Reflections on the Big Provincial Gathering

“It was a joy and privilege for me to participate in the Big Provincial Gathering of the Province V of the Episcopal Church and be repeatedly immersed in the blessings, which were sparkling from the simple smile of a friend, little chat I had with some new and old friends I met, warm welcome from hosts and organizers, meals, exhibitors’ booths I visited, keynote speech, workshops, music, and Eucharist celebration.

Dismantling Racism workshops will be my focus in the following lines as I share my takeaway. I was vividly struck by the increasing enthusiasm and dedication that shine through various and diverse activities churches are carrying on in their initiatives to respond to the harm and hurt engendered by racism.

“Finding Common Ground Through Racial Reconciliation” (workshop #12) was presented as part of an initiative of Northern Michigan Diocese, focusing on, among other things, building positive relationships with indigenous communities. After one of the presenters, who happened to be Native American, shared his healing story, a strong voice rose up in the room, asking about how much White Americans are participating in the healing journey of the above mentioned initiative. The voice added that the essence of dismantling racism, or of racial reconciliation, or whichever name the initiative takes should be that of mutual liberation instead of making one feel good, referencing Lila Watson, an Australian Aboriginal woman. That voice received standing applause from the audience.

Mutual liberation, what a profound meaning! How much substance of mutual liberation do we intentionally put in our works towards opposing racial discrimination, marginalization, and social injustices? As one once said, “Liberation is not something to be given, but rather it is a movement.” Is it why every Diocese in our Province V in particular should consider embracing Becoming Beloved Community Initiative as a way to more engage the church with surrounding communities and best tackle the tough challenges? Indeed, it is in Becoming Beloved Community Conversations that people start to humanize each other, identify the problem, and establish trust. ”

— Cn. Adrian Niyongabo, Missioner for Community Engagement, Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana

Province V Becoming Beloved Community Retreat

This past week, Bishop Doug, Canon Adrien, and Canon Terri participated in a Becoming Beloved Community retreat hosted by the Diocese of Ohio and Province V. Watch to video to hear what they gained from the experience.

Becoming Beloved Community Initiative Facilitators Workshop ... coming soon!

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The Becoming Beloved Community Initiative Facilitators workshop, thanks to EDNIN and the ROANRIDGE TRUST, is around the corner as the weekend of March 22-23, 2019 approaches.  Preparations are going on smoothly, and we are looking forward to having a very enjoyable and fruitful time.

Even before attending the coming workshop, we may have some information on racial reconciliation.  Furthermore, we have knowledge of what is the racial situation in our community and how our life and that of other community members is being impacted by the latter. Based on that knowledge, could we think of simple, little actions or initiatives of racial reconciliation that we would hope to see flourishing in our local faith community and neighborhood one day soon? A person once said that “life is good when one is happy, but it is even better when others are happy thanks to us.” To make one’s life better may ask us for one or two things. Let’s look at waving at a neighbor. What about saying hi to a person we cross on a sidewalk? Simple actions such as those are able to impact one’s heart and change one’s life for better.  

Isn’t it heartwarming to be surrounded by people who think about you and show it to you in this or that way? With love and compassion, humans are capable of so many simple actions, which can profoundly impact others’ hearts and therefore transform their view of the community. It is then we will leave those are around us at home, park, church, workplace… with memorable marks. Let us get started in preparing the ground as we look forward to participating in the Becoming Beloved Community Facilitators workshop and waiting on our Lord Jesus Christ in our little actions.

“Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about” said Saint David of Wales. When comes one of those days when we feel burdened and weary in our Becoming Beloved Community Initiative work, let us remember and revisit Saint David of Wales’ wise words. In fact, Mother Teresa reminds us that we cannot do great things, but we can do things with great love.

Pilgrimage: Indiana Lynchings included in the National Memorial for Peace and Justice

A few weeks ago, readers of the New York Times may have noticed a rather moving article about the opening of a new National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Birmingham, Alabama.  The museum is dedicated to the victims of white supremacy in the United States, and its centerpiece is:

a grim cloister, a walkway with 800 weathered steel columns, all hanging from a roof. Etched on each column is the name of an American county and the people who were lynched there, most listed by name, many simply as “unknown.” The columns meet you first at eye level, like the headstones that lynching victims were rarely given. But as you walk, the floor steadily descends; by the end, the columns are all dangling above, leaving you in the position of the callous spectators in old photographs of public lynchings.

We've been talking recently in the Racial Reconciliation Reading Group about the spiritual benefits of going on pilgrimage to sites where significant events have taken place.  Often a visit to such a place can increase our sense of ownership and engagement with the very real people who were involved in such events. In some cases, our response is inspiration; in others, repentance.

