History of the Dismantling Racism Commission

Dismantling Racism: 1984‑2008 in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri

Presented by: The Commission on Dismantling Racism, February 14, 2009
In Memoriam: The Rev. William D. Chapman,
Mrs. Mary Webber, Mrs. Judith Taylor

 

I. Introduction

This review is not a comprehensive history: It does not include all of the people, events, motives and actions involved in dismantling racism in the Diocese of Missouri between 1984 and 2008. Rather, it points toward factors that encouraged inclusion.

It is driven by the so‑called "Priestly Prayer" of our Lord Jesus in John 17: 22‑23: "The Glory which Thou hast given me I have given to them, that they all may be one even as we are one, I in them and Thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as Thou hast loved me."

The quest of the Diocese of Missouri’s Commission on Dismantling Racism has been to find common ground on which to stand to unite, not divide. The Commission hopes and prays that, in each age, God calls and anoints sentries of peace, love, joy, hope and inclusion. With this report, we honor our predecessors of the faith in this endeavor, especially the late Bill Chapman, Mary Webber and Judy Taylor, for their tireless efforts in this diocese. We dedicate this review to the generations to come who will find the Anglican expression of faith to be a beacon, lighting the way to God through Jesus Christ. 

 

II. A Brief Survey

The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has striven for better race relations since it began in 1841. Some European‑Americans and African‑Americans generally shared worship and fellowship early on in our history. More specifically, in 1918, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Sylvester Tuttle hosted the consecration of the first African‑American Suffragan Bishop in this country, at All Saints’ Church‑St. Louis.

In the 1930s, the Rt. Rev. William Scarlett, among other efforts, insisted that Grace‑Jefferson City welcome the black Episcopalians attending Lincoln University and supported Dean Sidney Sweet in integrating the choir of Christ Church Cathedral. In the 1950s, the Rt. Rev. Arthur Lichtenberger (1950‑ 1958) became known for his strong leadership of Civil Rights activities. The Rt. Rev. George Cadigan (1958‑1975) and Dean of the Cathedral, Ned Cole, supported the demonstration, led by the Congress of Racial Equality against Jefferson Bank from August 1963 to March 1964, to force the bank to hire blacks. Also in Civil Rights’ activities of the Sixties, the Rev. Canon Allan Zacher, a member of the St. Louis School Board, voted to integrate public schools in south St. Louis to alleviate overcrowding. 

In 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at General Convention at Kiel Auditorium. The Rev. Howard Park III was one of two priests representing the diocese at Dr. King’s funeral in 1968. The Rev. William D. Chapman, who had campaigned to improve sharecroppers’ lives in Missouri’s Bootheel, continued to integrate Trinity‑Central West End as its rector (1980‑1993), following bold steps taken by his predecessor, the Rev. Arthur Walmsley. Another priest, the Rev. Walter Witte, rector of St. Stephen’s‑St. Louis, supported the efforts of Percy Green, a local Civil Rights’ activist, to integrate personnel for the Famous‑Barr department store; both protested exclusion of blacks from the Veiled Prophet Organization, a civic group, and the Missouri Athletic Club, a private organization.

In the Eighties, the Rt. Rev. William A. Jones Jr. led the Diocesan Convention to adopt resolutions supporting inclusion of African‑Americans on all levels in the diocese. Bishop Jones appointed a Task Force on Racism in the middle 1980s to survey the Diocese and produce educational materials for use in congregations. The Rev. Emery Washington Sr. (All Saints’‑St. Louis) chaired the group of 14 lay and clergy.

In 1991, each deputy to the 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., completed an "Audit" survey on racial relations, and each diocese subsequently was asked to conduct a local assessment. The Commission on Dismantling Racism (originally named The Racism Commission), was established to carry out the request and to continue the work of inclusion at the 1991 Diocesan Convention. In order to carry weight and authority, the group was designated a standing commission rather than a task force, which has limited status.

