MPs of color organize for change in Episcopal Church, society ahead of General Convention – Episcopal News Service


Members of MPs of color pose for a photo with leaders from across the Church at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas, in July 2018. Photo: Lynn Collins

[Episcopal News Service] A group of episcopal clergy and lay leaders who are self-organizing as MPs of color will launch their preparations for the 1980s.e General convention on September 25 with an online conference for these MPs focused on “telling the truth”, sharing their various experiences with racism in the church and in society.

The MPs of Color are a standing umbrella group that combines the church’s four main ethnic caucuses: Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx. Together, these caucuses total more than 170 members – a large majority of the church’s estimated 230 MPs of color in total – and many of them will be first-time MPs when they arrive in Baltimore, Maryland, in July. 2022 for the General Convention.

One of the main goals of bringing ethnic caucuses together as MPs of color is to “change the Episcopal Church,” said Byron Rushing, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and longtime lay leader of the Diocese of Massachusetts . Rushing will be one of the presenters for the September 25 webinar, which will not be open to the general public.

“The Episcopal Church would never talk about racism if it weren’t for people of color in their faces,” Rushing said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. The black caucus has been organizing for change in the church since the 1960s, he said, and coordination with other caucuses can amplify any voice. “We try to talk to each other to understand each other, so that we can generally support each other in their specific resolutions.”

MPs of color also help prepare new MPs to understand how the General Convention works and navigate the legislative process. They can learn the basics at a “General Convention 101” workshop to be held online on October 9, with the participation of Rushing; the Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies; and Reverend Michael Barlowe, Secretary of the General Convention. This workshop will again be offered in Spanish on October 19.

Joe McDaniel, MP for the Central Gulf Coast Diocese and MPs of Color coordinator, said new MPs can also participate in a mentorship program. They will be paired with experienced MPs who will be able to answer questions and offer advice before and through the 1980s.e General convention.

“This will only increase the effectiveness of the entire caucus,” McDaniel told ENS. He is a resident of Pensacola, Florida and a former chair of the Black Caucus. “We will be able to influence the legislation – the resolutions – and also the elections. “

This influence continues to grow. Jennings, while referring to a recent racial justice audit of the episcopal leadership, announced last month that 70% of conventionally colored MPs will sit on legislative committees, making these the youngest and most racially diverse committees in recent history. Of the committee officers, 36% are MPs of color. More than 800 deputies in total are certified to date to attend the General Convention.

“Ensuring that the legislative committees of the Chamber of Deputies represent the full diversity of the Church will not automatically correct the manifestations of structural racism that exist at the General Convention,” Jennings said in a press release. “But I hope that a more diverse leadership and composition of legislative committees will help us make progress in eradicating some of the injustices identified by the racial audit and help the General Convention bring our church closer to the Community. -loved. “

Become a beloved community, the cornerstone of the church’s racial reconciliation initiative, inspired the theme and structure of the September 25 meeting of Colored MPs, which will focus on “Telling the Truth,” one of the four components to Become a beloved community. Rushing and the other three keynote presenters will discuss the experiences of Black Episcopalians, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino / Hispanics.

“All of the different caucuses have a common history of discrimination and racism in America, but we don’t fully understand the unique nature of racism,” McDaniel said. “Our expectation is that we will come out with a better understanding of the horrors of discrimination that each of the respective groups has encountered and still encounter, in America and also in the Episcopal Church.”

Heidi Kim, an episcopal from Minnesota, will share her thoughts on the struggles of Asian Americans against bigotry and violence. The March massacre in the Atlanta, Georgia area of ​​six Asian women drew the nation’s attention to the growing “Stop Asian Hate” movement, and it also underscored that racism is not not a simple black and white binary, Kim said. ENS.

“As we reflect on how we want to defend our own communities,” she said, “what do we want to learn from our brothers and sisters in these other communities so that [that] we all want to disrupt racism? “

Kim, although not an MP, worked with MPs of color in her previous position as the Episcopal Church staff officer for racial reconciliation. She now works as the Director of Talent and Organizational Culture for Minneapolis-based Propel Nonprofits.

“It’s been so crazy the last couple of years,” Kim said – from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and the national dialogue on systemic racism after the police murder of George Floyd to the growing attacks on Americans of Asian origin and the underreported problem of missing and murdered indigenous women.

“I hope our hearts have been broken by these things,” she said. “It’s kind of a time for people who pay attention in a different way.”

Missing Indigenous women is one of the topics Reverend Robert Two Bulls plans to discuss on September 25 in his presentation at the online conference. Two Bulls is a missionary for the Episcopal Church in the Indian Ministry of Labor and Multicultural Ministries in Minnesota.

He will also speak about the “historical trauma” that Indigenous communities still experience today as a result of the boarding system that once separated previous generations of Native American children from their families and promoted their assimilation into white society at the expense of their own. cultures and languages.

The Episcopal Church was connected to at least nine of the 367 residential schools identified by the National Indian Residential Schools Healing Coalition.

“A lot of people don’t really understand or see how it affects us today, these early assimilation practices,” Two Bulls told ENS. “It can be argued that by opening the door to Western educational practices, it has resulted in a kind of slow death of our oral traditions and our view of the world. “

The legacy of these boarding schools is coming under scrutiny this year as the Home Office announced in June that it was launching a comprehensive review of federal residential school policies dating from 1819. The investigation was motivated in part by the discovery of anonymous graves in a former Indian residential school in Canada.

Following their online meetings this fall, MPs of Color will hold an in-person workshop over a weekend in March in Baltimore, to foster personal connections between MPs and finalize a list of legislative priorities for the group when MPs meet. back to General Convention.

Wendy Cañas, co-chair of the Latinx caucus, attends her second general convention as a Member of Parliament for the Diocese of New York. Cañas is Senior Director of St Anne’s Episcopal Church in the South Bronx in New York. She said in an interview with Episcopal News Service that as an immigrant from Honduras, she can relate to the experiences of other MPs in her caucus and MPs of color at large.

“We can come as one body of color and be able to share everything, all the issues that concern us,” said Cañas. “We are fighting for equality within our church, and not just in our church, in the world.”

– David Paulsen is editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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