Racial Justice Commission

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your son. 
Grant us the courage to confront the various systems of racism and prejudice within our larger society, within our church and even within ourselves.  May we be truly committed to doing the work of racial healing and preach, especially in the way we live our lives, that we all are precious and loved in the sight of God; that we all can faithfully walk and pray with one another to achieve the full love of one another that we profess with our Baptismal Covenant, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to the work of racial justice. In our current mission strategy we commit to building our relationships and fulfilling the Gospel command to love one another, particularly across difference, entering into a large-scale, authentic and committed conversation about racism and other forms of oppression in order to move us further into the essential work of racial justice and reconciliation.

"Let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another." (Ephesians 4:25)

Our reconfigured Racial Justice Commission was announced at the November 2020 Diocesan Convention to help our diocese take the next steps in this truth-telling and reconciling work.  A resolution that the convention adopted in response to Bishop Gates's annual address voices the following affirmation:

"We affirm the reconfigured and expanded Racial Justice Commission for our shared work ahead not only to recognize and confess our own sinfulness in the personal, social and structural dimensions of racism, but also to take up our Christian responsibility to the the Gospel work of racial justice in its multiple dimensions."

Among the messages shared by many voices during the Racial Justice Commission's presentation to the convention:

“This is justice work, identifying whatever takes away from a person’s dignity. We have to see the importance of this endeavor. Diocese, please support this commission’s work."

"We hope you’ll join us on this transforming journey. There will be obstacles on the way, but we can move them together as God’s people. You are beloved of God, and all of us should feel beloved. Change is needed to accomplish this."

"We can often see racial justice as just a box that we check.  Rather, we hope that you will join us in deep personal transformation."

"We want to be clear that this is an invitation that extends to persons of color. We want you to join us in addressing even internalized racism."

"Finally, let us remember the truth of resurrection. Some things need to die and fall away. This will be painful, but it will restore us into greater relationship."

The leadership of our diocesan Racial Justice Commission includes:

  • Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Gayle E. Harris
  • Co-Chairs:  The Rev. Noble Scheepers and The Rev. Natalie Thomas (nefinstad@gmail.com)
  • Staff liaison:  The Rev. Canon Dr. Jean Baptiste Ntagengwa (jbntagengwa@diomass.org or 617-482-4826, ext. 400)
Racial Justice Commission members Courtesy photos Members of the Racial Justice Commission:  (top, from left) Noble Scheepers, Natalie Thomas, Karen Coleman, Kristina Wile; (center) Zena Link, Michael Melendez, Constance Perry, H. Mark Smith; (bottom) Kelsey Rice-Bogdan, Holly Carter, Hall Kirkham, Diane Wong

Spiritual foundations

The spiritual foundations of the Racial Justice Commission are:

  • God will be at the center of everything we do. This work is painful and we need God's help at every step. Prayer will soften the hearts of those who are hurting and transform guilt into a desire to be part of healing.
     
  • We will follow a rhythm of assessing our current and historical context, telling the truth about how harm has been done, and then identifying ways to repair that harm. The Racial Justice Commission will create audits that foster clear quantifiable and qualitative understanding of the past and current reality through honest, vulnerable and courageous truth-telling of stories.
     
  • This work will apply on the diocesan level and to Episcopal congregations and communities in their local context.

Priority areas

Building on these foundational elements we will work for substantial change in the following five priority areas.

Presently subcommittees of between six and eight people are being formed for each priority area, and commission partners are establishing relationships and discussing overall scope and strategies.

Priority 1

Co-Chairs:  Zena Link and Kris Wile

Work with diocesan staff to create accountable and transparent structures in our diocese and in Episcopal congregations and communities.  This includes (but is not limited to) hiring practices, committee make-up, search committee processes and vestry business practices.

Priority 2

Co-Chairs:  The Rev. Dr. Karen Coleman and The Rev. Diane Wong

Support the well-being of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities, clergy, lay leaders and aspirants in the ordination 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 communities, immigrant communities, Latino communities and communities of color.

This subcommittee will be responsible for the 2020 Diocesan Convention resolution "A Call to Address the Neglect of the Seven Historically Black Churches of the Diocese and to Strengthen Their Interrelationships." The group devoted to implementing the resolution will report to the Racial Justice Commission but will work independently.

Priority 3

Co-Chairs:  Dr. Holly Carter and The Rev. Hall Kirkham

Ensure financial resources are allocated in ways that promote antiracism, on the diocesan and congregational levels. This includes, but is not limited to, how resources are allocated in the diocese; how compensation is set; and for justly compensating BIPOC individuals for often unpaid volunteer labor.

Resources required for implementation of the 2020 Diocesan Convention resolutions "A Call for Repentance and Reparations" and "A Call to Address the Neglect of the Seven Historically Black Churches of the Diocese and to Strengthen Their Interrelationships" will be the responsibility of this subcommittee.

Priority 4

Co-Chairs:  Constance Perry and The Rev. H. Mark Smith

Reparations, in the language of the 75th Episcopal Church General Convention in 2006 (2006-A123) examine the "a) complicity of The Episcopal Church in the institution of slavery and in the subsequent history of segregation and discrimination and b) economic benefits The Episcopal Church derived from the institution of slavery" and identify ways to make financial and psychological reparations for pain incurred.

The resolution on reparations adopted at the 235th Massachusetts Diocesan Convention in 2020 will inform the work of this subcommittee, but will not define or limit its scope. 

Priority 5

Co-Chairs:  Kelsey Rice-Bogdan and The Rev. Dr. Michael Melendez

Provide antiracist, theologically grounded formation offerings for Episcopal congregations and communities; rethink liturgy through an antiracist lens; and activate our congregations to act for racial justice in the world.