Acknowledge slave ownership and role of enslaved people and slave trade
in enriching the church and its members
“When we consider a violent, inhumane history of degradation and bondage,” says the Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York speaking of the diocese’s upcoming Service of Apology for Slavery, “the twin acts of apology and forgiveness are the essential place from which we can make the deep dive, seek and tell the truth, be accountable, and have the possibility of making a shared future.”
It has been a hard task over several years for people in the congregations of the Episcopal Diocese of New York to face the long-suppressed fact that their white precursors benefitted from the labor of enslaved people; that they were, in many cases, involved in the transatlantic slave trade, which had one of its largest markets in New York City; and that there was a good chance that the very churches in which they themselves worship today were built by enslaved laborers and craftsmen.
With this has come the further understanding that even now, we all live with the consequences of that terrible sin: it continues to blight our nation and our souls in the form of covert and overt racism, as well as long-term economic and environmental injustice for the descendants of the enslaved and those who look like them—while simultaneously affording continuing, systemic, and unearned privilege to the descendants of the enslavers, and those who look like them.
Guided by its reparations committee (now commission), the people of the Diocese of New York have in recent years taken some significant steps toward understanding and acknowledging this truth to one another across the racial divide—inching as they have done so steadily closer to making an attempt at repair.
In 2019, Bishop Dietsche announced that $1.1 million from the diocesan endowment would be set aside for the work of reparations. In 2022, a 501(c)(3) was set up to oversee the use of this money.
This year, on Saturday, March 25, 2023, the bishop of New York, together with his fellow bishops Allen K. Shin and Mary D. Glasspool, and the priest elected to succeed Bishop Dietsche, bishop coadjutor-elect Matthew Heyd, will join the people of the diocese in a solemn service of apology for the involvement of the diocese and its people in slavery and its aftermath.
The service of apology for slavery, which will include a video address by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry will be live-streamed on the website of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
About The Episcopal Diocese of New York
The Episcopal Diocese of New York is part of the Episcopal Church, which in turn is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. With its offices on the campus of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, it is made up of 184 congregations in the New York City boroughs of Staten Island, Manhattan, and the Bronx, and the counties of Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess. Currently led by the Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche, the 16th bishop, supported by bishop suffragan Allen K. Shin and bishop assistant Mary D. Glasspool, recently elected the Rev. Matthew F. Heyd as bishop coadjutor. Heyd will be consecrated as a bishop on May 20 and will take his place as the 17th bishop at a service of installation in April 2024.
Video “Dare to Repair” made by the diocesan Reparations Commission: https://vimeo.com/edny/reparations23#t=753
Video address of the diocesan bishops: https://vimeo.com/edny/apbps
Video address of the presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry: https://vimeo.com/edny/apmbc
FAQ explaining why apology matters, and why it is not enough: https://dioceseny.org?wpdmdl=77661&ind=1679083954974
Episcopal Diocese of New York
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.
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