children born of marriages that transcend the boundaries of nation and race; children who get a second glance on the street as a rude question bounces around the conventional mind. It’s a question best summed up in the title of a work by author Pearl Fuyo Gaskins: What are you?

“UNKNOWN,” its big, black-on-white, block capitals seemed to also carry with it a mild insult. Marrying across racial boundaries and then having children continues to trip up the legal system in its categorizations, even in an avowedly liberal city like San Francisco. As I prepared Daniel’s kindergarten registration, I was reminded that we are still less than half a century beyond the day when anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. And still only decades from an era when I might have been shipped off to an internment camp with my wife for simply living and loving in the wrong place at the wrong time, for being wed on the wrong side of the war.

In its infinite wisdom, the government now offers a new racial category to the list of choices, and I don’t mean that bland Other ____________. (Please fill in the blank.) It’s "Mixed," which brings to mind the ways Daniel can at times look white and at other times, Asian. Which stereo-typed feature shall we pick? The brown eyes and dark hair or the fair skin? The long fingers or the round face? Will he “pass” as a white person when he needs to, or is he Asian enough to go unnoticed in Japan? Or perhaps he simply fits into the relatively new classification of happa, a term that denotes someone born of one Asian and one non-Asian parent. But even happa says very little. Once considered derogatory, the word is derived from the Hawaiian hapa-haole, which simply means, “half white.” But no Solomon could ever determine which half of Daniel is which.

Mixed belies the deeper truth about our common heritage. Daniel might be mixed but he works: he’s healthy, happy, and behaves like most four-year-old boys do, taking over space in all the lives he meets with his boundless energy. Mixed at one time in the Judeo-Christian tradition implied something or someone impure, less than fully functional, whole, or worthy. The truth is, we are all Mixed if you dig back in our genetic history very far. Our wholeness is deeply rooted in our unity as people made in God’s image, and a shared genetic history that is only several tens of thousands of years old. Our racial categories are very late to arrive on the scene. We have in each of us the biological essence of what it is to be European, African, Asian, Latino, Aborigine, Indian, Native American. . .and the capacity to see the face of Christ in one another and the Body of Christ revealed in one another’s cultural heritage.

It’s also in this way that we are all Unknown.

Unknown like the first-born child of young woman and her carpenter husband two millennia ago. Unknown to the world, born in a stable in a backwater town far from the seats of power and empire. Unknown, yet Mixed, says our tradition – of divine and human origin, but not happa; rather 100% each in the theological math that never seems to add up. Instead, it plunges us into the mystery of a God who touches every piece of us, giving new meaning to that line from the Creed that reminds us that ours is the God of the “seen and unseen,” or in that line from the confession, the Redeemer of the “known and unknown.”

Unknown like every child is born – children who must be named and must receive a social identity from those who care for them. Unknown even then, as they must ultimately find themselves and grow into the gifts they have received. Gifts that came from the only One who truly knows each of us when the stardust comes together in a new way, the genes play mix and match, cells divide, and a new heart begins to beat.

So perhaps Unknown is a good category for a child who is a mystery as much as any of us. Our two-dimensional racial categories pretend to know a person, saddle us with an identity that may or may not fit, pigeon-hole us without regard to our unique natures as children of God. The racial categories, while they might remain useful to track our slow institutional progress in honoring the dignity of all, ultimately reveal the hand of human hubris at work in God’s Creation.

Maybe one day, Daniel will recognize Unknown not as a slap for those who fall in the arbitrary fault-lines of race and culture, but a true freedom to become who God made him to be.

All I can do is keep vigil, pray, and wonder, and reflect on my son’s Unknown-ness – that which has yet to be revealed.

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer, a priest, pianist, and writer, serves as rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, Calif. He has served in interfaith, ecumenical, diocesan, and national church organizations, including Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries. His sermons have been published at Sermons that Work, and he blogs regularly about spirituality, ministry, Anglicanism, and church politics at Caught by the Light.

On being an ally

By Ann Fontaine

Last year I updated my anti-racism training as required of lay and clergy leaders in the Diocese of Wyoming. As part of our training we pledged to work against racism in our churches and communities. Since I am white I wondered how I can fulfill that pledge as an ally with those who experience racism because of skin color and/or ethnic group. It is the same question I have when working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) brothers and sisters.

Reflecting on the struggle by women for equality in church and community, I know there is more to working as an ally than just being helpful and nice. An ally is one who works with others to attain their goals. An ally does not just stand beside one, but also “has one’s back,” offering to watch out for unseen dangers. I know from my own place of needing allies that it needs to be done with respect and consultation. Ask for information and guidance from those with whom one wishes to be an ally instead of assuming one knows best for the other.