The Rt. Rev. Hays Hamilton Rockwell (1990‑2000) sent Linda Rockwell, Bill Chapman, and Chester Hines Jr., accompanied by Emery Washington Sr. as a member of Diocesan Council, to the first Institute on Dismantling Racism, conducted by the National Conference for Community and Justice (Formerly called the National Conference of Christian and Jews), Oct. 2‑3, 1992 at Kenrick Pastoral Center in St. Louis County. In consultation with Mary Webber with the local branch of the Anti‑defamation League’s educational institute called A World of Difference, these four formed a steering committee for dismantling racism in the Diocese of Missouri.

The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, Tenth Bishop of Missouri, supported the work of The Commission by assuring adequate funding for its efforts and programs.

 

III. A Recent Dateline

  • Resolution G‑ 84 ‑‑ Creation of  "Task Force on Racism" at 145th Diocesan Convention to survey the diocese relative to the inclusion of people of color on the parish and diocesan levels and to create educational materials for the use of the church schools and other parish organizations.
  • Resolution C‑86 ‑‑ Establishment of observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday, nearest his birthday, January 15.
  • May 5, 1992 ‑‑ Mary Webber sponsored the Dismantling Racism Project for Ecumenical Cooperation.
  • February 14, 1992 ‑‑ Bishop Hays H. Rockwell called for an Absalom Jones Sunday in the Diocese to commemorate the first African‑American ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. First diocesan‑wide observance of Absalom Jones Sunday was February 14, 1993.
  • 1994 – The Rev. Most Rev. Edmund Browning, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, issued a "Pastoral Letter on the Sin of Racism."
  •  1995 – Congregational sharing started with the Church of St. Michael and St. George and All Saints’ Partners in Faith (MGA/PIF later became just PIF).
  •  1995 ‑‑ National Education Curriculum, House of Bishops’ "Pastoral Letter on Dismantling Racism."
  • In the mid‑1990s, local African Methodist Episcopalians joined Episcopalians to observe Richard Allen/Absalom Jones Sunday on the first Sundays in February, reserving the Second Sundays for observances by individual denominations. On
  • Feb. 7, 1999, Bishop Rockwell preached with evangelical fervor, and All Saints’ choir sang with spirit at St. Paul AME Church in St. Louis.

By the 160th Diocesan Convention, The Commission reached its present format, having created statements of vision, mission and goals; formed partnerships by pairing churches; conducted diocesan‑wide workshops; created a logo, lapel pins, t‑shirts and sweatshirts; conducted adult retreats; participated in the yearly Flower Festival and diocesan training; and supported the St. Louis Metropolitan efforts of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) in its Anytown program. Through Anytown, youths receive training to foster better race relations in this region. In addition to the training above, many Commission members are trained through NCCJ's six‑day Dismantling Racism Institutes and are actively engaged in similar work with other organizations.

The next major impetus that drove the work of the Commission came when the 73rd General Convention, meeting in Denver, Colo., called for all clergy and laity on the national, provincial, diocesan and local levels to be trained to dismantle racism. The Commission was authorized and adequately financed to train in the Diocese of Missouri, and that work continues. In fall 2004 and late winter 2005, the Commission joined the Rev. Jayne Oasin, Social Justice Officer for the national Peace and Justice Ministries, to sponsor workshops, entitled "Seeing the Face of God in Each Other ‑‑ A Positive Vision of Unity that can be Achieved Through Christ," to equip regional and national facilitators to enhance the work of inclusion.

During the late 1990s and the early 2000s, Timothy Jacob Wise provided several well‑received presentations.

