Preparing for Violence, Working for Peace

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The Kingston Trio released a song in 1959 by the name of The Merry Little Minuet. A reflection of both the concerns of the atomic age generation and global strife occurring at the time, the song injects humor into a fraught social reality in a manner that speaks to the truth of a summation of fears that people were experiencing. Two decades later, friends of mine and I would sing this song as part of a Girl Scout sketch at camp. We understood the humor and the serious social statements behind it. You can listen to the song here:

Throughout our elementary school years in Ohio, my friends and I participated in regular school drills intended to respond to the threats of nuclear bomb strikes, earthquakes, building fires, and tornados. Depending on the drill, the three basic responses were: 1) crouch under one’s classroom desk and interlace one’s hands behind head/neck, 2) go out into the hallways and assume a fetal position against a wall, and 3) exit down the stairwells to the outside and walk away from the building.

Though teachers and school administrators never asked for our thoughts or feedback on these drills, after every single one, my friends and I would discuss among ourselves how effective these responses would be in the event of an actual emergency. We concluded that in reality we would probably be turned into radioactive dust, be crushed under tons of bricks and concrete, become burnt toast, or be shredded into debris. We harbored no illusions about potential death and destruction in light of potential catastrophic events, but it seemed to us that the adults certainly did. Perhaps they believed that they were protecting us from anxiety or that we were too young to contemplate the possibility of our death. They didn’t want to scare us or themselves, which is why these various disaster drills were always conducted in silence and with no opportunity for discussion or reflection. The idea of trying to simulate bomb blasts, earthquakes, fires, or tornados would not have occurred to any of those planning the drills.

Two more decades into the future Columbine High School would be among the first schools to experience the violent phenomenon of attempted bombing and active shooters. The shooting inspired dozens of copycat killings, dubbed the Columbine effect, including many deadlier shootings across the world. The Washington Post, which keeps an updated count of school shootings, reports that to date of this blog post there have been 373 school mass shooting in the United States. Across all such incidents, The Post has found that at least 192 children, educators and others have been killed, with an additional 421 victims who have been injured.

The response in school safety drills in most schools today include Lock-Down drills and Active Shooter Simulations. The organization of Sandy Hook Promise has raised a serious concern about the impact of active shooter drills, in that many of these drills have morphed into active shooter simulations.

The Sandy Hook Promise website states:

Without a doubt, many of us might think active shooter drills are like fire drills. They should help educate and train students on how to take a crisis seriously. Certainly without putting them in harm’s way. Instead, many of these drills have become live-action simulations of fatal shootings. Rather than empowering students, these simulations can include shooting pellet guns at teachers and spreading fake blood to mimic the scene of a shooting. Sometimes, students aren’t even aware the exercise is just a drill. Moreover, these tactics hurt students and do not help prevent school shootings. Without the right guidance, state legislatures may pass laws that add simulations to the list of approved active shooter exercises. Simulations are not the same as active shooter drills and they must be kept separate. Students should never have to participate in anything that mimics a real-life shooting.

In light of the separation of types of drill (helpful v. harmful), the website provides a link to a petition to sign for to support the organization in putting a stop to traumatizing active shooter simulations.

The distinction between types of drills is an important difference to note, especially as more and more faith communities (Jewish, Muslim, and Christian) are turning towards creating active shooter drills in response to rising domestic terrorism concerns related to white supremacist groups and racism. Our faith communities probably need helpful instruction and guidance related to active shooter drills, and the Department of Homeland Security has developed safety resources for Faith-Based Events and Houses of Worship:

Churches are considered “soft targets” for active shooters.  The Episcopal Church has a Safety and Insurance Handbook available online that includes a section (Chapter 3) on insurance coverage for Malicious Attack and encourages the development of Violence Preparedness Plans. If you were not previously aware of the availability of such coverage through Church Insurance, now you are:–insurance-handbook-for-churches.pdf

However, the process of developing an effective violence preparedness plan requires consultation with a local commercial security company, the local FBI office, or other professional resources that can provide training. Additionally consulting with local law enforcement is highly encouraged. In January of 2022, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said security training at his suburban Fort Worth congregation over the years is what allowed him and the other three hostages to make it through the 10-hour ordeal, which he described as traumatic:

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”–security-training-paid-off-in-hostage-standoff

As a rector of a congregation, I have attempted to balance the values of our faith with the recognized need to be prepared in the event of a variety of disasters, including malicious attack/active shooter training/drills. The value of being a welcoming community for all people bumps up against the practical need for safety of those gathered and for preparedness. The words of advice that Jesus gives to his disciples often runs through my thoughts, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” {Matthew 10:16).

Among products available through Church Publishing are sets of Weapon-Free Zone stickers:

The publishing company also has available an important resource for proclaiming the Gospel of peace in the face of the epidemic of gun violence:

Leaders who are tasked with preparedness plans cannot be silent about the culture of violence that we currently inhabit in the United States. Escalating gun violence and the reality of mass shootings, the uptick in white supremacy group activities, domestic violence in the home, and suicide by gun – all of these topics require our attention. Our response as faith communities must include actions that both protect our faith communities and engage in social justice actions that make a difference. Whatever form of active shooter training or drills we create must additionally not traumatize those who participate in them but rather educate, listen to, and empower our members and leadership.

The organization of Bishops Against Gun Violence is a network of nearly 100 Episcopal Church bishops, urges our cities, states and nation to adopt policies and pass legislation that will reduce the number of people in the United States killed and wounded by gunfire. Their website includes educational and liturgical resources for use in congregations to help provide opportunities for discussion and planning, for lament and for action.

Additionally, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship is a network dedicated to non-violence and meaningful action to create peace, even with those with whom we may disagree. The organization has several action groups with which to become involved, including the Gun Violence Prevention action group. There are multiple resources available through their webpage and the opportunity to join in membership. Their site includes education materials, liturgies, and sermons, as well as peace building online:

As my congregation launches our Safety Team and develops drills for various potential disasters, we will need to evaluate everything from our current church insurance coverage to what local professional agencies should be a part of our training and planning processes. At every step, we will need to provide intentional consultation and listening sessions with our members – bearing in mind that we have educators and students, gun owners, military personnel and security professionals among our own ranks.

The reign of God, as Jesus presents it, is a journey away from living within an empire built on violence towards a community of peace. The ends may not always justify the means in the face of a messiah who practiced and taught non-violence and who was crucified by violence, whose apostles suffered terrible deaths, and whose followers were martyred in Roman arenas until Constantine I enrobed the faith in the trappings of empire – establishing core beliefs that would later justify the Crusades and the Doctrine of Discovery.

Perhaps, then, our first step as Christians is to examine the tenets of culture that inform the violence in our faith tradition, tenets alive and well in today’s Christian Nationalism and in the ways we continue to grapple with diversity (racism, sexism, LGBTQIA discrimination) in the church today. Decolonizing our faith probably needs to be included in whatever safety plans we develop to protect our communities from the harm we ourselves may be perpetuating and justifying in society and in the world.

As the Gospel of Luke (6:41-46) reminds us,

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

May God preserve us, instruct us, and inspire us all as we strive to become people who live in peace with God and with one another.

In Christ’s Peace,


The Relational Cost of Organizational Life in the Episcopal Church

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church

A Note from the Vice-President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (i.e. me):

Decision making processes matter within any organizational and community relationship. Hierarchical decision making may be expedient to meeting the operational needs of an institution and that institution’s top-tier leadership. Hierarchical decision making is always a legitimate option within an organization so composed. In contrast, decision making within a representative/democratic process is a viable model within institutions so composed for such a model of governance. The Episcopal Church uses both hierarchical decision making processes AND representative/democratic decision making processes, while making a distinction between what bodies are responsible for management and what bodies are responsible for oversight.

In the governance and operations of the church, decision making models bump up against management and oversight roles, with the Executive Council as a quasi board entity responsible for oversight while the executive officers/staff are responsible for management of the corporation. Unlike other corporations, however, the church states a commitment to Beloved Community – which includes everyone in any given room where decisions are being made.

The values upon which the model of Beloved Community is based are antithetical to both decision making models operant in the church, in that Beloved Community is not cultivated through either hierarchical or representative/democratic decision making but rather in the nurturing and empowerment of every voice and every person. The only currency of any authority that has value within the Beloved Community is healthy relationship as characterized by emotional safety, spiritual authenticity, and equally-weighted voices that eschew personal power in favor of decisions made for the greatest benefit of relationships. Healthy ways of relating/communicating are the greatest treasure of organizational life. I believe that much organizational/relational treasure was spent in the collision of a pre-determined hierarchical decision made by executive officers seeking justification through the democratic decision making process of Executive Council.

Additionally, I believe that the final vote reflects the harm done to relationships between the executive officers and members of council. I am concerned that much community/relational currency was expended by leadership to achieve this result, Beloved Community currency that will take some intentional time to replenish in our organizational life. That said, if the Presiding Bishop had made the determination to use his executive function and simply appoint a COO (well within his authority to do), that would have caused far greater relational damage within a context of growing partnership with the Executive Council. The way forward will call everyone to the deeper authenticity of Beloved Community.

As Vice-President of the House of Deputies, I have no vote within the Executive Council democracy, and I have no authority within the hierarchy. I am committed to supporting people, and will support the COO in whatever ways are open to me , as I am equally committed in my support of the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, and members of Executive Council. The new COO does not trouble me. However, the compromised decision-making process does trouble me. I need a Beloved Community in which all members are committed to healthy ways of relating and communicating – without manipulation of powers, people, and circumstance. We must not seek to sit at the tables that Jesus overturned. Our treasure is one another.

From the Living Church article covering the vote:

“In one sense, it wasn’t a close call. The resolution was approved 26 to 13, meaning 67 percent voted in favor — a lopsided landslide in a secular election. But virtually all Executive Council resolutions are passed unanimously, or nearly so. No other resolution in years has been opposed by anything close to a third of the council.”

Pentecost: Time for Transformation

The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton

It’s been about six months since I have had the opportunity to contribute to my own blog, but I’ve been doing some important writing in other forums recently. As I turn again to more regular contributions to Greening Spirit, I thought it might be helpful to gather in one place the articles I’ve written elsewhere over the past year. It’s a little easier for me to refer those who ask about what I’ve been working on to this space as a single point of reference.

Over the last year, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on themes that are really very tightly braided together. These include: Indigenous environmental spirituality, leadership formation in the Episcopal Church, the historical forces of Christian neocolonialism, environmental justice, and the critical need for racial reconciliation within the Church and between the Church and Indigenous communities. Taken altogether, these themes constitute a common trajectory of the influence of dominant culture and the vital need to make a global cultural course correction. The Anthropocene era of species extinction and climate change on Earth and decline of the Church have a common foundation in the worldview and impact of colonialism that continues to drive dominant societies to justify war, oppression, and nationalism today.

Societies are subject to forces of cultural transformation through the processes of intellectual and spiritual development that are important hallmarks of the evolution of the human species. We change. Our societies change. Our understandings of the cosmos and the nature of the Earth and environmental dynamics have advanced exponentially over the last 50 years alone. Christianity (and the other Abrahamic faith traditions) must catch up or be left by the wayside of the greater human journey as maladaptive belief systems that have contributed to the deterioration of human relationship with Creation and between human communities. That said, I would observe that progressive expressions of the Abrahamic faiths absolutely exist, though the visionary voices of each are frequently drowned out by the minority, toxic versions that plague them. Unfortunately, the toxic versions are motivated by a common vision: totalitarianism. Such a worldview is in every way counter to the reality of diversity and counter to the values of any faith that believes in a God who created and loves that diversity. Human identity is discovered, revealed, and realized over a lifetime; our potential does not find culmination in imposed conformity but in cultivated authenticity.

The work that I have been doing has found voice at the generous invitation of several forums, and I am deeply grateful for their support. Through their friendship and allyship, I am able to share the links below. These materials are only a small and current part of the far larger history and contributions of Indigenous peoples in the Episcopal Church and in the world. My sincere hope is that these offerings will serve to support the ongoing dialog, growing awareness, and much needed transformation for greater mutual understanding and the vital, healing work of racial reconciliation.

Videos & Written Resources

Reflecting on the Guiding Principles of the Beloved Community (The Importance of Episcopal Church Global Partnerships) – Video Resource [29:39 minutes]:

Native Voices: Speaking to the Church and the World – TEC Office of Indigenous Ministries – Video Resource [36:39 minutes]:

Becoming Beloved Community from an Indigenous Perspective – United Thank Offering Panel Discussion – Video Resource [1:30:00] Becoming Beloved Community from an Indigenous Perspective

When Creation Is Sacred: restoring the Indigenous Jesus (Anglican Theological Review, Special issue on “All Things Hold Together: Intersections in Creation Care”, Volume 103 Issue 2, May 2021):

The Cultural Conundrum of the Indigenous Christian (Racial Reconciliation Series, Episcopal Church column of September 30, 2021):

Let Earth Be Heaven (Episcopal Church Foundation, Vital Practices; Caretakers of God’s Creation Series, March 2022):

The Great Burning (The Living Church, Covenant weblog; Commentary, May 4, 2022):

P.S. – This is an older article I wrote for the Anglican Theological Review for their Fall 2010 Volume 92 • Number 4 issue; The Necessity of Native American Autonomy for Successful Partnerships: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/

On the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

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R.E.D. Memorial, Northbrook, IL (2011)

Ten years ago, the Regional Emergency Dispatch (R.E.D.) Center in Northbrook, Illinois installed a section of steel beam from the World Trade Center as a memorial to those killed on 9/11 in New York City, Washington D.C., and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The installation outside the R.E.D. also commemorates those first responders killed when the WTC towers collapsed during rescue efforts. For me, this small memorial in rural Illinois unites the constellation of losses that occurred on 9/11 and the way the collective experience of that day impacted every community across our nation.

Americans in every state posted American flags outside businesses and homes. So many people purchased flags that stores sold out of them within days, and fabric stores experienced a run on any red/white/blue materials and ribbons they had. Instinctively, Americans everywhere were drawn to a symbol of national identity and unity in a time of national trauma and grief. Many young Americans representing our diverse communities enlisted in the armed forces as services were deployed to Afghanistan. The trauma and grief continued to ripple through the costs of lives and impact on our veterans over the twenty years that followed. Their service was not in vain and their accomplishments are far greater than most of us will ever know. The witness of their dedication compels us to elect civilian leaders worthy of their trust and who are committed to reasonable civil discourse, responsible global partnerships, and serving the needs of the oppressed for the greater wellbeing, peace, and freedom of all people.

9/11 was more than a moment in history or a day in time – it continues to resonate within a cultural reform movement shaping a new American identity. We continue to be challenged to move from national isolationism to global connection at every level of our society; from teaching the myth of American exceptionalism to teaching the truths about how our nation was built and by whom, removing the cracked varnish of racism to reveal the genuine beauty of strength in the patterned, colored grain beneath; from enriching the privileged few through the bloody contracts of war and capitalism to providing the opportunity for life, liberty, and happiness to all who come to our boarders seeking refuge and freedom from violence.

9/11 will and must remain with us always, with its generational lessons of courage, commitment, enduring love, humility, generosity, interdependence, and human dignity. As a country, we are still rising from the ashes. Every day and in every moment, we are confronted with choices to either fan the smoldering ruins of hatred or to love our neighbor.

The American flag doesn’t belong to the white Christian supremacists who stormed our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021, who even used that flag to beat a Capitol Police officer defending our national leaders. I’m fairly certain domestic terrorists don’t even understand the ideals and history of the diverse peoples the American flag represents. Who we are, what America is, is ours to determine and to be in each and every moment. Today, on this 20th Anniversary of 9/11, I choose to live in ways that best honor the diversity of those who died that day and those who died in the twenty years of war that followed. I will live courageously, thankfully, humbly, generously, authentically, truthfully, helpfully, and never ever forget that the American experiment is my responsibility to preserve and reform as a citizen of this nation.

R.E.D. Memorial Plaque (2011)

A Season of Reason

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A number of years ago, the Episcopal Ad Project put out a poster, a classic picture of Jesus that said, “He died to take away your sins, not your mind.”  Over the past several months, I have recalled the sentiment of this poster multiple times as I have strived the navigate the social waters of the Covid-19 pandemic, the availability of vaccines that are proven to be effective, and the emergence of new virus variants that have had the opportunity to mutate within populations with a low vaccination rate.

My friends in the medical field across the country include nurses, hospice staff, respiratory therapists, first responders, laboratory technicians, clinicians, and physicians. To a person, they are tired and frustrated. I try to support them in the ways that I can by providing a non-judgmental and supportive listening ear for as long as they need it. Many of them are suffering from acute compassion fatigue and are finding it increasingly difficult to feel empathy for those who have chosen not to take steps in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and who have consequently contracted the virus. Patience is a limited natural resource even in the most stalwart of human beings. The impatience and frustration of professional healthcare workers who are enduring these times is understandable. In spite of their physical and emotional fatigue, society’s healers are continuing to do what they can – ifthey can – to save the lives of people from the devastation of a global pandemic. 

Faith and science are two ways of encountering the environment in which we live. In the historical development of the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal tradition has never seen faith as being at odds with science. In fact, even going as far back as the sixteenth century Church of England, theologian Richard Hooker defended of the role of reason as one of three legs of the three-legged stool supporting the emerging Anglican faith – scripture, reason, and tradition remain foundational to the Anglican/Episcopal worldview and subsequently to the practice of our faith.

Recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told an international gathering of faith leaders that collaborative steps to meet the challenges of the world’s current climate crisis would benefit from the relationship between science and faith. He made his comments in the first of a series of online meetings being held in advance of the UN’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow later this year. Archbishop Justin said that “the relationship between science and faith presents us with a very real and a powerful route to lasting, major change. Our global reach, our commitment to local communities and our hope combined with the knowledge and expertise of science can forge a powerful alliance.”

In an expression linking faith and science, The Most Rev. Michael Curry who is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, created a video of receiving his first Covid-19 vaccination earlier this year. “I thank God for all of the people who have made the COVID vaccines possible and available,” he says in the video, “I’m thankful to have received my first shot – one more to go!” Bishop Curry has since been fully vaccinated and has encouraged all Episcopalians to do the same. The Office of Government Relations of the Episcopal Church created a Covid-19 Tool Kit with ideas of how to encourage people to be vaccinated.

The Covid-19 Toolkit shares that In 2019 (before the pandemic), the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution stating, “That The Episcopal Church has long maintained that we are guided by faith and reason, and that scientific evidence helps us to better understand God’s creation, our place in it, and ways to alleviate suffering and pain.” 