Some questions to consider in ally work:

Are there ways that being a white person who is an ally to other racial communities, being a man who is an ally to women, being straight and an ally to lgbt persons, and being non-transgender and an ally to transgender people are similar? Different?

If we are members of marginalized groups what do we look for in non-members who want to be allies?

Are allies helpful or harmful to progress? Is it something in between?

The author, James Baldwin spoke about the danger of allies with savior complexes. Have any of us had experiences with allies who thought of their role in that way? Have we fallen into that mode of acting ourselves?

Working as an ally is often difficult. The story of the Good Samaritan shows how easy it is just to walk on by and not get involved. During Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s people who were allies suffered physical harm and death. In South Africa, white women who belonged to the Black Sash movement and who demonstrated against the white apartheid laws and assisted people negotiating the difficulties of the “pass” laws were shunned by their white friends. Those who ally with people who are transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual for civil rights are attacked with name-calling and worse. Those who work as allies are often marginalized along with those with whom they ally. Allies can find themselves on the outside of both the dominant group and the marginalized group. It can be a lonely place unless there are other allies with whom one can work and talk.

The reward of justice and space for all to live into the fullness of their creation is worth the difficulties but it is important not to underestimate what might happen as well as one’s own ability to fail at the task.

A possible Code for Allies might be:

We listen to those with whom we work without judging the perspectives, experiences, and feelings of the members of the marginalized group, even when the words feel accusatory towards us. These perspectives, experiences and feelings reveal what we do not know about those with whom we seek to become allies.

We seek to learn from those with whom we ally in order to educate ourselves and others about the culture and concerns of those with whom we are allied. We examine our fears of “the other. We recognize the interconnectedness of “isms” and other examples of individual and societal prejudice.

We understand the commonalities and the differences among the various expressions of prejudice and isolation of groups.

We identify and work to change our prejudicial beliefs and actions as well as to change the beliefs and actions of others, both individual and institutional.

We build relationships with other discredited, marginalized, oppressed, non-privileged groups.

We work for the equalizing and responsible use of power and authority.

We advocate for policies and activities that support those affected by injustice.

We use appropriate language.

We confront inappropriate language.

We ask questions rather than assume we know the answer.

We take risks.

We appreciate the efforts by members of our ally group to point out our mistakes.

We combat the harassment, discrimination, and physical assault that marginalized groups experience in our society by speaking out, by our presence and by working to change the systems that continue oppression and give one group privilege over another.

We appreciate the risks taken by our allies for their own freedom.

We recognize that groups need to work on their own and with others – even when that means we may be left out of the discussion and work.

We support other allies.

We act as allies with no conditions attached.

What should be done as an ally if one thinks a chosen course of action is unwise or will not work as planned? One option is to ask how the strategy was developed and what it seeks to accomplish. This helps to open up the conversation and perhaps give an opportunity to express questions. Giving support does not require blind obedience, but if the group decides this is the right way to proceed then an ally needs to choose whether to participate or not. An ally who undermines the group is worse than those who are not allies.

In the end it is worth asking why one might wish to be an ally? Why does one think it will be helpful? Is anyone asking for help? Examining motives helps to keep one from falling into savior roles or trying to get needs met at the expense of others.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often quoted Theodore Parker saying, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." If we are to be part of this moral universe becoming an ally helps bend the arc.

In our baptismal covenant we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves and to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. These promises are a foundation for the work of becoming an ally.

We become allies as followers of Christ, who commands us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The work is for us and our souls as well as for the healing of our communities and the world.

(My thanks to Lelanda Lee, Michael Music, James Toy, the blog Bilerico, Kay Flores, Kristin Fontaine, and Laurie Gudim for their help with this article.)

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, of the Diocese of Wyoming, keeps the blogs Green Lent and what the tide brings in. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.

Native Americans and the Civil Rights movement

By Steven Charleston

One of the less well known chapters in the recent history of the Civil Rights Movement is that part of the movement that arose from within the Native American context. As we look back to the legacy we have inherited from Dr. King, we look back at many paths from many cultures that became the tide of change he initiated.

What was unique about the Native American civil rights experience was the crucial issue of treaties. Unlike other ethnic communities, Native Americans maintain a treaty relationship with the United States, just like foreign nations do. Much of the historic struggle of Native People was fought out in the courts over interpretations of these solemn treaties, or, in many cases, their enforcement. Never have so many treaties been broken so consistently and so blatantly as they have been between the United States and the sovereign indigenous peoples of the Americas. It is the story of civil rights embedded in legal precedent over generations. It is the moral foundation for all that was to follow through genocide, slavery and the importation of the poor into America as cheap labor. The destruction of Native American rights was the fertile soil on which American racism took root and grew. The effort of Native men and women to protect themselves against this evil cloaked as racial superiority is the true subtext of all American history.

