The Episcopal Church and Slavery Atonement, written by Linda Klimach
As the four Sacred Ground circles completed our 10 week study and dialogue series on race and racism, we learned that the 75th Episcopal General Convention (2006) had debated and passed a resolution (2006-A123) on Slavery and Racial Reconciliation. This came as a surprise to me and I present here information about it for those others who were not aware of it.
The 2006 General Convention Journal reports that Resolution 2006-A123 was first taken up by the House of Bishops on Day 4 of the convention where the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs presented a report on Slavery and Racial Reconciliation. Following several amendments it was adopted and passed on to the House of Deputies. There, on the last day of the convention, after floor debate was closed, it was passed by voice vote.
The resolution began with 4 sections in which The Episcopal Church resolved:
- that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church declare unequivocally that the institution of slavery in the United States and anywhere else in the world, based as it is on “ownership” of some persons by other persons, was and is a sin and a fundamental betrayal of the humanity of all persons who were involved, a sin that continues to plague our common life in the Church and our culture;
- that The Episcopal Church acknowledge its history of participation in this sin and the deep and lasting injury which the institution of slavery and its aftermath have inflicted on society and on the Church;
- that we express our most profound regret that (a) The Episcopal Church lent the institution of slavery its support and justification based on Scripture, and (b) after slavery was formally abolished, The Episcopal Church continued for at least a century to support de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination;
- that The Episcopal Church apologize for its complicity in and the injury done by the institution of slavery and its aftermath; we repent of this sin and ask God’s grace and forgiveness;
It further contained sections that, through the Executive Council, The Episcopal Church:
- urgently initiate a comprehensive program and urge every Diocese to collect and document during the next triennium [3 years] detailed information in its community on
(a) the complicity of The Episcopal Church in the institution of slavery and in the subsequent history of segregation and discrimination and
(b) the economic benefits The Episcopal Church derived from the institution of slavery
- direct the Committee on Anti-Racism to monitor this program and report to Executive Council each year by March 31 on the progress in each Diocese
- report to 76th General Convention, on how the Church can be “the repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12), both materially and relationally, and achieve the spiritual healing and reconciliation that will lead us to a new life in Christ.
Finally it directed that to mark the commencement of this program, the Presiding Bishop is requested to name a Day of Repentance and on that day to hold a Service of Repentance at the National Cathedral, and each Diocese is requested to hold a similar service.
The Sacred Ground material covering this action of the 75th General Convention was a video, “Repairing the Breach: The Episcopal Church and Slavery Atonement”, produced by Katrina C. Browne, showing some of the debate in the House of Deputies, the final vote, and portions of the Service of Repentance held on October 4, 2008 at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas (Absalom Jones’ church) in Philadelphia. This video is available free for viewing at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/tracesofthetrade/342060868.
The 2009 (76th) General Convention Journal reports that Resolution 2009-A147 was adopted to extend Resolution 2006-A123 through the 2013-2015 triennium, to encourage each diocese to continue over the next six years to gather information in its community on complicity in the institution of slavery and subsequent segregation and discrimination, on examples of resistance to slavery and discrimination. and on any economic benefits derived from the transatlantic slave trade and the institution of slavery. This information gathering should be used as the foundation for truth-telling, confession, apology, forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation, and the 76th General Convention requires all participating groups to report their results to the 77th and 78th General Conventions.
Checking with our Diocese (Episcopal Diocese of Michigan – EDOMI) I find that a Service of Repentance was held on October 29, 2009, and that numerous activities and workshops addressing Reconciliation, Diversity and Inclusion have been held in the years since under both Bishop Gibbs and Bishop Perry.