Additional language from that resolution offers excellent guidance for taking vaccines, including this statement, “The proper and responsible use of vaccines is a duty not only to our own selves and families but to our communities. Choosing to not vaccinate, when it is medically safe, threatens the lives of others.” A further statement in the resolution gives no wiggle room for non-compliance based on religious objections, “The Executive Council recognizes no claim of theological or religious exemption from vaccination for our members and reiterates the spirit of General Convention policies that Episcopalians should seek the counsel of experienced medical professionals, scientific research, and epidemiological evidence.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee updated and extended two emergency proclamations last week that expand the vaccine requirement and the statewide face covering requirement.  As of August 16, 2021 in our state, at least 69.3 percent of people 12 years of age and older and 59.1 percent of the total population have initiated vaccination. However, only 53.8 percent of the total state population are fully vaccinated.

The “Delta” variant of Covid-19 is at least twice as transmissible as the virus that emerged in late 2019. This fact coupled with the continued significant numbers of unvaccinated people, has caused Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations to rise sharply among unvaccinated populations. As a result, at least 85 percent of U.S. counties and all counties in Washington state meet the CDC criteria for high or substantial transmission.

This is not a time to eschew science but rather to embrace God’s gifts to humanity of intellect (of reason) and the skills with which we are equipped by our Creator and that are modeled by Christ in order to bring healing to the sick. Through the application of our God-given talents and divinely inspired common sense, we are commanded to live from a sacred commitment to care for our neighbor. Our common commitment to one another’s wellbeing is how we are to incarnate our love of God and God’s love for us. Truly, in light of God’s gift of community – in light of the way we have been made to live within relationships of mutual dependence upon one another – caring for the health of others in both a faithful and reasonable thing to do. We must all of us model Christ, we must all of us be healers.  The burden of responsibility for the health of our communities must be shared.

I feel so deeply grateful for all the ways that members of Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett, WA who attend and shepherd our in-person services have adhered to the Covid-19 protocols that we have in place. Without this mutual commitment, we would not be able to gather for worship and visit for fellowship. I have felt blessed to see some of my parishioners again and to visit with them in person. If we can continue to model a faithful and reasonable commitment to one another, then the opportunities for gathering in person can continue – with every person making the choices they feel are most reasonable for their continued safety. As we turn to September, the traditional time of fall program startups, I encourage Episcopalians and all people of good will to celebrate this autumn as a Season of Reason. My hope is that this fall season may be a time of gratitude for all that God has given to us that informs our faith and that we bring as gifts to our relationship with God and to our Church, most especially our minds.


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Our bodies are like nautilus shells

growing and changing with the influence of time and environment

Yet. the soul within does not change

it may learn and become wiser but does not ever become less vital.

Our mortality spirals into the experience of life towards death

while our souls achieve an eternal orbit

around the heart of our Creator

drawn ever deeper into the cosmos

where eternity is etched in light from a billion billion stars

We are here and away in every breath

So then, whether we are here or away

we are held in the embrace of spiraling arms of light

a presence only faith can sense

a Divine touch perceived by mortal eyes

that evolved only in response to light

We were made for beholding

In Response to the Responsum

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Same Love

My seminary was a Catholic Jesuit seminary, Loyola University in Chicago. I was a Catholic lay person at the time I attended in the early 90’s. The Institute of Pastoral Studies at the University awarded me full tuition scholarships and graduate assistantships for all three years of my MDiv program. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, was the first student in the history of the degree program to do so, and was inducted into the National Jesuit Honor Society. I tell you all this my friends so that you may have a certain confidence that what I am about to remark is intimately familiar with the history, theology, polity, and canon law of the Roman Catholic Church.

Firstly, the recent Responsum released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith represents the conservative perspective within the Church but does not represent the full mind of the Church. Secondly, the theology informing the Responsum is based in Natural Law theory, a Medieval understanding of biology that views procreation as a primary good and evidence of Divine order in creation. Thirdly, anything that inhibits or does not advance human procreation is therefore deemed sinful. The overall argument is circular and focused on preserving patriarchal constructs of theology and polity.

Much like the Eames Commission’s Windsor Report (2004) in the Anglican Communion, the recent Responsum on blessing same sex union is more concerned about enforcing union within institutional relationships at the expense of union between LGBTQ people. The current organizational dynamic reflected in the Responsum is similar to what occurred between conservative and progressive leadership in the Anglican Communion almost twenty years ago, with formal statements serving as a public institutional dialog that revealed more about the nature of the institution than about the nature of Divine or human love.

My friends, God loves you. The times when this is perceived as a radical or threatening statement are the times when people of faith must join arms, not take them up. Your love for another person already has God’s blessing as the fulfillment of Divine law – your commitment and fidelity to another person is made sacramental by the presence of your mutual love, a love intended to remind us all of God’s love. Your tears of joy or sorrow bless you with a baptism that the Church can only ever hope to emulate.

You are God’s own Beloved. The Church will be transformed by that same love.

A Wilderness People Seek Holy Ground

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Photo by Don Wayne – Mt. Rainier National Park

Results of Our Six Diocesan Resolutions

Circles of Color sponsored six resolutions to Diocesan Convention. We led a preconvention workshop on the Thursday evening before the Friday/Saturday convention schedule. During Convention, we provided a Friday morning introductory workshop to the Circles of Color and a panel discussion on Saturday. The sum of work was intensive, but the rewards were exponential.

The overarching intention of the six resolutions was to draw collective attention to the needs for diocesan institutional reform to support the work, leadership formation, and ministries essential to the communities and people of color in our diocese. Before 2007, this work had been facilitated by the supervision of a fulltime ethnic missioner, a fulltime suffragan bishop, a full-time assistant, and a part-time dedicated communications assistant. From 2007 onward, staff cuts and budget cuts served to deconstruct the centralized programing and support that had previously existed for our Episcopalians of color. In the absence of a proactive staff presence for providing advocacy, support and connection, the recruitment and leadership formation BIPOC people suffered as did several of our faith communities of color. In short, an administrative goal to cut costs had the impact of deconstructing ethnic ministries, which had been a vital community for BIPOC people in the diocese that provided significant partnerships, education, and consultation resources throughout the diocese.

The Circles of Color resolutions addressed the importance and need to keep BIPOC concerns and needs in the forefront of diocesan mission and commitment. During our panel discussion on Saturday, we heard from a member of the Diocesan Budget and Finance Committee that a diocesan survey some years ago indicated that ethnic ministries was a low priority for our diocese. However, based on the outstanding support of members of Convention this year, I believe the sense of diocesan priorities may have changed somewhat in response to the current issues of our time – most especially the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement and revitalized interest in the intersectionality of indigenous peoples concerns and environmental justice issues.

Convention passed all six resolutions sponsored on behalf of Circles of Color. The resolutions themselves provided an important opportunity for reflection and education. They served as a lens through which to view and understand the needs of BIPOC Episcopalians. The majority of the diocese was likely unaware of the disenfranchisement experienced by our BIPOC church members and communities. I believe that I speak for all members of Circles of Color that we felt deeply grateful and were very emotionally and spiritually moved by the Convention’s support of the resolutions and by the witness and testimony provided by white allies who spoke in support of the resolutions. Many tears of gratitude were shed, and by the end of Convention we felt that we had been seen, heard, and valued. We hope that the community gift of being seen, heard, and valued will continue as we all grow in the depth of our relationships with one another in the Diocese of Olympia.

Whoever’s in Charge is Who’s Responsible

The greatest organizational challenges for needed changes are in areas of governance and leadership, getting to the heart of addressing issues of systemic racism in the church. Bishop Rickel has noted that now that the resolutions have been passed, the real work begins. From a values and community perspective, the work of addressing systemic racism is all of ours to do and rests with no single individual but with every individual, wherever we are on the organizational flow chart, however much social power we have, and whatever color we are. In our Baptismal Covenant, each of us has made the promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. Fulfilling our Baptismal promises constitutes the work of a lifetime.

However, from a leadership and organizational perspective in which the reality of church hierarchy determines institutional and budgetary priorities, the bishop and his office as well as the dean and the diocesan cathedral need to do some soul searching. People of color in the Diocese of Olympia are asking for mutuality in our relationships with church leaders, input into institutional operations that directly affect us, and pastoral responses from diocesan and cathedral leadership. Asking for mutuality and decision-making that cares for the needs of the marginalized – which are community value of our faith – is at odds with the hegemonic nature of a hierarchical institution that equates leadership with higher authority possessing greater power and control.

In terms of systems theory, it is not possible to reconcile issues of inequality within a hierarchal structure that by its nature derives authority from the unequal social strata over which it has power. The democratic principles that seemingly empower the bicameral decision making of diocesan conventions and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church may be legislative bodies that attempt to balance the hierarchical influence of bishops and other leaders. Yet, the canon law that undergirds the Church polity and empowerment of hierarchal decision making is cumbersome and time consuming to change in response to the facile and rapidly changing needs of our time – including adapting to real-time needs of our growing communities of color.  Therefore, organizational adaptation is highly localized and is utterly dependent on how a given diocesan bishop or leadership system is willing to flex in the way in which authority operates on a continuum of unilateral hierarchical decision making to allowing for corporate influence in decision-making and collaborative organizational management.

Hierarchical decision-making says, “I have decided this is how it will be – you figure out how to execute my expectation and thereby you are ‘empowered’ to do things my way, and I will hold you accountable.” Whereas, corporate input into decision making that leads to genuine collective responsibility says, “We need to hear from one another regularly and intentionally so that we keep learning what we each need from a shared commitment to creating what we envision together; in this way we empower one another to assume the responsibilities we each have toward one another through our shared leadership, holding ourselves accountable.”