The gift of Native Americans to the civil rights movement is the gift of a tiny minority fighting for its legal rights against overwhelming odds. Long before there were sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, there were Native activists fighting for justice in the Supreme Court. In fact, it was exactly one of these cases that President Andrew Jackson derided and ignored, contrary to the Constitution of the United States, when the Supreme Court told him he could not forcibly evict Native People from their land. Andrew Jackson herded my ancestors on a death march in total violation of that court decision. He abrogated the Constitution. He sent troops to quell opposition. Like George Wallace, he wanted a South that was segregated for eternity.

Many years later, as the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum, the great-great grandchildren of those who were sent on the Trail of Tears continued the struggle in places like Alcatraz and the second Wounded Knee. Names like Russell Means and Dennis Banks became common in the media. The American Indian Movement made America nervous as it began to tell the truth about people like Andrew Jackson. Icons of oppression and propaganda like Mount Rushmore became symbols that would challenge the American Dream.

Today, the struggle that began in 1492 continues. I hope that as we celebrate the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement that we never forget the first Americans to fight for justice: those who are proud to call this land their home, their birthright as free and sovereign people.

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska, is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, and keeper of the podcasting blog EDS's Stepping Stones. A citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Bishop Charleston is widely recognized as a leading proponent for justice issues and for spiritual renewal in the church. He has written many articles on both Native American concerns and spirituality.


Coming out of hiding
as a Christian

By Roger Ferlo

What are you looking for? It’s a question that tends to get asked in Episcopal churches this time of year, when we gear up for what we quaintly call Inquirers’ Classes in hopes of swelling our numbers a bit with new recruits. The answers are as various as the people who find their way into the rector’s study, once they manage to negotiate their lonely passage past the vast sea of backs that greets them at the parish coffee hour . “What are you looking for?” we want to ask, knowing full well that more often than not the answer is “I’m not sure.” My experience over the years leading many such classes is that the answer people are trying to articulate is not “I am looking for something” but rather that “Something—someone—is looking for me.” It’s an unsettling place to be.

Like the seekers (and the sought) in our Inquirer Classes, Jesus asked a lot of questions too. People tended to listen closely when he asked them, if only because his questions almost invariably put them on edge, left them scrambling for answers. Who is neighbor to the wounded man? Who would cast the first stone? Whose face is on that coin? Will you lay down your life for me? Where have you laid the body? What are you looking for?

I’ve always admired the presence of mind that allowed two of Jesus’s earliest followers to answer this last probing question with another question. The story gets told in the first chapter of John’s gospel, which tends to be read in church this time of year. You would think that they might have answered him this way: I’m looking for answers. I’m looking for secret knowledge. I’m looking for ways to improve my life, to lose weight, to get a degree, to feel needed, or to feel loved, or to stop hating myself, or to feel vindicated, or to escape my life, or to make money, or to find someone to love, or be on the right side ant the right time when everything hits the fan and I’m left to pick through the pieces.

But that’s not what happens in the story. When Jesus approached two potential inquirers to ask them what they were looking for, what they said was not “I am looking for X, or Y, or Z.” They instead answered his question with another question: “Where are you staying?” Now this is an incredibly foolish response. They know almost nothing about this man, and what they did know about him meant that to ask where he was staying was to ask for trouble. They had just heard John the Baptist call him the Lamb of God. Given what they knew about sacrificial lambs, they should have been running for cover. Because the Lamb of God will by definition be wounded, sacrificed, destroyed, and anyone who stays the course with the Lamb will be wounded, sacrificed, destroyed as well.

So much for the quaint safety of a rector’s Inquirers’ Class. To enter the place where Jesus dwells means to answer a summons not to self-improvement or self-actualization, but to a world of risk and pain and the fear of loss, and at the same time to claim that it’s there, in that world, that you will find a peace that passes all understanding. To seek Jesus where Jesus stays, where Jesus lives, is to come out of hiding—to take the risk of loving yourself, and loving your neighbor, even your neighbor who hates you. To come to Jesus where Jesus lives is to enter the public realm.

Of course, given the idiocies that pass for Christian thinking in political speeches these days, entering the public realm as a Christian is the last thing any of us might want to do. But coming out of hiding as a Christian doesn’t necessarily make you a right-wing Republican. When this story got told in church this past Sunday, it coincided by sheer coincidence with the commemoration of Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King was a lot of things to a lot of people, and at this late date his memory has been mythologized and sterilized and romanticized past all recognition. But he knew how to answer Jesus’ question—he knew what it meant to come out of hiding as a Christian. He knew what it meant to be sought. What are you looking for, Martin? I’m looking for justice. Where do you seek it? I seek it here, now, with you, in this time and in this place, in the name of the God who does not know black from white, rich from poor, except when the difference betokens the sin of injustice, and then with the Lamb of God broken and sacrificed and resurrected I will make no peace with oppression.

We know a lot now about Martin Luther King, in some ways too much, and in many ways too little. One thing we know for sure is that he made no claim to perfection. To respond to Jesus’ question the way he did was not to claim perfection—it was to guarantee that his every imperfection would be revealed. Imperfection of motives. Imperfection of desires. Imperfection of language. Imperfection of intention. How much easier to remain quiet, intimidated by the loudest voices claiming perfection for themselves, to answer the question “What are you looking for” with the standard religious response to which all of us fall prey, no matter where we position ourselves on the religious or political spectrum: “ I’m looking for what’s in it for me.”

That answer’s not good enough any more, as if it ever was. To visit Jesus where Jesus lives, even the smallest act of boldness—parrying one racist remark, countering one xenophobic rant, standing up for one impoverished child, offering just one alternative to the self-centered anger and fear-mongering and scapegoating that bedevils American religion as much as American politics--even the tiniest act of grace will reveal what Jesus called God’s kingdom as it breaks in upon us.

What else in the end is worth looking for?

The Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo is Professor of Religion and Culture, Associate Dean and director of the Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Racism: overt, covert and latent

By George Clifford

Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton recently clashed over a remark that Hillary Clinton had made in reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. The tempest has subsided and all agreed on King’s unique importance and contributions to social justice. But the controversy prompted me to once again reflect on King’s significance for my own life and ministry.

From the time I was in college, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been a role model for my life and my ministry. Having grown up in Maine, racism (combining prejudice and power to discriminate against another race) was primarily an intellectual concept until I attended college. As a student at our nation’s first college to award a degree to an African-American, I learned that racism comes in many different forms. The Klu Klux Klan exemplifies overt racism. Institutions that claim to provide equal opportunity but that use tests known to disadvantage a minority practice covert racism. Latent racism is perhaps the most insidious and intransigent form of racism, representing the cultural stereotypes and prejudices to which all of us are exposed as a consequence of being born and raised in a racist society.

The idea that we live in a racist society offends some. It shocked me when a college friend first suggested it. Then I started to listen. I listened to how teachers and employers treated college classmates. I listened to the men with whom I worked in Trenton State Prison whose death sentences had been changed to life imprisonment when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional (a ruling since reversed). Then, as with those on death row today, their numbers were overwhelmingly African-American. All things being equal – economic status, education, social class, etc. – African-Americans are far more likely to receive a death sentence than Caucasian Americans are. I listened to the first inter-racial couple who asked me to officiate at their wedding. Seven other clergy had refused to officiate because the man was black and the woman white. I listened to the parents who brought their adopted children to my parish, and to the children, tell of the racism that they experienced at school and in other churches because the families included Caucasians, Asians, African-Americans and Native Americans.

When I joined the Navy, I continued to listen. The first African-American chaplain promoted to Captain told me about the obstacles he had faced in the Chaplain Corps, prejudice that continues even into the present. An African-American ship captain, a former star athlete at the Naval Academy, told me of the hatred and racism that he had faced. Senior Marines told me how the Marine Corps has struggled unsuccessfully for decades to correct the imbalance in the ratio of African-American officers to enlisted. Listening to stories of racism brings tears to my eyes and raises my blood pressure. I feel face to face with evil.

Martin Luther King, Jr., knew all of the above. He personally experienced racism’s destructive and dehumanizing power. Yet he believed and preached that Christ's power to save is not limited to what happens when we die but includes transforming our values and attitudes in this life. Martin Luther King, Jr., believed that the world could become a better place. He lived and worked in the hope that one-day children all of races would live and play together as brothers and sisters. He was killed because he believed that walking in Jesus' footsteps meant opposing the evil of racism and other forms of social injustice at all costs but that the opposition must take a Christ-like shape.

When still in college, I felt called to spend my life making the world a better place. I briefly considered the law and politics. But by the seventies, when I was in college, enormous legislative and judicial strides had been taken. Overt racism, except as protected free speech, was largely illegal. Separate facilities for different races were abolished. Inter-racial marriage was increasingly common. Education, employment, and residential discrimination were less open and against the law. Covert racism was being slowly rooted out. Institutions were establishing equal opportunity policies, programs and offices. Affirmative action resulted in significant positive steps towards rectifying past discrimination.

