Monday, February 05, 2007

Rearranging Those Racist Deck Chairs

The Episcopal Church is an institution steeped in tradition, and one of its traditions is to embrace the trendiest of liberal causes in a tasteful and appropriate way.

The Episcopal Diocese of Southern VirginiaThe Diocese of Southern Virginia — the oldest diocese in the country — is no exception. We have a venerable tradition of knock-down drag-out fights at our Annual Council, usually about one or more of the following topics: race, gender, sexuality, and pacifism.

The 115th Annual Council is coming up this weekend, and I’m glad I’m not going, because there are two fights on the agenda, one on sexuality and one on race.

The sexuality fight will be sparked by Resolution #3, “Concerning The Windsor Report”. The strange thing about this resolution is that it never once mentions what the Windsor Report is about or what the contentious issue is. You can go to the diocesan website and download the full Word document, read the whole thing, and never be the wiser about what’s going on.

So I’ll give you a précis of the issue:

  • A priest who left his wife to live with another man was installed as the bishop of New Hampshire.
  • The House of Bishops moved to affirm him as bishop.
  • The Anglican Communion — the worldwide church of which the ECUSA is a branch — voted to condemn the actions of the ECUSA, and issued the Windsor Report on the topic.
  • The General Convention of the ECUSA did not move to implement the recommendations of the Windsor Report.
  • Some members of our diocese are unhappy with the ECUSA, and want to pass a resolution that requires our interim bishop to express explicit support the Windsor Report, and to urge our new and very butch Presiding Bishop to do the same.

Does that make it clear?

The race fight is another matter, and Resolution #2 was undoubtedly brought to the table by a very different faction within our diocese:

Resolution 2: Concerning Our Commitment to Anti-Racism Training

Submitted by the Anti-Racism Commission

Resolved, that this 115th Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia has consistently recognized that the sin of racism needs to be continually addressed within and beyond this Diocese.

And be if further resolved, that the 109th and 112th Annual councils committed to conducting anti-racism training of all Diocesan staff and lay/clergy leaders serving on the Standing Committee, Executive Board, and Commission on the Ordination Process.
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And be if further resolved, that due to low participation and leadership turnover in the intervening years since 2004, approximately 75% of diocesan leadership has yet to participate in the anti-racism training program.

And be if further resolved, that the Diocese of Southern Virginia reaffirms and extends its commitment to anti-racism training of diocesan leadership.

Rationale: With the House of Bishops ‘call to covenant’ March 2006, encouraging the larger church to continue and expand its work of anti-racism training, the diocesan Anti-Racism Commission recognizes that the anti-racism training of lay and clergy leadership in 2004 and 2005 needs to be continued to cover the ongoing turnover of diocesan members among staff, Boards, Committees, Commissions and Departments. Only about 25% of the leadership populations have had the prescribed national church anti-racism training to date, and only one training session was held in 2006. Along with training by convocations in 2007, the Anti-Racism Commission is asking for funding in the 2007 Budget to provide more flexible training options for those leaders functioning in a variety of organizational settings.

Our diocese has been riven by terrible strife, is close to bankruptcy, and yet is still concerning itself with this sort of claptrap.

I was a delegate to Annual Council for many years, and have seen variants of this resolution submitted and passed over and over again.

We’re racists! We’re all racists! We just can’t help ourselves.

Underneath the veneer of a tolerant, urbane, sophisticated, liberal Episcopalian there rages a Bull Connor, a George Wallace, a slavering David Duke just waiting for the opportunity to clap African-Americans back into their chains.

I spent nine years as the Senior Warden at our church, and during that time I was one of the 75% of diocesan leaders who steadfastly refused to attend anti-racism training. And with good reason — I’d been to enough planning meetings to pick up the gist of what happens in a re-education camp an anti-racism training session.

A good Christian acknowledges the sin of racism within himself. Even if he is unaware of it, even if on the surface he is an open-minded and tolerant fellow, underneath the façade there lurks a racist beast. We know it’s there because… Well, because God says so!

Everyone is guilty of the sin of racism, and it requires unceasing prayer and vigilance to hold this particular sin at bay.

But only if one is white. You see, a black person in America can’t be racist, because racism comes along with being a member of the dominant power structure. Black people are excluded from the dominant power structure, so only white people can be racists. In fact, according to orthodox multiculturalism, all white people must be racists, simply by their participation in the dominant power structure.

Back in September 2005 Dymphna remarked:

Those who would condemn others for their failures to think correctly simply don’t understand the hard-wiring in the human soul. We are born with a capacity to prefer our own kind. Watch any child encounter a stranger and you can experience the primitive startle effect that leads to a preference to be with one’s own. This inclination toward the known is neither sinful nor wrong; it is human.

