Racial Justice and Reconciliation

Dear Friends,

Like many of you, for me these past weeks and months have been a giddying combination of energy, exhaustion, hope and despair. Brutality, oppression, and violence towards people of color in America is not new. As a woman of color in America, racism is certainly not new to me. One of the scariest moments I’ve experienced in this country was when a man screamed at me in the street, unprovoked, telling me to ‘go back to where you came from’. This idea that a group of people can be unbelonging, underserving and unworthy, is at the heart of America’s racist soul. As followers of Jesus Christ, a man who repeatedly took the side of the oppressed and aligned himself with the outcasts and unprivileged of the world– we have to ask ourselves – how can we allow this to continue?

This moment in history like many before it is an opportunity to change something. This is a moment ripe for listening, learning and repenting. And so I invite you to consume this issue of Vestry Papers that brings together voices from across the Church speaking bold truth on the theme of racial justice, healing and reconciliation. I encourage you to sit with the powerful words and ideas. We have so much work to do – let us listen, learn and work together on this journey.

We live in a country that has been organized to ensure the systemic diminishment and elimination of people of color. In America, Why Can’t you Stop Killing Us? Canon Stephanie Spellers invites us to take the first step on the path to liberation – powerful truth telling. This article is available in English and Spanish.

The alienation of America from its soul is at the root of normalizing dehumanizing and violence against black lives. In Do We Want to Be White, Or Do We Want to be Church? Dean Kelly Brown Douglas asks communities of faith to lead this country back to its soul by setting an example through repentant truth-telling and restorative letting-go. This article is available in English and Spanish.

What does an honest conversation about repairing the breach entail? In Do You Really Want to Talk About Reparations?, Catherine Meeks challenges us think beyond monetary offerings alone, and start by having hard conversations about the systems that needs to be dismantled and rebuilt for justice to be delivered. This article is available in English and Spanish.

How does our theology legitimize or subvert power structures in society? In Act of Protest, Act of Faith, Philip Peacock describes the radical stance on apartheid taken by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and explains why God is always on the side of the oppressed.

Racial reconciliation can begin only when we truthfully encounter and examine our history. In Christ Beyond the Pale, Jemonde Taylor reflects on the theological roots of racism and discrimination and examines what it means to be formed by grace.

How do we respond when those who look and speak differently knock on our door? When two Swahili-speaking refugee families from Congo arrived at Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, Texas, in 2013, the community’s first response was to help with their physical needs. In Breaking Down Walls, David Romanik shares the process of discernment and the practical steps that followed as they shifted their focus to bringing God’s purpose for the community to life.

Our August issue will continue this focus on racial justice and reconciliation. We will hear the voices of more people of color in our Church, including those of Asian and Native Americans, as we delve further into these important conversations. ECF is also working to curate helpful resources on racial justice, healing and reconciliation on Vital Practices. Keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks! If you have a relevant resource to share, please send it to editor@episcopalfoundation.org. If you are looking for a specific resource, please email us and we will do our best to point you to it or connect you with a person who can help.

To learn more about ECF and our programs, please visit our website.

Faithfully,

Charis Bhagianathan
Editor, ECFVP