Yet latent racism remained pervasive. People needed healing in their lives. Hatred, prejudice, and resentment needed transforming into genuine love for all of one’s neighbors, regardless of race or any other characteristic or belief. All are God's children and God loves all equally. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a living example, for me, of an extremely effective and articulate clergyperson who transformed lives and society into a closer reflection of Christ's image. His example inspired me to seek ordination and to serve the Church. I believe that God called me to the ministry to assist in changing lives and our world into a place where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Even today, almost a quarter of a century later, when I feel discouraged or wonder if I might have made more of a difference in the world, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr., and find myself encouraged and strengthened. He is truly one of the saints of God.

The Rev. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, with tours at sea, with the Marine Corps, on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains, on exchange with the Royal Navy in London, as the senior Protestant chaplain at the Naval Academy, and as the senior chaplain at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Race and the unconscious

By Martin L. Smith

I read with fascination recently the account of an experiment studying interactions between white and black Americans. In the first phase researchers set up individual conversations between African Americans and whites, and the African Americans recorded their impressions. Then the researchers divided the white participants into two groups. The first had made their racism obvious through their insulting tone. The second had conversed respectfully. A second round of conversations took place, and the researchers immediately subjected all the white participants to a set of cognitive tests in private. The results were very interesting. Most of the white participants who pleased the African Americans by their respectful behavior did far worse in these cognitive tests than those who had not been nice! However, if the tests were administered again an hour later the discrepancy in the results between the two groups disappeared.

The researchers propose this explanation: most of the white folk who were behaving respectfully to the African Americans were having to devote a huge amount of energy to the unconscious process of censoring their actual negative impulses. So much so, that it took the brain an hour or so to recover equilibrium and restore normal service to all its functions. The racist whites made no bones about the contempt they entertained for blacks, so their brains weren’t overtaxed at all when they talked with them.

Surely, these are the kind of explorations that should most fascinate and challenge Christians like ourselves. After all we inherit thousands of years of meditation on human experience, and scripture itself is a rich resource of reflection about the conviction that reliance on outer behavior alone to judge the condition of the heart is sheer folly. God is the one that sees through, sees into, sees behind the appearances many human beings can keep up. Episcopalians should be specially concerned since, generally speaking, we entertain a rather Anglo-Saxon devotion to good manners and correct appearances. Our standards of respectful behavior are fairly high, and when we embrace enthusiastically all sorts of slogans about inclusiveness and equality it can easily seem—at least to the white majority—that the work of purging the church of racism has been almost achieved. Actually, though the worst outrages might have diminished, the real work has only started. There is a vast difference between the ability to perform as if we regard one another as equals and relationships based on a far more profound change: conversion, what the prophetic tradition of scripture calls getting a new heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone, and a new Spirit.

Primarily because I am in an interracial partnership I’m keenly aware that it is a matter of conversion not cosmetics. Before I moved to Washington, I had taken the excellent anti-racism training our Church offers. I had been on the board of a non-profit dedicated to supporting inner-city youth, mainly black. I’d thought it had registered when black friends told me that they had come to expect on average about ten put downs a day from white folk. I could talk about the unearned privileges of being white. But it was only by actually being taken into friendships, into social networks, by many African Americans, and embarking on a partnership with an African American, that I really started exploring the reality of racism, beginning with my own. Of course, I could behave with superb manners to black folk, but what good were these if they successfully masked engrained attitudes, ways I was wired? Thus started a spiritual adventure of unlearning, rewiring, facing fears, listening for things I had never heard, sensing things I had never realized, jettisoning things I had thought were part of the fabric of reality and now know to be obscene deceptions.

The protocols of political correctness are worse than useless if they merely make people more adept in censoring inner negativity. They can deter us from dealing with the endemic affliction of the heart, our very brains that wired themselves to correspond to society’s perversions and made themselves recruits for reinforcing and transmitting them. Instead, we should be digging deep wells into our scriptural spirituality that really does insist that in order for a person to be in Christ, in order for there to be a new creation, the old has to pass away. Our polite, predominantly middle class religious culture doesn’t find the radical language of Paul to its taste at all, but I have never been more profoundly convinced that there we must stop avoiding his robust language about the pain involved in separating ourselves from the prerogatives of power: “I have been crucified with Christ.” And those of us who have enjoyed the majority’s unearned privileges need the insight that our built in sense of superiority can’t be just adjusted or ameliorated. It needs crucifying for our new humanity to emerge from within.

Martin L. Smith is a well-known spiritual writer and priest. He is the senior associate rector at St. Columba’s in Washington, D.C.

Why I am an Anglican

By Kit Carlson

For many years, I was a serious Anglophile. I loved being an Episcopalian, because we talked like Thomas Cranmer every single week (at least until the 1979 revision of the Prayer Book). I was obsessed with the Masterpiece Theater series on Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and the connection between my local church and the its convulsive beginnings in the 15th Century was really powerful for me.