If, like me, you wondered whether this new museum might be an appropriate pilgrimage site, you may have wondered whether it focused on the South alone or also took into consideration more than a dozen lynchings that took place here in Indiana. Would a visit to the Birmingham museum call us to repentance or simply reinforce the illusion that racial violence is just a Southern problem? The beginnings of answers to such questions may be found in another article that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and for which our own Bill Munn (Gethsemane, Marion) was interviewed. That article also mentions the Black Halocaust Museum in Milwaukee, which closed its physical doors in 2008 but continues its life as a virtual museum online.

Conversations are currently underway regarding the possibility of a pilgrimage to Birmingham—stay tuned!



“Racial Justice and Your Congregation”

Bishop Sparks attended the “Racial Justice and Your Congregation” workshop offered yesterday by the Center for Congregations. Here are his Facebook comments:

Grateful for the Center for Congregations...especially for the conference today entitled “Racial Justice and Your Congregation”...also grateful for my sisters, Cynthia Moore from St. Andrew’s Valparaiso, Katherine Hadow from St. Christopher’s Crown Point and Judy Gabrys, Patricia Hamilton and Harriet Rincon from St. Timothy’s Griffith. Becoming #Beloved Community!



Discussion Questions for Chapter 3 of No Innocent Bystanders

Craigo-Snell, Shannon and Christopher Doucot. No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Louisville, Presbyterian Publishing: 2017.

February 8, 2018—Chapter 3: Resources for Being an Ally

1. What did you think about Doucot and Craigo-Snell’s description of anger as an expression of hope? What work might you need to do in order to accommodate such an understanding of anger? What beliefs or practices might you need to adjust? 


2. the Rev. Dr. Lewis Brogdon remarks that “It is hard to get allies to even acknowledge that they have a lot of homework to do.” Craigo-Snell and Doucot go on to name some of that homework:

As allies, we must begin by learning about the day-to-day experiences of people who are not in the dominant culture. We must learn how interactions with the police unfold when the person pulled over is African American. We must learn about the obstacles faced by LGBTQ adolescents. We have to, in effect, relearn the world. (77)

What homework do each of us have to do? What opportunities do we have to test our understanding of this homework? How might we adjust our selections as a reading group in order to help us to this homework and testing?


3. Doucot and Craigo-Snell explore the intersection between humility and prudence by saying that:

If the largest part of prudence is to “get our cousins” rather than attempting to “save” those who are oppressed, another part is discerning when the privilege afforded us as members of dominant communities can be leveraged in support of marginalized groups. While allies should not seek the spotlight, it would be foolish to miss an opportunity if we are already in one. (82)

Who are your “cousins”? Where is your “spotlight”?


4. In exploring the virtue of temperance, Craigo-Snell and Doucot observe that:

White people often advocate organizing without realizing that this means some people must be willing to be organized. Or, more likely, without imagining themselves in the role of “organized” rather than “organizer.” Following the leadership of marginalized groups has proved so difficult for allies that an unfortunate philosophy of allyship has emerged that emphasizes the need for allies to “take leadership” from organizers from within the marginalized group with which they are allied. (89-90)

When have you found yourself wanting to organize folks who are unwilling to be organized. What motivations might they have had for resisting your well-meant attempts?

Calling Out Casual Racism

If there's anything that really bothers an Episcopalian, it's the possibility that we're being rude (and yes, I would include using the wrong fork in this category!). So when it comes to calling out our friends and family when we see them engaging in microagression, we find ourselves in a bind: do we violate our "never criticize another person in public" policy or do we let the moment pass in silence, thereby appearing to condone the behavior?

What's microagression, you ask? Microagression is a casual, indirect, and sometimes unintentional act of discrimination. Because microagression often is practiced through condescension, the perpetrator may intend to be kind. That makes calling out the microagressor that much more difficult. Luvvie Ajayi addresses microagression in the Ted Ideas Interview, "Why We Need to Call Out Casual Racism."

In reading Ajayi's interview, I am reminded that we speak of Jesus the one who for our sake was made to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Perhaps this Lent, we likewise need to practice becoming "rude" so as to participate in the greater courtesy of God. 

Discussion Questions for Chapter 2 of No Innocent Bystanders

Craigo-Snell, Shannon and Christopher Doucot. No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Louisville, Presbyterian Publishing: 2017.

February 8, 2018—Chapter 2: "Getting Ready to Be an Ally"

1. Craigo-Snell and Doucot are a Presbyterian and a Roman Catholic respectively. Does their account of sin as “not a negative evaluation of humanity but rather a positive affirmation that we have a God-given vocation to love” match up with what you have been taught to believe about sin and/or what you have actually come to believe? How does their account change the way you think about conversations you’ve been in with regard to race?

