The Bishop of Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, has written to his diocese about “Becoming a Beloved Community,” particularly through conversation and action on reparations.
Beloved, it will be by our lives and actions with regard to racial reconciliation that we will speak most prophetically to the world. In this way, we are writing a “living Epistle” to the whole Church. This holy missive was begun with God’s call of freedom to the people of Israel in Egypt, continued with Jesus’ proclamation of freedom to the captives in the synagogue, and Paul’s invitation to his friend Philemon to free his slave Onesimus. It continues through the action and dedication of our forebears in the Civil Rights era who were convicted by the Gospel imperative of love and justice.
The biblical mandate to justice … is to hold leadership accountable for the fair and equal treatment of all God’s people. All of us have been taught to love everyone regardless of their race and human condition. However, we must come to acknowledge that there can be no love without justice, and there can be no justice without some form of repairing an injustice. Through prayerful and dedicated study, combined with deep discussion and loving actions, I believe we can do the work of repair. Through reparations, we can be leaders in the long-awaited process of reconciliation, of creating God’s dream for us—a truly Beloved Community.
Finally, please know that our conversation on reparations in the Church is, and should be, different from the ones we hear in the political arena. For us, “repairing the breach” is not a mandate from a government or leader, but a mandate from our God to commit to the rebuilding of a relationship between the world and God, between individuals and communities and to seek a better world for our children.
Bp. Sutton’s letter is accompanied by three appendices of resources for further study and reflection, to “repair the breach we’ve all inherited from our nation’s past”: on the history of racism in the Diocese of Maryland, biblical and theological views on slavery, and power and powerlessness.