As I got older, I drifted in and out of churches. As a young 20-ish woman, there was nothing that spoke to me in most Sunday services. But on All Saints Sunday 1986, my husband and I wandered into Our Saviour Episcopal Church, just next to the Beltway in suburban Maryland. We had relocated to Silver Spring, I was pregnant with our first child, and I wanted to find a church we could settle down in as a family.

Our Saviour had a pipe organ. And a choir, one that needed a soprano. It worked for me. We joined.

Shortly after, something wonderful began to happen at Our Saviour. It had been founded in the late '50s as a "white flight" church, spun off from another Our Saviour in the Brookland area of Washington when things began to "change" in the neighborhood. But as the 1980s turned into the 1990s, Our Saviour-Hillandale also began to change. Folks started showing up, immigrants from Africa and China and India and the Caribbean.

It was another connection to British history, its history of empire and of conquest. For if once the sun never set on the British Empire, then it also never set on Britain's national church. There were Anglicans all over the world and as they moved to the United States, many of them made their home at Our Saviour.

Harwood Bowman, the founding rector, had planned for Our Saviour to be built next to the Capitol Beltway, then only a dream, because he wanted folks to come to Our Saviour from "all over." Folks were definitely coming to the church from "all over," from places Harwood had never imagined they might come, bringing their culture and customs with them. It became a Pentecostal church ... not the kind that rolls around in the ecstasy of the Spirit, but a church that looks like the feast of Pentecost, when each person heard the good news proclaimed to them in their own language.

Through these changes, Our Saviour flexed, painfully at times, but accommodated the shifts. When I worshipped there last month, for the first time in years (and for the last time for me as a resident of Maryland ...), it was very different and yet the same.

The congregation was more than three-quarters black. But not because the whites fled ... the old-timers were still filling the same pews. The parish had just grown and changed along with them.

The Mother's Union, another exported British tradition, had turned out to make a presentation. In their matching blue dresses and white hats, they claimed their pride of place as a force of feminine leadership. The sermon -- preached by the new young assistant, who is also the parish's pastor to its Latino congregation -- was free-form, delivered from the aisle, and powerful. The music was traditional (with ALL the verses of St. Patrick's Breastplate) and pietistic, with three hymns from LEVAS at communion, sung with great volume and joy. Some people waved their hands in the air. Others silently bowed their heads in prayer. It was my church. It was a homecoming.

Our Saviour is not a perfect parish. It has had its dissensions, its debates, its struggles over what is going on in the wider Communion and what is going on among its own members. But it is a community that has held together through those dissensions and struggles. It is Anglican in all the best definitions of that word ... international, comprehensive, thoughtful, traditional, yet open to the leading of the Spirit.

I am proud to have called it my church home. It has made me the Anglican I am today.

The Rev. Kit Carlson, is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich. She was associate and interim rector at the Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg, Md., for seven years.

On race: trying to sing a new song

By George Clifford

Two recent Supreme Court decisions have ignited fiery discussions about the role of race as a criterion for assigning children to public schools. The decisions, in one case from Louisville and another from Seattle, appear to have largely reversed the landmark 1954 school integration case of Brown vs. Board of Education.

My initial response to the decisions was one of anger. Then I began to reflect on some of the ways in which race issues intersected with my life and ministry.

I performed my first inter-racial marriage in 1980. Eight other clergypersons had declined to officiate because the man was an African-American and the woman a Caucasian. That was in northern Maine. Since then, I have officiated at many inter-racial marriages and learned that such marriages were formerly against the law in some states. Today, in Raleigh, NC, I frequently observe inter-racial couples going unnoticed in restaurants, shops, churches, and elsewhere. This is a different world than in 1954.

In seminary, my advisor was an African-American. In the military, I worked for several African-Americans and had several work for me. Two of my six ecclesiastical superiors have been African-American (including the current Bishop of North Carolina); a third was an Asian-American. When celebrating Holy Eucharist, they drink from the chalice first; in confirmation, they lay hands on the confirmand; they approve the remarriage of divorced persons; and nobody is offended. This is a different world than in 1954.

Thanks be to God for a new song! God, as Peter learned through his vision in Acts 10, loves all people equally, regardless of a person’s race, ethnicity, nationality, or gender. The Civil Rights movement, Supreme Court cases like Brown vs. Board of Education, and important legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 dramatically changed life in the United States. Most, if not all of us, have sung this new song in our life and heard it in the lives of family, friends, neighbors, and communicants.

Yet race is often the “elephant in the room” about which nobody wants to speak. When I preach about racial justice, whether in a predominantly Caucasian or African-American congregation, invariably at least one person will tell me that I was brave for doing so.

