The older I get, the more I realize how much I still have to learn. Living with a lovely dorm of college girls, I am often amazed at how confident they are, how sure they are of their knowledge and understanding. I remember those days of thinking I knew a lot, too. Now, it seems that the more I learn, the more questions I have. I was thinking about this as I did my homework for the Anglican theology class I’m taking through CDSP. This week our reading are focused on “the dignity of every human being” from our Baptismal Covenant. The first reading was “The House of Bishops Pastoral Letter on Sin of Racism” published in 1994 (http://www.episcopalarchives.org/Afro-Anglican_history/exhibit/pdf/awakening_pastoralletter.pdf) and the second was “The Sin of Racism: a Call to Covenant” from the House of Bishops in 2006 (http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/3577_73047_ENG_HTM.htm). If you’ve not read these, they are definitely worth your time. What struck me first was how timely this assignment is for the Church today. We still have a long way to go to bring healing and reconciliation for all – and I can honestly say that for me, I still have a lot to learn.
You probably recall that Bishop Gibbs designated last year’s Diocesan Convention theme the “Waters of Reconciliation: Race Relations and Diversity” which would then begin a year of study and reflection for our Household. Our Ministry Fair this year (May 7th – mark your calendars!) will continue that conversation. The founder of Thistle Farms, the Rev. Becca Stevens, will be our keynote speaker. Thistle Farms is an inspiring ministry that has brought together a powerful community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. We’ll have more to say about the fine work of Thistle Farms in the weeks to come but, for now, you can read more about this ministry here – http://thistlefarms.org/ Besides the presentation by Becca, all of the workshops will be related to the theme of reconciliation and how we might live into the 5 Marks of Mission:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
One of the resolutions from last year’s General Convention fits right in:
A183: Recommended Book Study of the New Triennium: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarnciration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church encourage all dioceses, congregations, schools, and other faith communities of The Episcopal Church over the next triennium to commit to studying one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time, “mass incarceration,” and be it further
Resolved, That dioceses, congregations, schools, and other faith communities consider using the New York Times bestseller, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness” by Michelle Alexander as a common text that invites the people of The Episcopal Church into engagement; and be it further
Resolved, That Convention acknowledge that each Diocese in the U.S. and in the other 16 countries of The Episcopal Church may have different circumstances and disparities in the imprisonment of its racial and ethnic minorities when compared to its dominant population and therefore should adapt this triennial study to its unique circumstances by identifying and developing additional resources to address same, be it further
Resolved, That the Church instruct the DFMS Justice and Advocacy Ministry Team and the DFMS Diversity Ministry Team to work together to compile and distribute to Dioceses and make easily accessible on The Episcopal Church website a tool kit of relevant study and discussion guides; print, and video, and Internet resource materials; and other information.
And so, the EDOMI Book Club is born!! We will be hosting a workshop discussion of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness at Ministry Fair. The Resolution Review Committee of Diocesan Council and friends will be facilitating the conversation and we are excited to have you join us! Please read this best seller before you come, if you are able, and be prepared to join in a lively and productive discussion. You can purchase this book at your local bookstore or on-line (here’s Amazon’s link – http://www.amazon.com/New-Jim-Crow-Incarceration-Colorblindness/dp/1595586431/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457021989&sr=1-1&keywords=the+new+jim+crow ).
Just to get you started thinking, here’s some background information that caught my attention: “With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. incarcerates almost twenty-five percent of the world’s imprisoned population. A major contributor to our highly disproportionate imprisonment rates by race has been the politically inspired ‘war on drugs.’ And a major outcome of this ‘war’ has been the immoral imprisoning of Blacks and Latinos at dramatically higher rates than Whites despite research that consistently shows Black and Whites use drugs at the same rates,” according to the ACLU and Amnesty International.
It’s time for all of us to become informed and seek justice for all people. There cannot be healing and reconciliation until we are ready to work for change in a failed system. I’m ready to learn more and find out what I can do. Are you?
Let us pray –
O God of peace and healing,
We come before you feeling powerless to stop the hatred that divides races and nations.
We come before you saddened and angered by the denial of human rights in our land.
We come before you with wounds deep in our hearts that we long to have healed.
We come before you with struggles in our personal lives that it seems will not go way.
And we pray Lord, How long?
How long to peace?
And we hear, “Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
How long for racial justice? “Not long, because no lie can live forever.”
How long for our wounded hearts? Not long, I call you by name, you are with me; you are mine.
How long for our struggles? Not long, for my grace is sufficient. I hold you in my everlasting arms beneath which you cannot fall.
How long for the healing of what is broken inside and all around us? Not long, for we shall overcome, together in partnership, human holy partnership, we shall overcome.
Written by Larry Reimer and found among the collected prayers in Race and Prayer, edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester Talton
~ The Rev Deacon Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee