Committees hear testimony on developing a common framework for anti-racism training

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted May 17, 2024

General Convention’s Racial Truth-Telling, Reckoning & Healing committees heard testimony on May 16, 2024, on three proposed resolutions: the hiring of a chief equity officer, continued support of the Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism & Reconciliation, and the development of a churchwide anti-racism training framework. James McKim, chair of the Committee on Anti-Racism, testified in favor of the resolutions. Photo: Screenshot

[Episcopal News Service] General Convention’s Racial Truth-Telling, Reckoning & Healing committees heard testimony on May 16 on three proposed resolutions: the hiring of a chief equity officer, continued support of the Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism & Reconciliation, and the development of a churchwide anti-racism training framework.

Thirty-five people attended the online hearing of the House of Bishops’ and House of Deputies’ committees, which though distinct, typically meet and deliberate together. Once finalized, resolutions will advance to the 81st General Convention, to be held June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism & Reconciliation, sometimes referred to as ECCAR, proposed resolution A032, “Hire a Chief Equity Officer,” which calls on The Episcopal Church to create a new position to assist in establishing greater representation and retention of people of color in all church positions. The chief equity officer would report to the presiding bishop.

James McKim, chair of the Committee on Anti-Racism, testified that even though “there is a lot of great work being done,” hiring a chief equity officer “would send a very strong signal to the rest of the world that The Episcopal Church takes this effort very seriously enough to focus on our internal structures.”

“We’re feeling that this is a very strategic action, an investment that aligns with the church’s values will enrich his leadership and position our church as a beacon of racial reconciliation and healing,” McKim said.

The Executive Council committee also seeks a nine-year extension of its work via resolution A033, “Renew ECCAR.” General Convention first established the committee in 2000 “to support the church to live into existing General Convention resolutions … toward becoming a church committed to ending institutional and other forms of racism which necessitate the acceptance of abandonment of privilege and the sharing of power within our polity, within our society, and throughout the world.” The hope was those racial justice and healing goals could be achieved within three triennia, particularly the call for churchwide training.

“The thinking then was it would take probably that long to institutionalize the work of anti-racism. As it turns out, it’s taken a bit longer than I think the folks at that convention and we in the church thought,” McKim said. “We’re really an accountability organization, our committee.”

The Rev. Jennifer Nelson, a deacon in the Diocese of California, said she likes A033 but suggests tweaking the resolution’s language to say something different from “which necessitate the abandonment of privilege.”

“We can enhance our privileges or recognize the privileges of a more diverse group, so we are truly upholding the Beloved Community, not tearing down,” she said. Instead, “we’re building up.”

The Task Force on Imagining a Church Grounded in Social Justice as Christian Ministry proposed resolution A097, “Developing a Common Framework for Anti-Racism Training.” A097 calls on General Convention to recognize that “widely different criteria” have been used churchwide to determine if anti-racism training requirements have been met per Canon Article III.6.5.g. The resolution also calls on The Episcopal Church to adopt and implement a common theological framework certification created by the Committee on Anti-Racism for all anti-racism and racial reconciliation training. 

The framework’s proposed requirements would include a historical component, an information or didactic component, prayer and analysis. Completion of an online test would be required to earn certification. A097 also calls on the church to provide an annual report on the certification process’ use and efficacy to the Committee on Anti-Racism. No certification yet exists, according to the committee. 

The spending requested to implement A097 is $55,000.

“Having a consistent platform for which we can grow together across The Episcopal Church will help us make strides in dismantling racism, living into our baptismal covenant, loving our neighbors and leaning into healing and reconciliation,” said the Rev. Robin Hollis, a deacon in the Diocese of Arizona, while testifying in favor of A097. “Part of what we are looking for is common language, making sure that when we talk about oppression or institutional racism, we are understanding what we are saying that is consistent across The Episcopal Church.”

Katherine Karr, a college professor from the Diocese of Spokane in the state of Washington, suggested the resolution specify what common language should be used in the framework. “Thinking pedagogically, when we say interaction, what does that mean?” she asked.

Zena Link from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts said she thinks placing emphasis on tests or certification “moves away from the spirit of authentic engagement and Beloved Community.”

“It devalues, somewhat, a person’s ability to be vulnerable and grow at their own ability and capacity to learn something that’s difficult for them,” she said. Also, “tests can arguably be biased because they fail to account for variables around language deficiencies, learning disabilities, varying knowledge of the impact of racism that different individuals have had experience with, and various regions and locations within the United States and beyond.”

General Convention’s Racial Truth-Telling, Reckoning & Healing committees will continue revising A097 before bishops and deputies gather in person next month in Louisville. The committees’ next online meeting, scheduled for May 23, will hear testimony on three additional proposed resolutions.

General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. Every three years it meets as a bicameral legislature dividing its authority between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops and composed of members from each diocese.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service based in northern Indiana. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.


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