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Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday

Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Gay Jennings have written to the church asking all Episcopal congregations to join in a day of prayer for racial justice and reconciliation this Sunday.

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

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

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

Read the entire letter, with links to suggested resources and prayers for use on Sunday, here.

Photo credit: Emanuel AME Church.


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Vincent Harris

Philip: I pray that your belief (hope) is a correct assessment of the current situation.

Vincent Harris

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth.” It will be interesting to see how these resolutions, and there have been many of them dealing with this issue in the past, will be implemented or, if you will, incarnated in the life of this church and the society at large.

Philip B. Spivey

Vincent: This a beautiful (oft quoted) quote and especially appropriate here. I believe making the Word, flesh, as a rule, has been our greatest stumbling block as Christians. Especially so when it comes to matters of class, gender and race privilege.

I share your concerns and there’s reason to believe, based on history, that these resolutions may have a brief shelf-life, too. That said, I now do believe (hope) that the church membership has evolved to be less passive and more vocal about social justice issues—both on the right and the left. This public “schism” is fundamentally good for our church and bad for patriarchy. I don’t think the church will have an easy a time back-sliding on social justice commitments to women, gender and orientation diversity and to people of color; for a fact, people of color and their allies will not let it go again until the job is finished. It’s a dirty job, but some–Christian–body’s got to do it.

Ann Gaillard

Thanks to both Philip and Marshall!

Cynthia Katsarelis


Marshall Scott

Philip, I agree that action is better. To that end, I would commend A182 Using Education, Community Dialogue and Internal Audit to Respond to All Forms of Racial Injustice and A183 Recommended Book Study of the Triennium: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010/2012), as well as A011 Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform Study and Advocacy. All three of these resolutions passed at this most recent General Convention include specific suggestions that individual dioceses, congregations, and individuals might take. The idea was not that anyone would try to take all the suggestions, but that each diocese and congregation (or individual) taking on one and taking it seriously would make a significant cumulative difference in our awareness and behavior over the next triennium.

Philip B. Spivey

Thanks for this heads-up, Marshall. Convention appears to have taken the words right out of my mouth. I wasn’t aware of these resolutions –should I have been?

The three resolutions appear to capture the letter and spirit of my recommendations. Now let’s take it (verb) to the next level church: disseminating; planning; implementing. A trinity of verbs.

Philip B. Spivey

Re: Marshall’s contributions to the three resolutions noted about: Thank you, Marshall, for a job exceptionally well done. These resolutions provide essential ingredients for the meat-and-potatoes of anti-racism mission.

I agree with you, and know through personal experience, that an intended torrent of Good News from Convention can slow to a trickle pretty fast. The rapture of the deputies doesn’t always translate to a parish, unless the parishes have a stake in the outcome.

I believe bishops would provide the most convenient and effective conduit between Convention and and the parishes in matters of urgency.

Marshall Scott

Philip, I was aware of them because I served on the relevant legislative committee. They passed (I think in all three cases) as part of the Consent Agenda, and so weren’t discussed in detail outside the committee. However, it was the specific intent of the committee that there be such specific suggestions. We all felt (and most notably the persons of color on the committee) that we’d had enough of vague intentions, however well expressed.

Now, my hope is that parish clergy will take an interest in educating parishioners that the General Convention did indeed have these suggestions. For me, that is where the communication breaks down; and where the perception begins that General Convention is somehow far away and irrelevant.

Philip B. Spivey

Prayer is fine; discussion is fine; consciousness raising is fine; symbolic gestures of support are fine. Action is better.

I wish our church would hold itself to a much higher standard. We say the right things at the right times (kudos for that–not everyone does), but where’s the beef? Where are the deliverables behind the words, sentiments and gestures.

What might these deliverables look like? A larger segment of
our church leaders who, on a regular basis, publicly confront blatant injustice not only when these injustices reach the headlines, but every day. On a tacit rota, our leaders would seek opportunities and take turns—in the press, on television, social media or any other appropriate outlets of public expression to bring the Good News. They can bring gravitas —and moral authority—to such topics as as voter suppression; gun control; divestment in the Black communities; economic racism; law enforcement abuses and judicial bias—for starters. There are no dearth of topics re: social justice; pick your meme. This is the Good News in action.

Too political? Taking sides? I would hope so. Fostering justice (the noun) requires that we take a public stand and be held accountable by our actions, for our words.

Pronouncements from pulpit are not enough. Until we witness God’s Kingdom here on earth, Justice will remain a verb. Our greatest agents of social change not only preached, they marched, they agitated and did their darnedest to upset the status quo—in good weather, and in bad.

We can hide-out in the safety of the Upper Room, or we can go out and proclaim the Good News (the verb). It’s a choice.

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