When hierarchical systems are incapable or unwilling to listen to the needs of the marginalized, the people will insist on transformative change, frequently perceived as a hostile corporate takeover by those whom the system genuinely empowers. Corporate challenge is the first indicator to those in charge within a system from which only the few derive authority that the system is not serving the people. Hierarchical systems rely on a system of rewards and punishments, usually generating a cosmology that promotes fear of retribution and extends relationship only to the compliant.  Within a hierarchal church system, forgiveness is about successfully placating angry gods.

Fortunately, in the face of the hierarchical machinations of empire and religious institution, Jesus offers a compelling alternative.

New Testament Leadership is Corporate and so is God

Jesus and early church leadership introduced significant social and theological innovations to the  hierarchical values and cultural beliefs enforced during their lifetime. Their perceived attempt at corporate takeover was considered threatening enough by those in hierarchical power to get nearly all of them killed. Yet, history shows us that good ideas are hard to entomb or coopt and have a tendency to be resurrected and liberated in successive generations. Just as creation is an ongoing phenomenon not limited to the allegory of seven days, Christ’s resurrection was never limited to just three days but continues unabated in our time.

The reality that the savior of dominant culture is an articulate, educated, brown-skinned, socially progressive young adult we know as Jesus is entirely relevant to the call confronting the Church today. Having lived his entire human life as an indigenous man living under Roman occupation and frustrated by the failure of his religious leaders to take a stand on behalf of the people in order to help mitigate their suffering, Jesus empowered others through his leadership. He leveraged whatever social privilege he held to cultivate relationships with the whole spectrum of his society, subverting multitudinous dominant paradigms with the certitude of the core principles of his faith. He elevated the law to love one another into a rallying cry for social, personal, and spiritual transformation. He seemingly challenged everyone he met to garner the fortitude to grow beyond the social limitations/expectations placed upon them like manacles, while chastising those who had created those bonds.

Jesus did not seek to overthrow but to create level ground for all. For those dwelling in high places of power, level ground was an anathema. Yet, early church writers picked up the theme of human value within corporate ways of being, and a triune God in collaboration with itself became the new model for leadership and community. In a challenge to ascribed social and religious privilege, Paul deconstructed social strata in human society and in religious institution, reframing the new community as the Body of Christ:

For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.  But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Cor 13-14, 22, 24b-25).

Identifying a basis for common ground amidst social and cultural diversity, Paul also provides a basis for unity and social leveling in the idea that all social assignments that ascribe our identity – including ethnicity and gender – are subsumed into the singular identity of Christ, whose own identity in/as God transcends all:

Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:24-28)

Surely, when members of Christ’s body are hurting, we need to tend to those wounds collectively. People of color in the diocese of Olympia are hurting. Passing the six resolutions at our convention was an important beginning. Hearing Bishop Rickel state at convention that he is aware that he is responsible for causing much of the pain that was shared during the listening session panel was incredibly important. The next step is in developing mutual relationships in which people value one another through deepening trust and understanding. However, there is no program, training module, or personal inventory in existence that can substitute for doing the actual work of relationship building. One phone call at a time. One email at a time. One Zoom at a time. One meal at a time. One conversation at a time. Jesus never said the love we should have for one another would be easy, but he did say that it’s the most important work we can ever do for God.

It is laudable and appreciated that our bishop and cathedral are developing partnerships with diverse churches and ethnic communities outside of The Episcopal Church and with Episcopal leaders of color outside of our diocese. Yet, in doing so, leadership has overlooked our own people of color in the Diocese of Olympia and neglected the need we have for being in transformative and liberative relationship with our bishop and our cathedral. I hear that some hierarchical leaders feel at risk and are afraid; I hear that some of our people of color feel at risk and are afraid. Yet, I believe that all of us long for a relationship rooted on the level social landscape as Christ’s body that is Holy Ground, where “We will not all die, but we will all be changed.” 1 Cor 15:51

Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color Convention Resolutions


Convention Resolutions Preamble

Throughout the history of the Diocese of Olympia, Episcopalians of color have experienced many challenges within the institutional processes of establishing and maintaining ministries that support our people and faith communities of color. For example, in the wake of 9/11, the diocesan Anti-Racism Training Task Force along with the Committee for Cultural and Racial Unity presented a resolution to the 91st Convention of the Diocese of Olympia (2001) entitled, A Call for Dismantling Racism and White Privilege in the Life of the Church and the Region. The resolution asked the Diocese of Olympia to declare that the sin of racism is contrary to Scripture and in violation of the promises of the Baptismal Covenant. The resolution further resolved that the diocese would participate in a “Year of Action Against Racism and White Privilege,” a social action and education initiative sponsored by the Church Council of Greater Seattle’s Committee for Racial Justice. The Resolutions Committee moved for adoption of the resolution.

However, debate ensued on the floor of convention as to whether or not to remove the word “white” from the term “white privilege” within the text of the resolution. In the end, Paula Harris-White, the author of the resolution, stated, “If this body is not really ready to deal with the issues of racism in an open, honest and graceful way, perhaps we are not ready to deal with the resolution at all.”  She then made a motion to withdraw the resolution, but a separate motion was passed instead to table the resolution to the following year’s convention in order to allow for time for “additional work and dialogue.” The resolution was never re-introduced.  

Examples of issues that are more recent include organizational changes in diocesan governance, structures, and programs that have had the cumulative effect of isolating and disenfranchising Episcopalians of color in the Diocese of Olympia. We have experienced the organizational deconstruction of the diocesan Commission for Ethnic Ministries, the defunding of three full time diocesan positions dedicated to Ethnic Ministries, the shift of programmatic focus away from ethnic ministries, and changes that have negatively affected our predominantly ethnic congregations.

The absence of proactive cultivation of ethnic ministries created a diocesan-wide diaspora of our people of color, who became increasingly isolated from one another and from the leadership decision-making stream of the diocese. In 2011, changes to diocesan canons restructured Diocesan Council that had formerly included six seats for representatives of the Commissions of the diocese, thereby removing the opportunity for appointments representing our communities of color that were once networked through the former Commission on Ethnic Ministries.

In 2015, diocesan leadership made a unilateral decision to shift the focus and language away from “Ethnic Ministries” which served ethnic communities to focus on Multicultural Competency training. While the term “multiculturalism” implies that diverse people are supported within or as a result of the training program, in reality the initiative is focused on the education of the white majority of the Church. Currently, there is no proactive diocesan strategic plan for developing ethnic ministries, growing ethnic congregations, and creating opportunities for the active participation of people of color in the governing bodies and decision-making processes of our diocese. When considered in total, the deconstruction of Ethnic Ministries and alienation of BIPOC voices appears intentional. While leadership decisions may have been intended as fiscally and organizationally pragmatic changes, the impact of de-staffing, defunding, and devaluing the experiences of Episcopalians of color in our diocese has been traumatic.

In the absence of organizational support, a leadership group composed of people of color and allies formed in the fall of 2019 to begin dreaming and planning for a genuinely Beloved Community. In the spring and summer of 2020, Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color formed as a grassroots BIPOC network. Our Circles of Color are mutually supportive communities for resource sharing, networking, personal support, addressing issues of racism, encouraging leadership development among our people of color church communities, and connecting people of color with what they need emotionally and spiritually to be who God is calling them to be.

In addition to the Leadership Circle, the Clergy Circle of Color has developed the following Circles: African/Black American Circle; Indigenous Circle, Asian Circle; and the Hispanic/Latino Circle. The Postulants of Color Circle is for those people of color currently in the formal ordination process. We are in the process of forming an LGBTQ Circle for people of color. Our allies are also forming an Ethnic Ministries Allies Circle composed of white allies who are truly knowledgeable about and committed to working in authentic partnership with people of color.

Representatives of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color have submitted six resolutions for the 110th Convention of the Diocese of Olympia (2020). These resolutions speak to significant truths about the nature of the diocesan organization. They reflect the call to action to which we are all called in the wake of the death of George Floyd, as well as the need to transform the racist ideals enshrined in the institutions of the United States and in the Church. The Church must move beyond tokenism and the performative use of people of color to genuine and proactive partnership in every aspect of programs and governance of the diocese. We hope that members of Convention will consider the six resolutions that we have submitted as meaningful steps towards the reconciliation and authentic relationship that are foundational to realizing the Beloved Community. We welcome the dialogue that has long been needed.

The following Six Resolutions have been submitted by the convention delegates listed below on behalf of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color, who also sign the above statement.

The Rev. Josefina Beecher (Retired)

The Rev. Carla Robinson, Priest Associate Christ Episcopal Church, Seattle

The Rev. Deacon Polly Shigaki, St. Peter’s, Seattle; Commission on Ministry

The Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton (Retired)

The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Everett; Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color Coordinator

The Rev. Dr. Edie Weller, Priest Associate, St. Mark’s Cathedral


  1. Elsie Dennis, St. Matthew’s, Brown’s Point
  2. Sylvia Sepulveda, Christ Church, Anacortes
  3. The Rev. Canon Jerry Shigaki, (Retired)
  4. Daren K Chidester, St. John’s Olympia
  5. Dianne Aid, Tssf
  6. Anna Lynn, St. Matthew – San Mateo Episcopal Church
  7. The Rev. Kendall Haynes, St. Matthew Episcopal Church
  8. Becky Clark, St. Columba, Kent
  9. The Rev. Greg Peters, Rector, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds
  10. Deborah Moore, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
  11. Mary L. Lyons, St. Stephen, Longview
  12. Nicholas J. Fuchs, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
  13. Edie Carroll, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
  14. The Rev. Nancy Wynen, Grace Episcopal Church, Lopez Island
  15. Henry Lebedinsky, Christ Episcopal Church, Seattle
  16. The Rev. Danae Ashley, St. Andrew’s, Seattle
  17. The Rt. Rev. Sanford Z. K. Hampton, Diocese of Olympia
  18. David Kosar, Treasurer, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
  19. The Rev. Natalie Johnson, St. Paul, Seattle
  20. The Rev. Carlos J. Caguiat, Church of the Resurrection (supply), Holy Cross Redmond (home parish)
  21. The Rev. Anne Barton
  22. The Rev. Deacon Pat Grodt, St. Dunstan’s, Shoreline
  23. Hisako M. Beasley, St. Mark’s Cathedral/Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color
  24. The Rev. M. Sue Reid (Retired)
  25. The Rev. Dr. Paul Moore, Resurrección/St. Paul’s, Mount Vernon
  26. The Rev. Susan C. Armer, St. Thomas, Clarkdale
  27. The Rev. Julianna Caguiat (Retired), Holy Cross, Redmond
  28. The Rev. Berto Gandara, Emmanuel Orcas Island
  29. Adrienne Elliott, St. Paul’s, Seattle
  30. The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, Diocese of Olympia
  31. Julia Vander Vegt, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
  32. Claudia Jean Swift, St James-Sedro Woolley
  33. Cathie Knox-Browning, St. John the Baptist in West Seattle
  34. The Rev. Canon Pat Taylor, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
  35. The Rev. Mary MacKenzie, St. Paul’s Seattle
  36. Em Malmevik, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
  37. The Rev. Fred Jessett (Retired)
  38. The Rev. Patricia Robertson (Retired), St. Barnabas, Bainbridge Island
  39. The Rev. Canon Nancy Ross, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
  40. Betsy Teays, St. Luke’s, Renton
  41. Ann Strickland, Grace Church, Bainbridge Island
  42. The Rev. Nic Mather, St. Stephen’s, Longview
  43. Lisalynn Reed, St. Thomas, Medina
  44. Mel Butler, St. Luke’s Renton
  45. Kelly DiCicco, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
  46. Alex Flannagan, Youth Ministry Coordinator for the Diocese of Olympia
  47. Katharine Lamperti, Emmanuel Episcopal Church
  48. The Rev. Gail Wheatley (Retired)
  49. Megan Oakes, St. Peter’s Seattle
  50. Mary Fancher Butler, St. Luke, Renton
  51. Peter McClung, St. Marks Cathedral Parish
  52. The Rev. Shelly Fayette, Christ Church, Seattle
  53. James B Campbell
  54. Katie Bucy, St. John the Baptist
  55. The Ven. Gen Grewell, Archdeacon for Diocese of Olympia
  56. Barbara Potgieter, St. Paul’s, Seattle
  57. Torres Hui, Holy Apostles, Bellevue
  58. The Rev. Richard C. Weyls, Rector, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle
  59. The Rev. Rebecca J Scott (Retired)
  60. The Rev. Kevin D. Pearson, St. Luke Church, Renton
  61. Den Mark Wichar, St Luke’s – San Lucas, Vancouver
  62. The Rev. Jane C. Rohrer (Retired)
  63. Timi Vann, Holy Cross, Redmond
  64. Nancy Kaye Holcomb, St. Paul’s. Seattle
  65. Caroline Phan, St. Peters, Seattle
  66. Myra Ryneheart Corcorran, Christ Episcopal Church, Blaine
  67. Kierstin Brown, St. Paul’s Seattle and Circles of Color
  68. The Rev. Missy Couch, Deacon, St. John’s Kirkland
  69. The Rev. Chris McPeak, Christ Church, Seattle
  70. Jerry A. Carson, Trinity Episcopal, Everett
  71. Cara Peterson, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
  72. The Rev. Laura Murray, Faith Episcopal, Poulsbo
  73. The Rev. Carol Rodin, Christ Church, Anacortes
  74. Sharon Parker, St. Christopher Community Church
  75. Tracy Garrett, St Paul’s, Port Townsend
  76. Barbara Wilson, St. Luke’s, Seattle
  77. Janet Rae Graham
  78. Barb Levy, St. Paul’s, Seattle
  79. The Rev. Jay Rozendaal, St. Paul’s, Seattle
  80. Michelle Wheeler, Trinity Episcopal, Everett
  81. Joyce Roderick, Holy Cross, Redmond
  82. Andrew Kronenwetter, St. Paul’s, Seattle
  83. Diana Bender, Epiphany Parish Seattle
  84. Patricia Trytten, St. Matthew / San Mateo Church Auburn WA
  85. The Rev. Karen Schomburg, St. Andrew’s, Port Angeles
  86. The Rev Michael Wright, St Stephen’s, Longview
  87. The Rev. David Mesenbring (Retired)
  88. Malcolm McLaurin, Candidate for Holy Orders, T’21
  89. Tina Francis Mutungu, Trinity Parish, Seattle
  90. Joslin Harris-Gane, Christ Episcopal Church, Seattle
  91. Ellen MB Green, Faith Church, Poulsbo
  92. Mary Segall, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
  93. Nancy Simcox, Epiphany Parish of Seattle
  94. Rev. Hilary Njoroge, St. Matthew Tacoma
  95. Dick Hall, St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods, Freeland
  96. Anne Griffin, Epiphany Parish, Seattle
  97. Robert G. Stevens, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
  98. Michael Perera, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
  99. The Rev. R.C. Laird, St. John | San Juan, Olympia
  100. ClayOla Gitane, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Sequim
  101. Ruth Anne Garcia, Epiphany, Seattle
  102. Walter Knowles, St Paul’s Seattle, School of Theology, Sewanee
  103. Margaret Bird, St. Paul’s, Mt. Veron
  104. Tia Hudson, St. Hugh, Allyn
  105. The Rev. Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, St. John’s, Snohomish
  106. Nabatanzi Bewayo, Epiphany Parish, Seattle
  107. The Rev Sarah Monroe, Chaplains on the Harbor
  108. The Rev. Mary Jane Francis, St. Paul’s, Seattle
  109. Sherilyn Peterson, Epiphany Parish, Seattle
  110. Anonymous (1)

Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color is grateful for your support. If you would like to add your name to the above statement in support of the resolutions below, please complete and submit this form.

PLEASE NOTE: Draft versions of the Resolutions were submitted to the Committee on Constitution and Canons and to the Resolutions Committee on September 8, 2020. On October 10, we posted the final version of each resolution which include revisions to three resolutions (noted below) that reflect changes based on feedback and input from members of the Committee on Constitution and Canons and the Resolutions Committee.


Convention Resolution #4

Resolution Promoting Diversity on Diocesan Council

Submitted by The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, on behalf of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color

Contact: Rachel Taber-Hamilton

NOTE: The original resolution submitted to the Committee on Constitution and Canons has been expanded to include directives on how the shift to a new membership rotation would be operationalized. These changes were recommended by Canon Dede Moore.

Resolved, that the 110th Convention of the Diocese of Olympia adopt the following changes to Canon 6 of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons:

Canon 6: The Diocesan Council

Section 1:

The Bishop and Council of the Diocese, as hereinafter constituted, shall be known as the “Diocesan Council” and shall exercise powers of Convention between the meetings thereof.

Section 2:

The Diocesan Council shall consist of the Bishop, Bishop Coadjutor, Suffragan Bishops, if any, two one members (one clergy and one or layperson) representing each of the ten Regional Ministries, four at large members (two clergy and two laypersons), and up to six BIPOC[1] members (clergy or laypersons) appointed by the bishop. The bishop may seek recommendation from existing Ethnic Ministry Communities as may helpful.

Section 3:

All regional and at large members shall be elected at the Annual Convention with one-third being elected each year. All elected and appointed members shall serve for three-year terms. No member who has served on Council for two consecutive terms shall be eligible for re-election until the expiration of one year. All lay members shall be adult Communicants in Good Standing of a diocesan parish or mission. All clergy members shall be canonically resident in the Diocese of Olympia. The Council shall have power to fill any vacancies in its membership and shall fill any such vacancies for any position if the unexpired term is more than eleven (11) months. Members thus appointed by Council shall serve the unexpired balance of the term. Absent resignation, removal from office, or death, a member’s term shall continue through the close of the Annual Convention session.

Section 34:

The Bishop shall be the President of Council, provided that the Bishop may delegate the presiding function at any meeting to another member of Council.

Section 45: Regional Representatives shall be elected according to the following rotation schedule (with Year One elected at the 2022 Convention).

Year One Year Two Year Three
EastsideClergyColumbiaClergyBe AttitudesClergy
PeninsulaClergyHoly CClergyEvergreenClergy
Sno IsleClergyMt. BakerClergyRainierClergy
Be AttitudesLayEastsideLayWillapaClergy
ColumbiaLaySno IsleLayHoly CLay
EvergreenLayWillapaLayMt. BakerLay
Year OneYear TwoYear Three
Be AttitudesPeninsulaColumbia
Holy CSno IsleMt. Baker

No member who has served on Council for two consecutive terms shall be eligible for re-election until the expiration of one year. Council members who transfer outside the region they represent shall resign no later than the close of the next Annual Convention. The Council shall have power to fill any vacancies in its membership and shall fill any such vacancies for any position if the unexpired term is more than eleven (11) months. Members thus appointed by Council shall serve the unexpired balance of the term. Absent resignation, removal from office, or death, a member’s term shall continue through the close of the Annual Convention session.

Section 6:

In 2022, at-large members shall be elected as follows: one lay person for a three-year term; one clergy person for a two-year term and one lay person for a two-year term; one clergy person for a one-year term. Beginning in 2023, or as terms expire, at-large members shall be elected according to the continuing rotation schedule for three-year terms.   

Section 7:

In 2022, bishop appointments shall be as follows: up to two persons (clergy or lay) for three-year terms; up to two persons (clergy or lay) for two-year terms; and up to two persons (clergy or lay) for one-year terms. Beginning in 2023, or as terms expire, bishop appointments shall be according to the continuing rotation schedule for three-year terms.

Section 8:

The convention Nominations Committee shall be charged with selecting nominees according to Article XIV, section 2.

Section 59:

The Diocesan Council shall organize and elect such officers other than the Bishop, and appoint such agents as it deems appropriate.

Section 610:

The Council shall support the Bishop’s administration of diocesan programs by developing policy, planning and evaluation.

Section 711:

The Bishop shall supervise the financial affairs of the Diocese, and shall require a proper annual audit of all receipts and disbursements of all parishes and other diocesan organizations. The Bishop shall require the bonding of all Parish, Mission and Diocesan Treasurers; the maintenance of adequate insurance for damage to all church properties; and the introduction and maintenance of the budget system in each Parish and Mission.

Section 8 12:

The Diocesan Council shall annually no later than September 1 adopt an operating budget for the subsequent year. The Bishop shall present this budget to the Diocesan Convention for ratification; the budget may be amended by the Convention on a majority vote. Any proposed amendment that calls for new or increased spending must include an estimate of the additional costs and must specify budget line item reductions or other revenue sources that would maintain a balanced budget. Any proposed amendment that calls for reduction in spending must specify the budget line items to be affected. Any proposed budget amendment must be submitted by written resolution to Diocesan Council and the Resolutions Committee at least 45 days prior to the Convention.

Said budget shall be balanced on the basis of expected diocesan income at the Assessment rate set pursuant to Canon 7. Copies of the draft budget shall be presented to the clergy, lay delegates and Parish and Mission treasurers one week prior to the Spring Pre-Convention Gatherings. Council may recommend for the Bishop’s approval any changes in budget allocations as it may find necessary.


Prior to 2011, the diocesan canons governing the structure of Diocesan Council described the Council as consisting of ten (10) members, one elected from and by each of the ten Regional Ministries, three (3) members elected by the Diocesan Convention, and up to six (6) members appointed by diocesan Program Commissions. Formerly, when the diocesan Commission for Ethnic Ministries existed, the diocesan Ethnic Ministries programs represented the work and ministries of Asian Ministries, African American Ministries, First Nations Ministries, and Hispanic Ministries.  Though not explicitly detailed in Canon 6 prior to the 2011 changes, members representing Episcopal communities of color in the diocese constituted those appointed to Diocesan Council because of the opportunity preserved within former Canon 6 for the representation of BIPOC via the six positions representing the Program Commissions.

Diocesan Convention 2011 passed Resolution #5 on “Diocesan Council Restructure.”  That restructure eliminated all appointed positions to Diocesan Council and shifted to a model of exclusively regional representation with all members elected at Diocesan Convention from each of the ten (10) diocesan regions.

The dominant culture model of a fully elected slate fails to appreciate the values and socio-cultural norms of our communities of color, most especially members of immigrant and relocated communities of color whose cultures include values of personal humility and relying on the invitation of elders and authority figures before assuming positions of responsibility. Additionally, a regional election process in Western Washington biases election results towards white membership, because the majority population of our rural regions are white and our communities of color are primarily urban-centered, with the exception of farm workers. The dominant culture Church must proactively invite people of color into positions of leadership in an ongoing commitment to the representation of minority communities in our organizational model of decision-making. Dedicating representative seats at the table for our communities of color underscores a diocesan commitment to empowering our diverse membership by assuring their presence in leadership.

Though the commission and committees formerly known as the Commission for Ethnic Ministries and the Diocesan ethnic committees no longer exist, Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color is a grassroots community virtual network connecting people of color across the diocese. Organized in the spring and summer of 2020, Circles of Color provides support and advocacy for Episcopalians of color that is not dependent on geographic region or constrained by the rural/urban divide. Each Circle of Color has the ability to lift up representatives from within each community and can serve as a mechanism for recommending appointments to Diocesan Council. The Diocesan Bishop would make the final determination of the slate of appointed positions in consultation with those communities.

With regard to regional representation, the Nominating Committee should strive to maintain a balance of clergy and lay nominees by working with the regions to emphasize the need to alternate between clergy and lay representatives.


Convention Resolution #5

Resolution to Make Diversity Explicit, Canon 17: Diversity in Appointments

Submitted by: The Rev. Deacon Pauline Shigaki, On Behalf of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color

Contact: Polly Shigaki

NOTE: The version of this resolution shown below differs only slightly from the original sent to the Resolutions Committee. This revised version has included “neurodiversity”, which members of the Resolution Committee raised as another form of diversity. While there are many ways to frame diversity, one intention of this resolution is raise deliberate awareness of unconscious biases in appointing BIPOC to seats in leadership, fully appreciating all the gifts to be offered. The form of the resolution below is found in the appendix of The Resolutions Committee Report to Convention and will be submitted on the floor of Convention as a substitute resolution to original.

Resolved, that the 110th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia change Diocesan Canon 17 as indicated below:

Canon 17: In appointing members to diocesan commissions, committees, boards, and other bodies, and in issues of clergy deployment, the appointing authority shall give due consideration to the value of diversity in such areas as gender, sexual identity and orientation, physical ability, neurodiversity, age, race, ethnicity and income and wealth status


The proposed change makes explicit what was implicit as the Canon stood. As the Diocese moves to examine and change the lack of diversity in Diocesan structures, the specificity of the new wording can serve as a substantive reminder, underscoring the reality that in this important historical moment “diversity” requires a more exact definition.


Convention Resolution #6

Toward a More Representative Partnership: A Resolution to Change Diocesan Canon 22

Submitted by: The Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton, On Behalf of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color

Contact: Nigel Taber-Hamilton,

NOTE: The original resolution submitted to the Resolutions Committee has been only slightly revised in text and includes an expanded explanation based in feedback from the Committee. The form of the resolution below is found in the appendix of The Resolutions Committee Report to Convention and will be submitted on the floor of Convention as a substitute resolution to original.

Resolved, that the 110th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia change Diocesan Canon 22 as indicated below:

Canon 22: The Commission on Ministry

Section 1 Membership

There shall be a Commission on Ministry consisting of at least ten members.

a. One member of the Commission shall be chosen by the Standing Committee from among its members. Such members shall serve a one-year term and may be re-appointed by Standing Committee.

b. Of the remaining members of the Commission no fewer than one half third shall be clergy canonically resident in the Diocese and no fewer than one third half shall be lay adult Communicants in Good Standing in the Diocese. These members shall be appointed by the Bishop at the Annual Convention for three-year terms. One half of the Commission’s members shall be elected by the Annual Convention for three year terms. One third of the Commission will be appointed and elected each year. No such member may serve during more than two successive three-year terms. Those appointing and electing members of the Commission, as well as the Commission itself, shall strive for the diversity described in Diocesan Canon 17.

c. If a vacancy of a member appointed by the Bishop occurs on the Commission, the Bishop shall fill the vacancy for the unexpired term. If a vacancy of a member elected by Annual Convention occurs on the Commission, the Diocesan Council shall fill the vacancy until the next Annual Convention, which will elect a replacement person to fill out the remainder of the unexpired term.

d. Beginning in 2021, the commission will begin the three-year process required to move to the above structure, with the bishop appointing one-sixth and convention electing one-sixth of the commission’s membership each year, maintaining the lay/ordained 50%/50% balance.

Section 2 Duties and responsibilities

a. The Commission on Ministry shall have the duties and responsibilities prescribed by Canons of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. It shall assist the Bishop in matters pertaining to the enlistment and selection of persons for ministry, in the guidance and pastoral care of candidates for Holy Orders, of Deacons, lay professionals, and other baptized persons, and in matters pertaining to lifelong learning.

b. It shall interview Candidates for Holy Orders and shall, upon assignment by the Bishop, conduct, evaluate, and report upon canonical examinations. The Commission shall report promptly in writing to the Bishop the results of all interviews and examinations conducted by it or for it, whether satisfactory or unsatisfactory, making separate reports upon each person examined. The Bishop shall transmit these reports to the Standing Committee, which shall in no case recommend a candidate for Holy Orders, or for ordination to the Diaconate or Priesthood, without first considering the report of the Commission on Ministry.

c. The Commission on Ministry shall have such other responsibilities as are placed upon it by the Canons of the General Convention, by the Canons of the Diocese, and as may be assigned to it by the Bishop.

Section 3

The Commission on Ministry may adopt and publish rules for its work. Such rules shall be consistent with the Canons of the General Convention and of the Diocese, and shall be subject to the approval of the Bishop. These rules may include authorization for the appointment of committees of the Commission to act on its behalf.

Section 4

At the first meeting of the Commission following the Diocesan Convention, the Commission shall elect Bishop shall appoint a Convener from within its number. The Secretary for Vocations shall be appointed by the Bishop and shall keep a record of Commission proceedings, which shall be open at all times to members of the Commission, and to the Bishop and Standing Committee. The Commission shall make an annual report of its actions and activities to the Diocesan Convention.


