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Work continues on the 'sin of racism'

By Richelle Thompson
[Episcopal News Service] 

The work toward eradicating the sin of racism continues at the 74th General Convention.

Committee members of Social and Urban Affairs voted unanimously Wednesday to send to the House of Deputies an amended resolution A010, which calls on the church to continue anti-racism training and to reaffirm its “historic commitment to eradicate racial injustice in the Church and in secular society.”

“I believe this is the most important unfinished business our church has to deal with,’’ said the Rev. Randy Dales of New Hampshire and a committee co-chair.

Committee members listened to the testimony Tuesday night of a dozen witnesses from throughout the church about the progress -- and failures -- of fighting racism.

“It’s important to keep this in front of the church,’’ said Garfield Stuart, an alternate from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. “Very often, we still exist in denial, saying racism doesn’t happen if we have one or two friends who are black or there are a couple of black families in our church. Most church leadership still hasn’t participated [in the anti-racism training] and continues to find excuses not to.”

Several of the witnesses asked the committee to put more accountability into the resolution.

“I’d like to see more teeth in the resolution,’’ said Edward Cahill, an alternate from the Diocese of East Texas. “Racism is still a major problem in the south -- and in the north.”

The anti-racism subcommittee responded with an amendment to the resolution requiring anti-racism training -- or a pledge to complete it within a year of appointment -- by all people seeking election or appointment to the several standing commissions, other committees of Executive Council, related boards and auxiliary organizations.

During the hearing, Jayne Oasin, the social justice officer on the Church Center staff, recommended all dioceses make anti-racism training a part of their diocesan canons. Some already have taken key steps to incorporate the training into the fabric of the diocese, such as requiring search committees to participate in anti-racism education.

“An anti-racism course is not a vaccination,” cautioned Betty Hart, the Province III Anti-Racism Coordinator. “It is an ongoing conversation in our lives."

In other business, the committee approved sending an amended resolution (A008) concerning the repeal of mandatory federal sentencing guidelines to the House of Deputies for consideration. The amended resolution combines A008 and A127, which also concerns mandatory sentencing, and reads, “the 74th General Convention urges the Congress of the United States to repeal the mandatory federal sentencing guidelines used in federal criminal matters and directs the Office of Government Relations to work for such repeal in order to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing offenders, and to overcome the current racially discriminatory impact of these guidelines."

The committee also heard spirited testimony Wednesday about stem cell research resolutions (A014, C020 and C021). The subcommittee is working to merge the three resolutions and offer amendments. Other hearings included Ministry to Prisoners and their Families (A125); Youth Charged and Convicted as Adults (A126);  Labor: The Working Poor (C030); and Stewardship: The Protection of Animals from Cruel Treatment (D016). The resolutions were referred back to subcommittees for further consideration.