June 12, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
I and the other bishops of the Episcopal Church in Northern California (Diocese of California, Northern California, San Joaquin, and El Camino Real) received the statement below from the Northern California/Vivian Traylor chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) on June 10. We in the Diocese of California have already published the statement in our online Diocesan News and Events.
I am writing today to be clear that I personally, as Bishop of the Diocese of California, endorse this statement. Though I issued (Tuesday, June 2) a statement on structural racism and the President’s threats to use U.S. military in our states and cities to quell protest, I feel my endorsement of the UBE statement is even more important. This clear, strong, grounded, and heartfelt statement leads our way forward, and I am committed to engaging with the UBE in this work.
While injustice in our country and in the world have been in plain sight from the first moments of colonization in this land, I do sense, with many, that we have reached the verge of genuine, widespread, and, by our faithful commitment, lasting change. I will work with UBE to enact the areas of resolve in their statement and ask you to join me in this undertaking. The thunderous, prophetic call, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream” (Amos 5:24) is both our petition to the Divine, and God’s call to us. Let us so pray and so act.
Northern California/ Vivian Traylor Chapter’s position on the eradication of racism in the Church and society
The Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE), whose members are of African descent, has fought to eradicate racism for over 200 years by encouraging the involvement of Black people in the total life of the Episcopal Church — on every level and in every way — stewardship, evangelism, education, leadership, governance, and politics. We have stridently worked to dismantle power structures within the Church and in society that have gone askew. Today as members of African descent in the Episcopal Church, we are deeply hurt, gravely offended, and morally wounded by the unconscionable acts and senseless and horrific killings in the first half of 2020 of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, in addition to the many other Black and Brown people who have been unjustly victimized and murdered by the police; those who are charged with protecting, helping, and serving our communities. It has been a collective awakening for us, the Church, and society as a whole.
Recognizing that history cannot be undone and that we must move forward working for change, we invite all members of the Episcopal Church to join us in the fight to eradicate the systemic racism that has plagued our country and the Church. Eradicating racism in the Church is UBE’s charge, but it is not, and cannot be, solely our responsibility. Our Chapter of UBE has established the following goals with that aim in mind:
- Identifying and exposing structures of racism where they exist within the Church and society. We must confront and root out racism, racial injustice, racial bias, and racial inequities wherever it exists — in the Church, our communities, our workplaces, and our homes. This is the responsibility of everyone in the Church. Our white brothers and sisters in Christ also have to educate and inform themselves about the ways racism is perpetuated in the Church and actively partner with UBE to eradicate these structures. We need to require that everyone who serves in the Church, lay or ordained, take an oath to confront this issue and work for change;
- Seeking removal of such racist structures. We must educate the Church and our members, and advocate for the dismantling of racist structures, organizations, programs, both within and outside of the Church;
- Promoting and increasing the representation and participation of lay and ordained persons of color on all governing bodies of local churches and in dioceses. We must honestly and clearly establish policies that ensure the selection of lay and ordained persons of all racial, gender and sexual backgrounds so that we achieve equity and inclusion.
- Providing a safe and comfortable place for people of the African diaspora to interact and fellowship with each other. We must recognize that having a diverse and inclusive church enriches the Church and grows our mutual appreciation and understanding of the many parts that make up the whole body of Christ.
We believe that it is imperative that the Episcopal Dioceses in Northern California: California, El Camino Real, Northern California and San Joaquin join us in working not only to achieve the UBE goals but also to create better communities, state and nation by:
- Creating safe and whole communities for all. Everyone should live in a community where they have good, safe, and healthy access to housing, schools, health care, libraries, open spaces and parks, transportation, and religious institutions so they can thrive. No one should be forced to live in an environment riddled by drugs, crime, poor schools, inadequate housing, lack of services and being over-policed. We call for the redistribution of police resources and the reinvestment of those resources into needed community resources and services to achieve this goal.
- Using our voices, our churches, our collective power and resources to demand social change and the end of systemic racism that permeates every sector of our society. We must change the current system which leads to racial, economic, physical, environmental, and social inequities in the form of poor housing; lack of adequate transportation, health care, and childcare; poor performing schools; food deserts; limited access to services and over policing. These conditions adversely impact the majority of Black and Brown people, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ultimately impacts our larger communities, the state, and this nation.
- Supporting the rights of organizations and movements to peacefully protest and advocate for a just and equitable society free of racism, oppression, suppression and unjust acts. Collectively using our power, our resources and voices to eradicate racism, inequity, and injustice and support and promote movements working for unity, peace, hope, dignity and justice for all.
- Calling for the end of “qualified immunity,” This legislation has shielded officials from the unforeseeable consequences of their “reasonable acts” and now provides near-impunity for police officers who engage in unconstitutional acts of violence.
- Adopting Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community”. This would be an extension of the Jesus Movement and The Way of Love platforms of the Church. By using the “Beloved Community” tenets and lens to guide Church decisions, programs and allocations, we would ensure that the Church, by its actions, supports: all people sharing in the wealth of the earth; poverty, hunger and homelessness are not tolerated or allowed because it conflicts with human standards for decency; racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice are replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood: and that economic and social justice are the pillars of a healthy society where everyone has equal access and equity.