The Commission on Ministry plays a critical role in guiding all persons who seek to deepen their baptismal ministries and serve the church as both lay and ordained leaders. In its role in leadership formation, the Commission determines the composition of the leadership of the diocese and of the Church. Therefore, leadership identity and representation are very important in the life of our diocese. This resolution names striving for diversity as a goal of the development of future diocesan and Church leadership.

This resolution asks for changes in the manner in which members of the Commission on Ministry are chosen. Rather than the Commission being fully appointed by the Bishop, this resolution proposes that the Commission be composed of both lay and ordained members in equal numbers and that, one-half of the Commission’s members be elected by Convention. As Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color we long for the day when the leadership of our missions, parishes, dioceses, and national church begins to truly reflect the diversity of God’s Creation. We believe that the more democratic process of partial election from the Convention will provide the opportunity for diverse voices to participate in the decision-making processes that determine the composition of the Commission. The intention of this resolution is to help create a more representative membership on this key Commission.

In our diocese, there are only 8 active Black, Indigenous and People of Color clergy out of the 293 clergy resident in our diocese. In the last 12 years, we have lost too many such clergy. Changing the balance on the Commission on Ministry to include more lay Episcopalians (shifting from one-third to one-half lay representation on the Commission) facilitates the COM’s ability to be more representative of our communities of color, which are predominantly lay led while also reflecting diversity among those whom we call to holy orders.


Convention Resolution #7

Establishing a BIPOC[2] Ministry Fund

Submitted by: The Rev. Josefina Beecher, On Behalf of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color

Contact: Jo Beecher

Resolved, that this 110th Convention of the Diocese of Olympia establish a BIPOC Ministry Fund (hereafter “BMF”) to support non-stipendiary BIPOC diocesan clergy leading ethnic congregations, and be it further

Resolved, that the BMF shall be created immediately, and beginning in calendar year 2022 annually maintained using 2% of the Diocesan budget except that the Richard Young Curacy Fund and the Bishop Nedi Rivera Fund for Hispanic Ministry are not to be included in this 2% distribution, and be it further

Resolved, that funds from the BMF are to be distributed according to need, taking into consideration both the resources of the clergyperson and the resources of the worshipping communities involved, and be it further

Resolved, that members of the Bishop’s Society be contacted by the Bishop to ask if they will donate to the BMF or include this fund in their wills.


Our nation has reached another crossroads in its long history, and the Episcopal Church is a part of this moment. Within our Church, BIPOC communities and clergy continue to experience all of the negative effects of centuries of racism and colonialism, disproportionately directed at minority individuals and communities. Any genuine attempt at beginning to redress this reality will require the devotion of significant human and financial resources. We recognize that this will be challenging. We believe that – as individuals, communities, and as a diocese – we are up to this challenge.

At present, our Diocese is using the Iona School program for training for those who will exercise an ordained ministry in small, financially challenged worshiping communities. These clergy are expected to work without a salary, church-provided health insurance, or Church Pension Fund contributions. When this model is also used for training BIPOC clergy it reveals the inequity of the way our diocese is treating the BIPOC community. This fund will be a concrete step to correct discrimination against BIPOC persons and communities.

We are aware that the 2021 budget process is well advanced, and so propose the 2% usage begin in 2022. However, the need is now. We would welcome conversation to find ways to fund this program in 2021.


Convention Resolution #8

Resolution to add a Cultural Interpreter to BIPOC Ordination Process

Submitted by: The Rev. Dr. Edie Weller, On Behalf of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color

Contact: Edie Weller

NOTE: The original resolution submitted to the Resolutions Committee has been modified in both text and explanation based on recommendations and input from the Committee. The form of the resolution below is found in the appendix of The Resolutions Committee Report to Convention and will be submitted on the floor of Convention as a substitute resolution to original.

Resolved, that this 110th Convention of the Diocese of Olympia directs the Commission on

Ministry to offer to each Applicant, Postulant and Candidate who is self-identified as Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian or other Person of Color (hereafter “BIPOC”) the assistance of a cultural interpreter to accompany them through the entire duration of their process. The cultural interpreter’s role is to interpret the cultural identity and assumptions of the Applicant, Postulant or Candidate to the Commission, and the cultural identity and assumptions of the Commission to the Applicant, Postulant or Candidate. This cultural interpreter will be approved by the applicant, postulant, or candidate and is not to be a member of the Commission. The cultural interpreter must be familiar with the Applicant, Postulant or Candidate’s culture of origin, as well as well informed about the rules and procedures of the Commission on Ministry and be able to answer the Applicant, Postulant or Candidate’s questions about the culture of the Diocese. This cultural interpreter is to accompany the Applicant, Postulant, or Candidate to any and all Commission meetings, as requested by the Applicant, Postulant or Candidate. This cultural interpreter is to be bound by any and all rules of confidentiality of the Commission. The cultural interpreter may be compensated, as would be a language interpreter, including standard diocesan mileage rates.


All persons journeying toward potential ordained ministry in the Diocese of Olympia face a daunting process as they respond to their sense of call and have that vocation tested. This process rightly should be a deep examination of their spiritual and personal life. However, BIPOC persons face cultural assumptions understood by the dominant white church culture and not necessarily understood by all who seek ordination in our church. Conversely, Commission members from the dominant culture are unlikely to recognize or understand the nature of a BIPOC culture without help. For example, the use of non-verbal communication, or the way personal skills and talents are presented differ markedly across cultures. A person discerning a call to ordained ministry may come from a high-context culture where trust and communication develops slowly, whereas the diocesan culture generally is low-context, with more direct, explicit communication being valued. The COM, while valuing the forming of community, mostly conforms to the dominant culture which values individuality. Those in process for ordination may not be accustomed to making individual decisions without consulting family and community. Each step of the process is challenging to all but even more so to BIPOC persons. To assure that BIPOC persons are not held back by unwritten cultural norms and expectations, or by simple cultural misunderstandings, an additional person of their choosing is needed to accompany them. Further, commission members need to make sure that they are communicating clearly and effectively, and a Cultural Interpreter can identify culturally informed strategies and concepts specific to the BIPOC aspirant/postulant/candidate to aid in this regard.  The Cultural Interpreter has a unique role that is not the same as the role of Commission liaison or spiritual director. Adding a Cultural Interpreter to the ordination process will aid the Diocese of Olympia on it’s challenging journey to become the Beloved Community. At a minimum, the cultural interpreter should have significant cross-cultural experience and familiarity with both cultures, and may be from either or both cultures. The Circles of Color represent one resource in our diocese that can assist in identifying Cultural Interpreters. The persons in process themselves may know and be able to recommend a person with familiarity with both cultures. Additionally, the cultural interpreter may be a language interpreter, as required by the person in process.


Convention Resolution #9

Anti-Racism Covenant

Submitted by: The Rev. Carla Robinson, On Behalf of Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color

Contact: Carla Robinson

Resolved, that the 110th Convention of the Diocese of Olympia join other Episcopal dioceses in signing Bishop Deon Johnson’s Anti-Racism Covenant of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, and be it further

Resolved, that the Diocese of Olympia adopt this covenant for promotion and education in our diocese, and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention commend it to all congregations in our diocese for study and meaningful local action that promotes further racial understanding, reconciliation, and partnership.


In response to the death of George Floyd and others in police custody, the Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson wrote an anti-racism covenant. The document includes our laments (the things we confess to doing wrong) and our covenant (the promises we make to do better).

Several other bishops in the Episcopal Church and ELCA are supporting Bishop Johnson in this action. Signing, adopting, and reflecting on the Anti-Racism Covenant provides a collective opportunity to the whole Church to move beyond a “statement” and engage in meaningful action to end the sin of racism. The nature of action may be specific to every congregation and ministry in the diocese, but action cannot happen without intentional commitment and spiritual encouragement. The Anti-Racism Covenant complements our Baptismal Covenant commitment to seek and serve Christ in all persons, by loving our neighbor as ourselves, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being.

Anti-Racism Covenant: A Covenant to Root Out Racism

“Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” -1 John 4:20

The sin of racism disrupts the harmony and oneness that God intends for humanity. Racism is dangerous, divisive, and damaging. Racism purports that some are deserving of dignity over others and disregards the image and likeness of God found in every human being. We are created in the image of God; therefore, to engage in racism of any form is to refuse to acknowledge the image of God in the other and the stranger. The fact that we were created in the image of God should remind us that each person is a living expression of God that must be respected, preserved, and never dishonored.

Throughout our history, courageous people of God have taken the risk of standing up and speaking out with the least and the lowest. God now challenges us to become courageous people who seek to create sacred communities of hope by dismantling the sin of racism. This work involves risking ourselves for the sake of God’s love, moving beyond ourselves in order to seek and serve Christ and one another.


As people of faith, we acknowledge our sins and our failure to respect the dignity of every human being. We have, individually and corporately, fallen short of the glory of God, and now call to mind and name the aspects of our lament.

