The Rt Revd Susan Goff has published a letter to the Diocese of Virginia under the heading, “Racism in the Commonwealth – Prayer in the Midst of Pain,” addressing admissions by both the Governor and the Attorney General of Virginia that they have in the past used blackface as a costume. Bishop Goff writes, “The political realities of this current moment in our Commonwealth are complex, but our faith response is not. Out of our own confession and repentance, we can call for the repentance of our leaders.”
The full letter reads:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Two of the three highest elected leaders in our Commonwealth of Virginia are embroiled in scandal right now that touches the painful legacy of racism in our nation. White American culture once not only tolerated white people donning blackface, but embraced it as a form of entertainment. Yet it was always hurtful, demeaning and insulting to people of African descent. What was accepted back then was not acceptable, and it is not acceptable now.
We as people of faith, no matter what our race, gender or ethnicity, promise in our baptismal vows to respect the dignity of every human being. We also know the power of confession, so much so that we engage in the practice regularly. This current scandal provides us an opportunity to examine not only the lives of our political leaders, but to take a close look at our own lives. When have we done or said things that have diminished the dignity of others? In what activities have we engaged that were once accepted, but never acceptable? This scandal invites us to confess the ways we have fallen short of the image of God that is in us and to repent, to turn around and act in a different way.
The political realities of this current moment in our Commonwealth are complex, but our faith response is not. Out of our own confession and repentance, we can call for the repentance of our leaders. Above all, we can and must pray for them, for ourselves, for all who are hurt in any way by this scandal, and for the coming Kingdom of God in which God’s dream of oneness for all humanity will finally be realized.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, page 815)
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, page 824)
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this Commonwealth, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, page 823)
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority