Racial Reconciliation

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!
— https://www.facebook.com/ednin.org/



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.