Over the past month, 14 bishops of The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field, have worked together to produce an anti-racism covenant. The introduction to A Covenant to Root Out Racism sets out that:
Racism is dangerous, divisive, and damaging. Racism purports that some are deserving of dignity over others and disregards the image and likeness of God found in every human being. We are created in the image of God; therefore, to engage in racism of any form is to refuse to acknowledge the image of God in the other and the stranger. The fact that we were created in the image of God should remind us that each person is a living expression of God that must be respected, preserved, and never dishonored.”
The complete document, launched today, July 15, is in the form of a Lament and Covenant. The Lament identifies both the Church’s past and current failings in dealing with racism and refers to both the individual and corporate sin of racism. The Covenant outlines ways anyone or any group can commit to addressing racism in ourselves and our communities going forward.
As one of the 14-co-sponsor bishops, Bishop Marty expressed his wholehearted support for the Covenant:
This is right out of our Baptismal Promises. We have committed over and over to respect the dignity of all human beings, a dignity that arises, not from the human person, but from the surpassing worth of the Heavenly Father who created each person. Human dignity, then, is built-in, not acquired, not adjudged by human standards.
A Covenant to Root Out Racism is a Lament and Covenant.
The Lament examines the Church’s history and calls out its past and recent failings, failings as an institution and among individual members. The Lament is about telling ourselves the truth, whether or not we had a personal hand in building the system that advantages some over others. The truth is about what has been, not about who we are. The Lament acknowledges that some have benefitted by enslaving others, by seizing land from others, by dehumanizing others. It acknowledges that some still benefit from modern versions of the same. The Lament does not say that church members are evil or that white people are evil. It says, ‘We mourn that these things have been.’
The Covenant defines several ways (the list is not exhaustive) that we might address systemic racism in ourselves and our communities. It calls us to commit.
‘Covenant’ is religious language. It hearkens back to ancient peoples committing to honor God above all else, committing to be God’s holy and priestly people and to serve the nations, committing to be in right relationship with God and one another, committing to cherish all the children of God as created in God’s image—as those who have a spark of the divine in themselves.”
Lay and ordained individuals, parishes, groups, dioceses, community leaders, and businesses are all invited to add their names to this covenant and join the bishops as they work to root out racism.