Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral took part in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Saturday, and then preached a sermon on Sunday in which he said it was time for the cathedral to confront its own institutionalized racism. An excerpt:
As a straight white man, I am coming to understand how much of my life has been lived under the protective canopy of privileges I have not earned. As one who now has led four prestigious Episcopal Church institutions (two large parishes, a seminary, and now this cathedral) I am increasingly aware of how—from our histories to our demographics to our hiring practices and investment policies—we are enmeshed in the institutional racism that we decry so vocally when we observe it in others. It is meaningless for me to criticize the Supreme Court, the voter identification laws proposed around the country, or the decisions of mostly-white juries when I have not examined, confessed, and changed the sinful practices of the institutions I both lead and serve.
Talk, as they say, is cheap. As Jesus asked, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” [Matthew 7:3] As he goes on to advise, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” [Matthew 7:5]
Friends, what we have here is a very big log in our eyes. Our problem is not the racism of any one individual, because racism is not only personal. It is also interpersonal, institutional, and social. This fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech and the march that occasioned it demands that we take an inventory of ourselves yes personally, but also interpersonally, institutionally, and socially. What does it mean to belong to an 86% white denomination when, by 2040, there will be no one majority race or ethnic group in America? What does it mean to call ourselves the “National” Cathedral when we confine our ministry to the whitest and most privileged quadrant of the District of Columbia? How can we live into the dream articulated by Dr. King when the evils we face in 2013 are so much more insidious than they were in 1963? The enemy back then looked and acted like Lester Maddox and Bull Connor. The enemy today looks and acts very much like you and me.
On behalf of Washington National Cathedral, I pledge today to initiate a process of cathedral self-examination, renewal, and reform, seeking to explore the racism inherent in our worship, ministry, staffing, and governance. We will always suffer from the legacy of racism that infects our culture and our relationships. But we can commit ourselves to act in new ways—ways that reflect the inclusive, gathering, indiscriminate love of God in Christ.
How can our church, both on the local and international levels, begin to root out institutionalized racism?