Why does the topic of race make people uncomfortable? I suspect there a variety of reasons. For some, the problem is one of guilt, over what not only happened in prior generations but events in their own life. Another source of guilt is recognizing that racial bias and discrimination are un-Christian but still widespread in the U.S. Other people are simply uncomfortable with racially formed identities, their own and that of others.

The truth is that we who sing this new song have a difficulty staying on key and in time. Most forms of blatant racism are gone. Now the prejudice is more subtle. Listening to blacks (as well as women!) in the military tell their stories, I always heard them speak of others singing off key notes. But that is not the whole story. In spite of visible successes, like that of General Colin Powell who retired from the Army as the United States’ senior military officer, disproportionately few blacks serve as commissioned officers and even fewer become senior officers.

The military, in spite of its imperfections, deserves its reputation as one of the nation’s foremost equal opportunity organizations. The proportional lack of black officers stems from not only lingering expressions of racism but also from differences in quality of education, access to education, and other factors over which the military has no control.

White liberals, and even a few blacks, criticized the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he started voicing his opposition to the Vietnam War. He replied that he had to speak – the issues of racism and an unjust war were inherently connected. He received similar criticism when he rightly linked the issues of poverty, education, and racism.

In the United States, race remains inherently connected to most other issues of social justice. For example, mandatory school integration prompted white flight. Busing accelerated parents turning to the ironically named Christian schools and then to home schooling. Fair housing laws have achieved marginal results. Sunday morning remains perhaps the most segregated time of the week.

Discrimination based on race is illegal, as it should be. However, racism, along with other forms of injustice, remains deeply embedded in American culture and therefore contaminates most of us. Long, late night conversations with a friend in college started to open my eyes to some of the ways in which this culture and I were racist. Subsequent reading and conversations have opened my eyes further.

One reason that I answered a call to the priesthood was realizing that changing laws and winning court battles were only the first steps, the easy steps, towards creating a more just society. The hard steps lay in changing hearts and minds, eradicating all forms of discrimination and injustice that are incompatible with the gospel.

Perhaps the recent Supreme Court cases are a disguised gift from God. No longer can school districts view race in isolation from other forms of injustice. To grasp that gift, Christians will need to follow Dr. King’s lead. They will have to engage the political process and push for schools in which the students reflect a cross-section of the larger community’s socio-economic composition. Doing so will more directly and fully address the multi-faceted sin of racism as well as other forms of injustice. Doing so will force people to talk about the elephant in the room, creating the possibility for healing and transformation. Most importantly, doing so will help us to sing this new song that God has give to us with more fervor and more on key.

The Rev. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years. He was the senior Protestant chaplain at the Naval Academy, and the senior chaplain at the Naval Postgraduate School. He taught philosophy at the Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School.

Union of Black Episcopalians gets together in Houston

The Unition of Black Episcopalians wraps up its annual meeting in Houston today. Before the conference began, Carol Barnwell, director of communications for the Diocese of Texas interviewed outgoing UBE president the Rev. Canon Nelson Pinder (see below.) The Houston Chronicle covered Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon at the opening Eucharist, and Betty Conrad Adam followed daily developments on her blog: The Magdalene mystique.


By Carol Barnwell

The Rev. Canon Nelson Pinder, outgoing president of the Union of Black Episcopalians, believes the organization has work to do. “We have profound influence,” he said in an interview during the UBE’s annual conference, held in Houston, Texas, July 2-6. Pinder credits the UBE assistance in the adoption of many General Convention resolutions on human rights as well as women’s ordination. “We helped get women ordained,” he said. “Barbara Harris is the first Anglican woman bishop and she is a UBE member!”

Five women bishops was honored at the conference’s banquet, Thursday evening, celebrating 30 years of women’s ordination, including Harris, along with Bishops Dena Harrison of Texas, Carol Gallagher of Newark, Gayle Harris of Massachusetts and Bavi “Nedi” Rivera of Olympia.

Pinder described the 1000 member UBE as having a multigenerational ministry. It is also multicultural, he said, with people from the Caribbean, Central and South America, the United States and Africa. “We speak English, French, Spanish and many other languages,” Pinder explained.

A retired priest from Florida, Pinder said his vision for UBE has been to “stay spiritual” but he is not afraid to address the hard issues of money. “We need to get to a financial place where we can operate in a healthy manner.

He expects this conference to consider reshaping the UBE and important partnerships with the historical Black Voorhees College in South Carolina and the Diocese of Honduras.

“Any company goes through review and revisions from time to time to find out where they are. We need to see where we are, who we are, that’s part of the necessary retooling,” Pinder said.

Pinder also expects the UBE to discuss issues within the Anglican Communion at their business meeting on Thursday and indeed, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson encouraged the group to make their voice heard, “whatever your position,” during her remarks to the group on Tuesday. While the UBE has no official position on the issues, Pinder said he personally believes African bishops are wrong to cross boundaries. “Until a family can have a good fight, we don’t need referees,” he said.

Pinder hopes the UBE will help more people of color get into places of power in the Church where the money is being spent. I want a structure where any kid can see the possibility of being anything [he/she] wants to be all the way to bishop, whether they are Black, female or speak Spanish,” he said.

He said the group chose Houston for their annual gathering because he likes to move the “big event” around the country to be visible, to support local Black congregations and let them know they are not alone.

Bishop Don Wimberly was delighted to welcome the UBE to the Diocese of Texas. “Although we don’t have many Black clergy,” he said, “it is part of our ongoing vision to improve that situation and further reflect the multicultural community in which we live and minister.” Wimberly supported the conference with a $20,000 grant and members of the local John Epps Chapter of the UBE hosted the conference, held at the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston.

While Sunday’s are the most segregated time of the week, Pinder supports neighborhood churches. “Church, to me, was a training ground [in leadership] … a place to get community news,” he said. And while he believes people should worship where they are comfortable, he believes churches should strive to have multicultural staffs and to meet the neighborhood where they exist.

“The Episcopal Church offers the Black community an exercise in spirituality, an exercise in intellectualism, an exercise in the ability to be a community leader and an exercise in how to serve people,” Pinder said. He admits that recruitment of Blacks for ordained ministry is difficult and said salary is an issue. “A priest brings vision to the people. The people are asked to support that vision through prayer, financially and with their works. Our money belongs to God. It’s the best deal in town,” he said. “Give me 10 percent and you can keep 90 percent. Even the government supports that!”

Leadership development is a key piece for the UBE, which was founded in 1968, Pinder said. “We are a volunteer organization and we need about $125,000 to hire a staff and set up an office. We are gaining technical sense throughout consultations with Voorhees but right now I have a computer and phone at home and one volunteer to keep up with the work,” he said.

Although we are past segregation, Pinder said, “Racism is still with us. We have to deal with it … We are the action group. We can call the Church to be accountable.”

Carol E. Barnwell, communications director of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, is an award winning photographer who writes and edits a monthly newspaper for the diocese's 84,000 plus members. She has served on the press teams of four General Conventions and the 1988 Lambeth Conference, and has covered stories in England, Central America, Africa and Haiti.


All talk

By Steven Charleston

Have you been watching the media recently? If you have, I am sure you have been aware of the triple header from our nation’s campuses: Duke, Rutgers and Virginia Tech. Three major universities. Three major stories. And all involved in different shades of the perennial question of race in America. But what do these stories have in common? What do the good young men of Duke, the good young women of Rutgers, and the lost young man of Virginia all share that can help us discover a message about where this nation is in its efforts to find racial/gender equality?

There is more than one answer, but here is the most obvious: their stories were played out in the media. While the men of Duke were certainly caught up in a legal issue, it was one of those now familiar moments when the lines of distinction between the courtroom and the public media become blurred. Like the O.J. trial, it was a public spectacle as much as a legal proceeding.

In the same way, the women’s team from Rutgers received ten times more coverage from the attack by Don Imus than they did from their pursuit of the national women’s basketball championship. And the tragedy of Virginia Tech has been a media vigil that will stay in the public consciousness for many years to come. The face of a Korean American pointing his guns at the camera is too powerful to be easily forgotten.

White, Black, Asian: the issues of race and justice, race and violence, have become something like reality TV for the American public. But have we stopped watching long enough to notice that all of these news stories are about the outcomes of a broken society, not about its healing?

The Civil Rights movement was the first time that race broke into the media in a meaningful, life changing way. The images of Black marchers being attacked by police dogs or battered by water cannons riveted America, but their true impact was felt in other sectors of our culture, places where change could actually take place. The Civil Rights movement showed America its racism, but it also forced that question into action in our government, our justice system, our schools, our business community. We were not only watching race relations on television, we were translating those images into change where it counted.

Are we still doing that? Or are we content just to watch? Unless all of the images from Rodney King to the Rutgers team can be transformed into systemic change, what ultimate value do they have for us beyond shock value and sorrow? And unless the predictable media figures who always surface as color commentators for these tragedies can be replaced by leadership of the stature of a Martin Luther King, what hope do we have for moving the story from the flat screen into the real centers of power where they can effect genuine change? The answer is troublingly unclear and uncertain. Our will to confront causes more than images is unsure. Our leadership is content to be talking heads. In the meantime, we are watching more than we are doing.

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska, is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School. His daily podcasts are collected at EDS’ Stepping Stones.

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