As our nation continues to grapple with deeply embedded and systemic racism – particularly evident in the continued murder and acts of violence directed against Black lives – we are all, as representatives of the Body of Christ, rightly looking for ways that we can address this racism in our church, our nation, our communities, and our lives. In addition to the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) to prepare us for working across cultures to resist racism, the Office of the Bishop is in the process of developing a set of anti-racism tools and resources for use by the churches and people of the Diocese of Olympia, under the direction of Bishop Rickel. The Office of the Bishop is committed to the work of anti-racism within our church structures and processes so that we can be transformed more and more into the church that Jesus calls us to be in our Baptismal Covenant. Because the goal of this work is lasting and systemic change within our own lives, our church communities, and the diocese, we are developing these tools methodically and deliberately, based on the following assumptions:
- The canonical and customary practices of the Diocese of Olympia must be interrogated as seriously as our individual conduct for our sins. We look to Jesus Christ and members of his body that have experienced persecution and racial oppression to tell us where to use our energy and the church’s resources to heal the world.
- The traditional spiritual practices of the church ought to be adapted and applied to the spiritual problem of racism. The traditional cultural practices and governance of the church must be reformed.
- Not everyone has the same work. The work of some Christians is different because their experience and capacity to do the work of anti-racism differs. The work of some Christians is different because their social position and ability to coerce other people varies due to institutional and systemic racism.
- We strive for growth and transformation now as anti-racist ministers and trust in Jesus the Christ to complete the process of sanctification.
With these assumptions in mind, we will be developing tools with the following priorities in mind:
- BIPOC Clergy/Ministers: The top priority for our diocesan response is to listen to Black People, Indigenous People, and People of Color (BIPOC) to learn how White Christians in our congregations, as corporate bodies, and as individuals have sinned against their siblings in Christ and stop harming people immediately when we discover we have done so. We will prioritize pastoral care and support of Christians of color in the pews and behind the altar. We recognize that as a predominately White denomination, we will be prioritizing a smaller group of people who do not make up most of our congregations, or who worship in separate ethnic congregations. The first gathering for BIPOC Clergy/Ministers was July 11.
- White Clergy/Ministers who have significant interracial or intercultural experiences: We will offer resources and support to White ministers (lay and ordained) who have demonstrated ability to minister respectfully to people of other racial groups in their professional and personal lives. Because these folks have experience in navigating both the interpersonal and intellectual work of interracial dialogue, they are the ones who should guide us as we discern together what a faithful White Christian response to this moment looks like and then commit to teaching and modeling that for others. These people will be equipped to share in the work of guiding the folks with less experience in talking about racism by facilitating congregational conversations. There will be opportunities for individuals in this group to gather beginning on August 1.
- White ministers who do not have significant experience with interracial or intercultural work but would like to: We will offer resources to White ministers (lay and ordained) who are interested in starting or restarting a discipleship practice of anti-racism. For folks who are reluctant to start because they don’t know where to begin, we will offer intercultural competency training to learn the most effective strategies for growth and to help you gain the skills you need to work effectively with other cultures in your anti-racist discipleship. We will both offer programs and resources produced by the Office of the Bishop. We will also begin identifying which resources might speak to your level of development and racial/social position. There will be opportunities for individuals in this group to gather in late-July. Individuals in this group are also encouraged to begin finding opportunities to have these difficult conversations that require a high level of trust within their own congregational family. You can find potential resources on our Racial Equity Resources Reading List, and a framework for conversation can be found through the Sacred Ground Resources put out by The Episcopal Church.
If you have any questions about this work, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will make sure that your questions are answered by the most appropriate member of your diocesan staff.
The Rev. Canon Arienne Davison
Canon to the Ordinary