Dear People of the Diocese of Olympia,
Two weeks ago, we released a letter outlining our assumptions and priorities for our shared work of anti-racism. That letter was meant to orient members of our diocese to how leadership are thinking about the sin of racism and how we will respond.
This letter and the Organizational Practices Update (below) describe the first steps we will take together to renew our commitment to rooting out White Supremacy and racism from our common life, worship, and institutional structures of the Diocese of Olympia. What you will find below are only our first steps – and this list is not exhaustive. Instead, you will find practices that we determined could be immediately adopted. You will also find a commitment to listen and change whenever we learn we have committed the sin of racism. We have patterned these new discipleship practices on the spiritual practices in the promises we have already made in our Baptismal Covenant.
“The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:18, BCP p. 657)
White Supremacy is a spiritual problem that divides Christ’s Body against itself. The ideology of White Supremacy has taught some of us that because of our skin color or culture, we are entitled to all of God and society’s benefits, while others should be treated with suspicion. The pain and the suspicion created by members of the church acting in a world filtered through the lens of racism will take us a lot of time to dismantle. As a church, we have injured Black People, Indigenous People, and People of Color as the Diocese of Olympia and as individual Christians. And it will take more than a checklist of anti-racist policy changes to repair that breach.
Instead, we will need to make an account of our sins and the hope that is in us, both individually and collectively. That is not a quick or easy thing to do. And because so much violence and sin have been wrought, it will take time to rebuild trust with those we have hurt as individuals and in a collective sense.
In consultation with leaders around the Episcopal Church and BIPOC (Black People, Indigenous People and People of Color) members of our diocese, we recognize that this work will minimally involve a deliberate three year process of (Year 1) building trust through word and deed, (Year 2) telling the truth about how we have hurt BIPOC neighbors and how we as BIPOC Christians have been hurt by the church, and (Year 3) solemnizing the work with formal Truth and Reconciliation meetings and liturgies.
In the first year we will develop and offer tools to ministers (lay and ordained) and congregations so that they can begin (or continue) having difficult conversations with people they trust and love. Examples might include: Sacred Ground Conversation Groups, book studies, or Fierce Conversations. During that first year, the Office of the Bishop and diocesan leadership will also resource BIPOC members of our diocese to discern how to share the story of how racism has hurt them in a way that does not re-victimize.
In the second year, we will begin confessing our complicity in racism by sharing our stories publicly. We will contract with an independent Truth and Reconciliation Officer (details below) to develop an appropriate and effective structure for that work.
In the third year, we will begin reconciliation efforts in earnest. These may include but are not limited to: public Liturgies of Penitence and Reconciliation, redirection of diocesan assets toward efforts to repair the damage done by our racism, and formalizing any structural changes in the policies or Constitutions and Canons of the Diocese of Olympia.
Over the next few years, we will be doing difficult work that will take time, money, and energy. This is precisely the offering that our Lord and Savior has earned from sinners like us in days such as these. And it is the best way to show our neighbors that we believe that we as individuals and as God’s church can and will be transformed.
Blessings and Peace,
The Rev. Canon Arienne Davison
Canon to the Ordinary
Diocese of Olympia Anti-Racism Response:
Organizational Practices Update
We assume all who represent the Diocese of Olympia as ministers (both lay and ordained people) are committed to Anti-Racism in their spiritual practice and work, including staff, officers, and all canonically commissioned leaders.
We will renew our commitment immediately by observing the following practices.
When we use stories and images of racial violence to tell the story of God’s activity in our diocese and world, we will also include stories and images that model real penitence for the ways our diocese and congregations have participated in and benefitted from systemic violence against Black People, Indigenous People, and People of Color. We will also administratively support review of how people who are members of the racial group(s) depicted and are not members of the Episcopal Church prior to publication experience this balance. When we do not, we will explain what practical considerations shaped our decision and accept spiritual responsibility for our failure.
We will provide platforms for congregations to share and publicize their local response. We expect congregations to respond. And we expect to learn the unique way the Spirit is working in particular places around Western Washington. And we expect that work will be inadequate and will sometimes have the impact of perpetuating racism instead of resisting it. When that happens, we expect congregational leaders to accept spiritual responsibility for their failure.
When we communicate stories about the work of the Body of Christ in the Diocese of Olympia, we will whenever possible include voices from racially, linguistically, and physically underrepresented groups from within the Diocese of Olympia. When we do not, we will explain what practical considerations shaped our decision and accept spiritual responsibility for our failure.
All diocesan leadership bodies will be provided basic orientation to laboring alongside fellow Christians with whom they differ and share much in common. Each body will set goals for its work specific to its canonically charged task at least annually. This work should include interpersonal, procedural, and decision-making components. Every three years, this structure will be reviewed, and new frameworks or programmatic responses will be considered. When we do not, we will explain what practical considerations prevented our compliance with this reasonable request and accept spiritual responsibility for our failure.
Bishop Rickel, in his role as Chief Steward of the Diocese of Olympia will exercise the bishop’s traditional function as the guardian of the faith, unity, discipline and worship of the church to:
- encourage liturgical observance of lament and confession of racism;
- engage in the teaching and preaching from his social position as a White Male Christian from the Southern United States;
- identify reparations both tangible and spiritual we might make with diocesan assets;
- and assume considerable/ultimate pastoral responsibility for the failure to execute the procedures described in this statement.
When Bishop Rickel fails to respect the dignity of every human being, he will accept spiritual responsibility for his failure.
Truth and Reconciliation
The bishop and Standing Committee will contract with an independent Truth and Reconciliation Officer . This officer will be charged with facilitating a Commission to: (1) identify ways the Diocese of Olympia has allowed, participated in, and continues to benefit from systemic racism, (2) developing a process for publicly acknowledging the corporate sin of Racism, and (3) Develop a process for publicly telling stories of how individual and congregational commitments to White Supremacy has injured members of our churches, former members, and our neighbors. This process will culminate in a diocesan observance of Truth Telling and Reconciliation in three years.