Welcome to the Year of Apology
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
– Matthew 5:23-24
At its 2017 Convention, the Diocese of New York resolved to begin a three-year process of examination and reparation for the sin of slavery that was visited upon countless people within our diocese over more than 200 years.
The Convention approved a resolution naming 2018 as a Year of Lamentation in which we acknowledged and Lamented the fact of slavery that once was such a part of our church.
We are committed to designating 2019 the Year of Apology, in which we engage in the heroic work of apologizing for the church’s culpability in slavery.
But what does Apology mean?
This word alone ignites many conflicting emotions. The question arises: What have I got to apologize for? I wasn’t alive during the slavery era. However, the apology that we seek is two-fold, Institutional and Personal.
Institutional Apology: The Episcopal Church and the Church of England it stems from are more than 500 years old. It is not an individual, but it is guilty of corporate sin for which it—as the Body of Christ—has not apologized. This church, in order to move forward with faith, needs to first put its sin behind it, and that can only happen through apology.
Personal Apology: Each of us also has personal sins in relationship to slavery for which we are called to apologize. While we did not personally own slaves or enable slavery to continue, we each of us live within the echoes of slavery. We still see the lasting results of slavery, if only we make ourselves aware. Perhaps the greatest thing that we can individually apologize for is our desire not to know about it. Nobody can be held responsible for what they do not know, but when we cover our ears or eyes and say, “I don’t want to hear about it,” we choose the sin of ignorance. When we have presented to us the evidence of ongoing effects today of past slavery yet choose to say, “That was then; it means nothing today,” we choose the sin of refusing to connect the dots. When we decide not to teach our children about the slavery of the past and the effects of the present, we choose to perpetuate those effects in the future.
So the Church at large and we individually have reason to apologize. The Reparations Committee calls this a heroic act because it chooses the Kingdom of God over protection of one’s own fragile ego. It chooses the welfare of the Body of Christ over the veneer of respectability. We believe apology is not only possible for both Church and Individual, but that it has already begun and is a work we invite all members of the Diocese of New York to take up. Psychologists typically describe five steps to the act of a healthy apology. Although there are variations, they are, roughly:
- Name the sin
- Own one’s part in it/accept responsibility
- Express remorse for the sin and one’s role and for the harm it did
- Make amends/ help repair the damage to the extent possible
- Commit to living/doing differently so that it doesn’t happen again.
We now take up the task of accepting responsibility for our part in it—both on behalf of the whole church and for our individual faults. Expressing remorse has begun in the Year of Lamentation, but each person will need to examine their own heart. The other steps flow naturally from these, and we will spend many years working toward repair and a new way of living. So welcome to this year in which we name the sin, own our role in it, express remorse, make amends where possible, and commit to a new way. This is a hopeful year, a brave year, a year where we are called to be heroes. We hope you will join us for the journey.
Other Programs Coming in 2019
Apology for Slavery: We All Have Skin in the Game
These days, we are confronted with the hard truths that our foundational structures—among them our governments, legal, criminal justice, educational, social, economic and religious institutions—originated from racist doctrines and ideologies that weigh heavily on the present.
This podcast series acknowledges that we are a nation connected with a global community of people in need of healing. Furthermore, we are all encumbered with the responsibility to both see and combat the unacknowledged political history since the inception of the United States, and what W. E. B. Du Bois noted at the turn of the 20th century as “the battle of the color line,” by being justice warriors through meaningful actions of love to restore faith in humanity.
If you feel that you are generations removed from the hurt, harm and suffering that lies deep in the human condition, built on slavery and its aftermath, the presumption is that this podcast will provoke audiences to interrogate the issues that influence and shape society, and deepen introspection of those that present personal internal strife. Doing the honest and hard work is how to change hearts and minds. The process is to engage—listen, hear, dialogue, reflect, learn and grow. The conversations presented intend to unearth and address the damage of the legacy of supremacist thought with compassion, sensitivity, humility and contrite hearts, in order to aid in the repair of broken people and build community. This is the story of us. And this acknowledgement is the way we begin to balm and heal to make the wounded whole.
Available for streaming in February 2019
Retreats: The Heroic Apologist
Retreats for both adults and young adults exploring the heroic act of apology, currently in formation.
Saturday, March 16th
Youth Retreat: Time and place TBD
Sacred Dignity to Human Suffering Tour
Come with us on a trip through the South in early August as we visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama and other critical historical Southern sites
The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of MAAFA
An original theatrical commemoration depicting the story of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its legacy. Presented by St. Paul Community Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
-End of September