Game theory has shown that when members of a community are left to their own devices, groups of similars will collect or ‘bunch’ together. It is not deliberate segregation, it is congregation. Ask the black students on any campus who they prefer to hang with. And then ask them if this preference is racist.

In the continuing rush to right thinking, it is the children who lose out. The Law of Unintended Consequences is easily seen in the effects on children of both no-fault divorce and mandated diversity. The idea that culture can be sorted out and regulated is surely one of the most pernicious legacies from the 20th century. It is past time to move beyond this dated, statist thinking.

I’ll be the first in line when a commission is formed to investigate the harm which accrues to children from illegitimacy and illiteracy. With all the oxygen in the room being consumed by correct thinking, though, it seems there isn’t any left over for the kids. Bill Cosby had it right when he said the main problems facing black children have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with poor decisions. Now whose fault is that?

But appeals to reason and sanity don’t work with Episcopalians. A guilty knee-jerk liberal member goes to these brainwashing sessions, gets down on his knees, confesses how awfully, irredeemably bad he is, and asks for forgiveness.

Anybody else — a normal, sensible person, in other words — naturally avoids them like the plague.

And many of the latter group are seriously considering finding something else to do on Sunday mornings. Congregants are leaving the Episcopal Church in droves, and those who remain are hardly breeding at a rate that will sustain their numbers.

The dead parrotTo paraphrase John Cleese in the famous Monty Python sketch: This church is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late church. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up daisies. It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-church.

The Episcopal Parrot is nailed to its perch by its accumulated capital assets and the presence among its members of respected and powerful people. But it’s still bleedin’ demised.


Alexis said...

Although it wouldn't happen, it would be interesting if the "anti-racism" training were conducted by a Ugandan priest who explains why chuch-sanctioned homosexuality is a form of white racism.

Much of the "political correctness" of the last twenty years has actually been racism, and here is the reason. When Africans converted to Christianity, they thought they were converting to a religion based on the scriptures they were taught and the traditions of the Church. The "liberal" (read: white) churches seem to believe they can change whatever they believe at church councils where they (and they alone) decide what is right or wrong.

When the white churches decide that homosexuality is okay after all, they expect all the black churches in Africa to salute, say "Yes sir", and do what they are told. But most Africans, far from doing what they are told, recoil at changing their entire religion just because white liberals change their mind. Homosexuality is a particularly sore point in Uganda because of the deaths of 19th century Christian martyrs who refused to involve themselves in buggery.

In some Episcopal dioceses, there is a racial split. One finds rich white liberals feeling increasingly embittered against rising, ascendant, and increasingly assertive congregations of Native American and Sudanese Anglicans. It is (ironically or not) the conservative white Anglicans who are least inclined to feel racial animosity against the assertiveness of Anglicans whose ancestors don't come from England.

The "Anti-Racism Commission" looks like a faction of people who are highly efficient at finding specks in the eyes of other people. One suspects they would not particularly appreciate being forced to sit through "anti-racism" training where advocacy of gay marriage and the actions of the Diocese of New Hampshire were described as expressions of the heresy of Apartheid.

Dymphna said...

kirk parker:

I agree that as adults we widen our circle to include lots of Others. And if we are raised in a truly multi-racial milieu, what you say is indeed true --i.e., doesn't even need to be remarked upon.

We live in a largely black rural community. But there is little socialization -- you have to go out of your way to make it happen. This isn't racist so much as it is habit.

The ghosts of the Civil War are still here, though. Our church is lily-white, though black friends come for special occasions. Being in an area that is largely Baptist, I don't see any white people of other denominations at our church either -- except on Shrove Tuesday, for the pancake supper.

Meanwhile, in this diocese, the black Episcopalians have chosen to remain within black parishes. And they have their own, separate hymnal. The regular old Episcopal hymnal didn't fit.

Interestingly, this isn't seen as racist. It's the pale ones who need reforming, you see.

On the few occasions I've visited charismatic congregations, I do see more "mixing." I guess because it's an amalgam of evangelical and sacramental traditions.

Mysterious creatures, we humans.

Dymphna said...

BTW, when I lived in New England, it was *very* segregated. Wellesley had one black family. Maybe they have more now.

Baron Bodissey said...


Our church is very tiny, about 10 to 12 regular members. Most of these folks are very very old.

There are only four of us under 75 or so, and that's the pool of people that can serve on the vestry. So we all had permanent positions.

When I burned out and couldn't take any more, I quit, despite the enormous pressure to continue. The congregation solved the problem by collapsing the offices of Register and Treasurer into one, and continue now with only three on the vestry.