2. Doucot and Craigo-Snell describe humanity’s “large-scale make-missing” as a condition in which:

As we grow and develop within such fallen human communities, we are shaped and influenced by them. We learn their prejudices, imbibe their violence, and take on their misshapen values. By the time we are able to make free, individual, moral choices, we do so badly. Our freedom is compromised by our cultural conditioning, our individual choices take place in contexts determined by the larger society, our options are limited by unjust social structures, and even our moral compasses have been poorly calibrated in our sinful world. We retain our individual agency—our capacity to act—yet we are also bound by original sin. (60)

In what way and to what extent does this account tell the story of your own experience of systemic racism? In what way and to what extent does this account fit with your theology of baptism as a sacrament through which God cleanses us from original sin?

3 In what way have you experienced the difference between confessing sin and admitting guilt (62) in your own experience of racism?

4. Where and how do you find yourself called to deploy creativity and faith in “deciding how we go about repairing our societal structures”? (69)

A Journey Towards Becoming Beloved Community with Bishops Bill, Doug, and Jennifer

Bishop Bill Gafken of the Indiana-Kentuck Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, and Bishop Doug Sparks of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana gather to discuss Becoming Beloved Community, a journey of Racial Reconciliation.

Discussion Questions for Chapter 1 of No Innocent Bystanders

Craigo-Snell, Shannon and Christopher Doucot. No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Louisville, Presbyterian Publishing: 2017.

January 25, 2017—Chapter 1: Understanding the Struggles for LGBTQ Equality and Racial Justice

1. Craigo-Snell and Doucot cite Theologian Willie James Jennings in arguing:

that the severing of identity from geography—separating who people are from the land they inhabit—was vital to the social construction of race. Only when large groups of people moved from one place to another—across countries and continents—did it became possible and useful to identify them not primarily on the basis of geographical ties but on the basis of skin color. (30)

Their point is about the history of race as a social construction, but we can also ask this question about the way in which the social construction of race works in our own lives. What roles do either geography (town, school district, etc) or skin color play in your identification of others?

2. Pages 30-37 outline a history we have heard about in other texts we have read. What surprised you in this account? What are you seeing differently than you did a year or so ago?

3 In speaking about segregation, Doucot and Craigo-Snell say that crossing “the boundaries that divide us and seek[ing] out mutual relationships with African Americans . . . does not mean that the ultimate goal of allyship is having more black friends. Because racism is structural and systematic, it cannot be undone without significant changes in policy, law, and concrete practices” (44). How is this statement in tension with church practice as you experience it?

4. How do you see the obstacles of welcome, relationship, classism and guilt at work in your own experience? Do they work differently for LGBTQ issues than they do for racial issues?


Discussion Questions for Forward and Introduction of No Innocent Bystanders

Craigo-Snell, Shannon and Christopher Doucot. No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Louisville, Presbyterian Publishing: 2017.

January 11, 2017—Forward and Introduction

1. When the Young Men’s Leadership Group from Hillhouse High School speaks at nearby Yale University, “What can Yale students to do help you?” is the first question they receive. How did you feel when the question was met with “stone faced” silence? How did you feel when the Hillhouse students began to respond?

2. How did you feel when Shriver reported that “Some of those leadership group young men went on to college, and some finished high school. But some ended up in jail too: the odds against them didn’t change much because of our group”? Were you expecting a happy ending? Why or why not?

3. Craigo-Snell and Doucot remark that:

many white people in the United States—particularly those who are middle-class—have found that stepping into the role of ally in the movement for LGBTQ liberation is easier than stepping into a similar role in the movement for racial justice. (3)

Has that fit your own experience here in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana? When have you found yourself tempted into “appalling silence” with regard to either issue?

4. How helpful is the privilege of car ownership as a lens through which to view systemic racism?

5. What was your reaction to encountering a discussion of grace in the midst of a conversation about systemic racism?

6. A number of the activists advising on this project expressed concern about the term “ally,” particularly because “the ally has the option to step out of companionship with the minoritized person.” How might we use the problematic nature of the term “ally” as a way of acknowledging our privilege rather than denying it?

Becoming Beloved Community—Advent Study

Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace be with you in Jesus, the Light for all people!
Are you willing to prepare to Become the Beloved Community? This is an initiative adopted by the Episcopal Church focused on Racial Reconciliation and Justice. A Four Week Advent Program has been prepared for our use and I invite you to join me on one of these Thursday evenings.
Here is the schedule, theme and meeting place and time:
Thursday, 30 November- Telling the Truth about our Churches and Race
St. Augustine's in Gary at 7 p.m.
Thursday, 7 December- Proclaiming the Dream of Beloved Community
Gethsemane in Marion at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, 14 December- Practicing the Way of Love in the Pattern of Jesus
Holy Trinity in South Bend at 7 p.m.
Thursday, 21 December- Repairing the Breach in Institutions and Society
Trinity in Fort Wayne at 7 p.m.
Plan to set aside at least 45 minutes for each conversation. Look for an Advent Calendar to arrive at your faith community soon. You will find a printer-friendly resources and alternative activities at
+Bishop Doug