Since 2004, we have presented the following:

  • February 14, 2004 – Dr. H. Clarence Boyer led a workshop on singing from the hymnal he edited, Lift Every Voice and Sing II (Christ Church Cathedral).
  • February 12, 2005 ‑‑ "A Pilgrimage: A Journey to a Sacred Place," re‑enactment of the Dred and Harriet Robinson Scott trial (Christ Church Cathedral).
  • February 11, 2006 ‑‑ "Moving Forward Faithfully," the Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman (St. Peters‑Ladue).
  • February 3, 2007 ‑‑"Singing the Lord’s Song in an Alien Land: Fulfilling the Gospel Imperative in a multicultural World" ‑‑ the Rev. Jayne Jones Oasin (St. Peters‑Ladue).
  • February 9, 2008 ‑‑ "Beginning and Sustaining the Journey" ‑‑  Kristen Zapalac, Sue Rehkopf and Terry Jones (St. Peters‑Ladue).

Other Major Events, 2004 ‑ 2008:

  • September 18, 2004 ‑‑ "Building Inclusiveness: Deep in Faith/Deep in Humanity" (St. Martins‑Ellisville).
  • September 9, 2005 ‑‑ Training for providers of UpTown/DownTown Workshop (Eden Seminary‑Webster Groves).
  • February 11, 2006 ‑‑ Dedication of the Diocesan Resource Center for Dismantling Racism with donated books, DVDs, monographs, etc. at the AJ/RA celebration (St. Peters‑Ladue).
  • December 2, 2007 ‑‑ "Widening the Work: Allies in Dismantling Racism" (Phyllis Wheatley YWCA‑St. Louis).

During 2007 and early 2008, we proudly sponsored and drove the adoption of a resolution at the diocesan convention to oppose efforts by Ward Connerly to ban the affirmative‑ action program in Missouri.

The Commission also sponsors and/or participates in:

  • At least two official visitations to diocesan parishes a year;
  • Workshops for all people in Diocesan School of Ministry;
  • Continual, extensive training for commission members in "Seeing the Face of God";
  •  Regional and parish mini‑workshops and "Hot topics" discussions and
  • Helps the Diocese provide 14 hours’ training for its clergy, staff and leaders in compliance with the new national training requirements.

 

IV. Membership and Vision

The following people are among those who have chaired and steered the work of the Commission since 1992: Jim Solomon/Lawrence George, William Chapman/Emery Washington Sr., Margaret Rowe and Chester Hines Jr. The strength of the Commission has never been contingent upon its leadership; its strength and effectiveness lie in the passionate, talented and capable membership. All that the Commission has been able to accomplish derives from the power of the Spirit through gifted leaders throughout the years.

Vision: As people living out our Baptismal covenant, we see our diocese reconciled to God by challenging racism in ourselves and in society.

Mission: To dismantle racism through education, dialogue and action.

Goals

  1. Increase the presence of the Commission on Dismantling Racism in diocesan and congregational activities.
  2. Train, educate and update members of the Commission on Dismantling Racism on some aspect of racism and its dismantling.
  3. Educate and inform so as to empower others to dismantle racism in the diocese.
  4. Increase the active membership of the Commission on Dismantling Racism.

As a commission, we look forward to the time when we all with one spirit and one voice can praise God without thought of race, ethnicity, gender or color. Until then, we shall work for the full coming of the Kingdom of God in this place.

Schedule

Regular monthly meetings on first Saturdays

The 2009 program for the Absalom Jones/Richard Allen Observance, February 14, 2009 will be "From Conflict to Conversation," facilitated by Dr. Kristen Zapalac with respondents from the Kirkwood and Webster Groves communities, at St. Peters‑Ladue.

 

                                          Acknowledgments

We give special thanks to Sue Rehkopf, Diocesan Archivist; the Revs. Allen N. Zacher and Howard Parks III for oral history; Bishop and Mrs. Hays H. Rockwell; Chester Hines Jr. for his leadership and documentation of the ongoing work of the Commission, found in bound notebooks in the Dismantling Diocesan Archives and Ms. Martha K. Baker for her time and expertise in editing this second edition.

 

The Rev. Emery Washington Sr., Commission Member, February 14, 2009

 

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