  • We lament the Church’s role in the subjugation, enslavement, and genocide of societies of indigenous peoples, including Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • We lament the Church’s role in profiting from the selling, trading, and genocide of people of African descent and the lasting effects of the peculiar trade present with us today.
  • We lament the Church’s complicity-by-silence in the commoditization, dehumanization, and belittling of peoples brought to this country to toil in brutal labor, including Latinx people, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and other immigrant and undocumented populations.
  • We lament the Church’s complicity in the historical exclusion, internment, and denial of civil rights of Asians and Pacific Islanders.
  • We lament the Church’s complicity in failing to honor the language, culture, and civil rights of Latinx people, both American citizens and those from other countries.
  • We lament the places in which we have been spectators and participants in the public and private lynching of people of African descent.
  • We lament the Church’s lack of moral courage to stand with and on the side of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.
  • We lament the systems of white supremacy, white exceptionalism, and white privilege present in the Church that have condoned people –particularly people of African descent, –being viewed as less, inferior, or unworthy rather than as beloved children of God, made in the image of the Divine.
  • We lament the ways in which the stories of People of Color have been diminished or erased from the histories of our churches, institutions, and communities of faith.
  • We lament the collusion of the Church with systems that directly and indirectly promote racism, oppression, segregation, and disenfranchisement.
  • We lament the willful blindness of Christian leadership in promoting and advocating for systems of over-policing, the militarization of police, mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipelines, poverty, and violence.
  • We lament the resounding silence and the crippling fear that often infects the Church in matters of racial reconciliation and social justice.


As people of faith, we are called to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.” Recognizing the places in which the church and people of faith have fallen short of God’s love, particularly in the legacy of racism and white supremacy, we seek to amend our lives to more fully reflect God’s dream of Beloved Community.

  • We covenant to re-examine the history of our communities of faith and institutions to, in tangible ways, acknowledge racist legacies and to recognize, remember, and retell the stories of Native American, enslaved persons and other People of Color, whose labor contributed to white privilege.
  • We covenant to engage our communities of faith, staffs, colleagues and experts in critical discourse that propels us forward.
  • We covenant to devise and implement standards, policies, and programs that make our commitment to diversity and inclusion a visible reality.
  • We covenant to invest in local businesses that are owned and operated by People of Color and underrepresented populations.
  • We covenant to listen to and to validate the stories, experiences, and feelings of People of Color as companions along the journey, valuing those experiences as being sacred.
  • We covenant to adopt an intersectional approach in all aspect of our common life, remembering that all forms of oppression are connected.
  • We covenant to financially support the important work of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • We covenant to work towards the dismantling of the school to prison pipeline and other systems of institutional oppression.
  • We covenant to stand up and speak out against everyday micro and macro acts of oppression or aggression.
  • We covenant to struggle and speak out against denial of civil liberties and voter suppression.
  • We covenant to educate ourselves, and share with others, the many places where our privilege blinds us from being compassionate to others.
  • We covenant to call out bigotry and hate speech in all aspects of our common life.
  • We covenant to gather with others, including faith leaders and decision makers, at all levels of the church, to ask the hard questions:
  • Does the leadership of our institution reflect the diversity of those we serve?
  • Are the many faces of the diverse body of Christ represented in decision-making processes?
  • How are we inviting and forming leaders?
  • Who is missing around the table?
  • Whose untold story do we need to hear?
  • We covenant that in our corporate worship; and other activities of our communities to intentionally cultivate welcome, hospitality, and participation for people of all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, and to include their rich musical and liturgical offerings in worship.
  • We covenant to invite all members of our faith communities to reflect about and seek a better understanding of racism and privilege.
  • We covenant to preach about, and pray together for an end to racism and white supremacy, not to bring down people of European descent, but to lift all others up.
  • We covenant to join with local community organizations in working for racial justice.
  • We covenant to…(additional context specific acts may be added or included that are specific to congregations or ministries)

[1] Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

[2][2] “Black, Indigenous, People of Color”

An Open Letter To the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia: On Ethnic Ministries, Racism, and The Beloved Community


Twenty years ago within the span of time from then until now, ethnic ministries in the Diocese of Olympia has experienced significant change from a highly energized set of communities of color connected through diocesan communication, full and part time staff responsible for the portfolio of  ethnic ministries work, several congregations/missions founded within minority communities, diocesan programs and committees that were moderately well funded and supplemented through organized fundraising events, and driven by a diocesan leadership proactively committed to supporting people of color in the diocese and forming them for leadership in the church.

In 2007, we elected a new bishop, who was tasked with (among other things) the need to address financial management needs including bringing burgeoning costs and parochial loans under control. In 2009, the suffragan bishop (responsible for the overall supervision of ethnic ministries and execution of its organizational goals) resigned. This was accompanied and followed by a reduction in the position of Canon for Ethnic Ministries from full time to quarter time. Certain ethnic missions were closed while others were significantly altered in leadership model and form, resulting in the loss of the historical cultural identities that shaped them. Over the course of a decade, our clergy of color have dwindled from more that twenty to less than ten. The diocesan staff and central communication that went with that position were subsumed within the diocesan staffing structure, the ethnic committees, the multicultural gathering, the networks of mutual support and connection evaporated within the machinations of financial and organizational restructure. Ethnic communities and clergy of color became isolated from diocesan leadership and from one another, islands toughing it out until – after ten years of disconnection and organizational neglect (with no vision or strategic plan that sought input from the people of color the bishop’s office professed to want to serve), some of us began to reach out to reconnect in the fall of 2019. We longed to rekindle the fire, the former passion for the mission of ethnic ministries, and to envision what it would be to regather the Beloved Community and re-forge partnerships.

Then George Floyd was murdered, and the movement within civil society that followed was like a burst of sudden flame as with a bomb, back lighting just how unprepared our diocese and leadership had become; how corporately disassociated we had all become due to lack of genuine relationships and connectivity; how understaffed and without any mechanism in place to find us, to assess our needs, and to comprehensively equip prospective allies among white clergy and members of our churches.

The bishop’s office will soon respond, and many are looking for that response – hungry to be partners, longing for support and encouragement, hoping for leadership to care in meaningful and empowering ways. And that’s the critical point of why I am writing, to speak to three pitfalls into which all well-intentioned efforts (in any organization) can become trapped.

Firstly, in addressing issues of systemic racism, consultation with the people of color in your diocese is foundational for successful empowerment of them – if leadership only consults within its own bubble or with outside consultants, your target group will be excluded within the creation of vision and strategic plan; in case you wondered, that’s bad. As one African American priest in our diocese expressed, “This is my church; please stop inviting me into it through language of inclusion. I’m already here. Talk to me.”

Secondly, forming successful collaborative partnerships requires an organizational leadership model that proactively invites that collaboration. People of color must not be paternalistically and colonially viewed as the “other” that the church or its leadership needs to serve (as though in some vision of reversed positions between the privileged and the poor, in which white people become penitent servants). Rather, genuine collaboration and partnership requires the abandonment of all such hegemony. Mutuality is predicated on letting go of paternalistic and authoritarian structures, which the church – by its hierarchical and dominant cultural nature – has difficulty managing.  The leader who claims to be in charge, needs to stop being in charge within strategies of mutual appreciation and organizational transformation.

Thirdly, while the spiritual work of anti-racism must by necessity include supporting and equipping white people with what they need emotionally and intellectually to do their inner work, the focus of anti-racism must be ever fixed on the experiences, perspectives, and realities of people of color. My dear white allies, anti-racism is not about saving people of color from the injustices of white society; it’s about empowering people of color to be and bring fully who they are into the shrines of American society – including government and the church – to burst the walls, change the space, make it colorful, fill it with diverse music and images of God, bless it with wild grace in the liberating tide of decolonialized forms of liturgy, worship, and leadership formation.

The development and full breadth of the work that was once ethnic ministries many years ago was driven by the vision and commitment of the diocesan bishop; the work was directed and supported by an assisting bishop or the suffragan bishop that followed; the people and congregations of color in the diocese were connected and gathered around a full time ethnic missioner who advocated for our funding in the diocesan budget as a given (not in competition through a grant process), supported our additional fundraising efforts, and was the rally point around which our committees and communities gathered regularly. There is no possible way that the burden and scope of all that previous work could be accomplished through what became a single one-quarter time FTE diocesan position. In the same way, with all ethnic ministry staffing eliminated, it is an unreasonable expectation that either the Canon to the Ordinary or the Diocesan Bishop carry the specialized and demanding work of ethnic ministries and anti-racism. The work of ethnic ministries cannot be accomplished by either wishful thinking or in isolation as a product of the bishop or his/her office. A true organizational commitment to the work of ethnic minisries and anti-racism requires a commitment of staffing and must have the infrastructural support of broad-based strategic planning and reflected as a moral priority in the diocesan budget.

If you are a person of color in the Diocese of Olympia and want to be part of creating a new vision and direction for the work of ethnic ministries (various ministries of support and empowerment of people and missions), I invite you to become a part of the visioning process and the journey towards what God is calling us to be for one another, for our diocese, and for our communities. In conversation with our diocesan leadership (and having the support of the bishop), the time is upon us all to contemplate this time of socio-cultural reckoning within our civil and ecclesiastical life.

If you would like to learn more about an upcoming visioning and planning retreat for people of color in the Diocese of Olympia, please contact me for information about “Regathering The Beloved Community.”

For now, I conclude with this Gathering Prayer from the Disciple’s Prayer Book of the Native Ministries of The Episcopal Church:

Creator, we give you thanks for all you are and all you bring to us for our visit within your creation. In Jesus, you place the Gospel in the center of this sacred circle through which all of creation is related. You show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit, for you are God, now and forever. Amen

We must leave both our perceived power and our perceived poverty outside of the circle in order to create a The Beloved Community of genuine mutuality, ministering side by side – in order to truly become the living Body of Christ, enrobed like Joseph in a coat of many colors.