Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice moves closer to launch as independent nonprofit

By David Paulsen
Posted Nov 14, 2023
Ryan Kusumoto

Ryan Kusumoto, who chairs the group developing the structure for the Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice, speaks during a Zoom meeting with Executive Council’s Committee on Mission Within The Episcopal Church.

[Episcopal News Service] A group of Episcopal clergy and lay leaders assigned to develop the structure for the new Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice are progressing toward incorporating the coalition as a nonprofit, possibly by early next year, group leaders said Nov. 13 in an online meeting.

Ryan Kusumoto, a lay deputy from Hawaii, serves as chair of the constituting group, which also includes a diverse mix of other Episcopal leaders. He was joined on Zoom by former Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas to present the group’s update to Executive Council’s Committee on Mission Within The Episcopal Church.

Kusumoto and Douglas began the session by reviewing the resolution that the 80th General Convention passed in 2022 calling for creation of the coalition. The coalition had been proposed months earlier in a wide-ranging report produced by the Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning and Healing that pressed the church to confront its past complicity with racist systems and the lingering legacy of colonialism and white supremacy embedded in the church and other American institutions.

The coalition’s goal “is not to supplant or replace the work of the church,” Douglas emphasized. “This is alongside … the work under the auspices of the Executive Council and the staff of the Church Center.”

The coalition was envisioned as a voluntary network of dioceses, parishes, church institutions and individuals dedicated to improving the church’s uneven track record of prioritizing racial reconciliation and healing, at the denominational level and across its more than 100 dioceses.

Executive Council, the church’s governing body between meetings of General Convention, has set aside $150,000 this year and another $150,000 in 2024 to help launch the coalition. Future funding for the coalition will be based on 10% of the annual budgetary dividend, or draw, from The Episcopal Church’s unrestricted trust funds. Budget planners estimate that will yield $835,000 a year for the coalition in 2025-27, or $2.5 million over the triennium.

Kusumoto said his group started by holding listening sessions with various stakeholders, including other interim church governance bodies and the Deputies of Color in the House of Deputies.

“We heard from these groups that this is about Jesus, this is our baptismal covenant, that this work needs to be grounded around that,” he said. “We also heard that this work, the work of the coalition, should be lifelong and it shouldn’t be held and tied to a triennium. … There’s an opportunity for the coalition to be more strategic and not just [dependent on] a resolution year by year.”

To that end, the coalition will be established as an independent nonprofit, though its board of trustees will include some appointments made by The Episcopal Church’s two presiding officers. It also will be expected to generate a report on its activities to General Convention.

“There was also a conversation that there needs to be staffing to do this work and that the possible funding for this needs to go beyond the 10% draw,” Kusumoto said, “and that could either be more grants, more funding or more fundraising.”

Douglas added that he and the rest of the constituting group are hopeful that they can finalize and certify incorporation documents “as early in 2024 as possible.” He also noted “incredible consensus and excitement” for this process, since it was initiated by the Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning and Healing.

In its March 2022 report, the presiding officers’ working group offered 92 recommendations, including ways to cultivate truth-telling, reckoning and healing at each level of the church. Suggestions ranged from “research and share the full history of historically Black churches within your diocese” to “commission artists, poets, liturgists, and musicians of color to create new hymnody, prayers, and liturgies.” Such work, endorsed last year in a series of General Convention resolutions, would be “moved forward and amplified” by the Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.