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Dismantling Racism in the Diocese of Missouri

by Adrienne Dillon

In 1991, General Convention urged dioceses to conduct an audit on racism within the church. Out of such an audit the Commission on Dismantling Racism of the Diocese of Missouri was born. Resolutions from General Convention guide the work of the Commission on Dismantling Racism.

In 2000, a resolution of General Convention mandated that all lay and ordained leaders have anti-racism training. Seeing the Face of God in Each Other was published by the church center in 2003 and became a model for the required training. In our diocese, the Commission has provided two or three two-day sessions each year in different parts of the diocese.  A Zoom version of this training was offered in March 2021.

Since 2004, the Commission has sponsored an annual celebration to honor Absalom Jones, the Episcopal Church’s first African-American priest. These events combined worship and prayer with education concerning some aspect of racism. Guest speakers have included our own Valerie Patton.

Several parishes have developed ministries related to social justice and dismantling racism, including Christ Church Cathedral; St. Timothy’s, Creve Coeur; St. Martin’s, Ellisville; St. John’s, Tower Grove; Calvary, Columbia; Holy Communion, University City; Emmanuel, Webster Groves; St. Peter’s, Ladue; and St. Michael and St. George, Clayton. Social Justice Ministry at All Saints and Ascension began meeting last July. This year we began collaborating with St. Stephen’s and St. Barnabas on a communal garden that will benefit our food pantries.

In 2015, General Convention resolutions expressed a particularly strong commitment, urging the church to address systemic injustice, learn more about mass incarceration, develop an anti-racism curriculum for youth ministry, and fight the school-to-prison pipeline. The church’s top leaders were empowered, with a budget of two million dollars, to create a churchwide anti-racism initiative.           

In May 2017, the church issued a publication called Becoming Beloved Community: The Episcopal Church’s Long-Term Commitment to Racial Healing, Reconciliation and Justice. A racial justice audit has just been completed to obtain accurate data about the church’s demographic composition and the presence of all races and ethnicities at all levels of the church. Helpful suggestions for parishes, dioceses and individuals are contained in Becoming the Beloved Community Where You Are by Heidi Kim, Chuck Wynder and Stephanie Spellers. A course called Sacred Ground consisting of videos, readings, prayer and discussion was created by Rev. Katrina Browne. Hundreds of groups in nearly every diocese have completed the course.