Racial Justice Commission spotlight: Supporting BIPOC communities and individuals

A reflection from the Racial Justice Commission's Subcommittee on Support for BIPOC Communities and Individuals, spotlighting its priorities and progress

Our overall goal is to change the culture of our diocese and congregations so we are truly the Body of Christ that has an equal place for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals and communities.  We want to partner with congregations and our diocese in accountability to being intentional in nurturing and lifting up BIPOCs, lay or ordained, for leadership roles; ensuring there is diverse representation in leadership roles, lay and ordained;
ensuring that the presence and voice of BIPOCs are a consistent and regular part of our diocesan life together;
actively inviting, supporting and assisting BIPOC laity in discerning their call for ordained vocations; and
having systems, networks or affinity groups in place to provide opportunities for BIPOCs to build community.

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To achieve this, we need collaboration from our congregations.  We are asking clergy and wardens to partner with us to learn how to better support BIPOCs by letting us know who the BIPOC lay individuals are in their congregations and working with us to connect them to existing affinity groups. 

If you are in a majority white congregation, the best ways you can engage are to reach out to our BIPOC Support Subcommittee to ensure support for laity and clergy of color in the congregation; to ensure your faith communities are safe spaces for BIPOCs, lay and ordained; and to identify allies for BIPOCs in your congregation. 

If you are in a congregation of color, we are inviting you to reach out to the subcommittee to ensure appropriate resources and support are available for the congregation.

Inquiries are welcome to the Rev. Diane Wong (dianeckwong@gmail.com).

Antiracism is ongoing work.  We applaud all congregations that have already begun this effort.  You can continue on this journey by: 

  • identifying how microaggressions are operating in the congregation;
  • having an honest conversation about how the congregation resists BIPOC leadership;
  • learning how racism intersects with other forms of discrimination;
  • putting mechanisms in place for clergy and other staff search processes so BIPOC candidates are being considered and treated equally.

For this work to be successful, we will also need to work at the diocesan level to address some key questions: 

  • Why are BIPOC clergy not staying in the diocese?  And, why are BIPOC individuals not attracted to come to the diocese? 
  • How can the Commission on Ministry be more active in inviting BIPOCs for discernment for ordained ministry?  How can the ordination process change to be more supportive of BIPOC aspirants, postulants and candidates? 
  • How do we compile and collect data on BIPOC representation on diocesan committees and commissions, and remedy the disparity? 
  • How do we create sustainable streams of financial support for BIPOC affinity groups?

There is much work to do for our subcommittee.  Racism intersects with other forms of discrimination, which makes antiracism work even more complicated and nebulous.  Everyone in the diocese who is doing the work of antiracism must stay connected--to be a community and support one another, pray for one another and have each other’s back.  

Our work takes inspiration from 1 Corinthians 12:12-17, 20-26, which begins, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”  We know we are moving closer to the reign of God when BIPOC individuals and communities and white allies are in solidarity with one another and looking out for the interests of other groups; when it is not “us” versus “them,” but “we”; when congregations and our diocese collaborate with this subcommittee's plan and goals. 

Racial Justice Commission Subcommittee on BIPOC Support:

Co-Chairs: The Rev. Diane Wong (St. John’s Church, Arlington) and Claudette Hunt (St. Andrew's Church, Ayer)  

Members: The Rev. Dr. Karen Coleman (Boston University and Trinity Church, Boston); The Rev. Zenetta Armstrong (Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan); The Rev. Joel Ives (Church of Our Savior, Brookline); Julia Slayton; The Rev. Gregory Perez, (St. Stephen’s Church, Lynn); The Rev. Edwin Johnson (St. Mary’s Church, Dorchester); The Rev. Jennifer Beal (St. Anne’s Church, North Billerica); The Rev. Canon Kelly O’Connell (staff liaison); The Rev. Canon Dr. Jean Baptiste Ntagengwa (staff liaison)

Mandate: Support the wellbeing of BIPOC communities, clergy, lay leaders and aspirants in the formation process. This includes the personal support of BIPOC individuals in various ways (including BIPOC leaders in primarily white communities) and communal support for historically Black churches, immigrant communities, Latino communities and communities of color.

Photo by Tim Mossholder  on Unsplash