Bishop Sean’s Lenten Message: Deepening Our Commitment to Racial Justice

Dear People of God:

In a prayer of confession often used in our church, we promise to “repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” Understanding sin in this way—as both a personal and collective failing—seems particularly apt this Lent as we continue to deepen our partnership’s commitment to the work of racial justice.

Building on the work done by the Diocese of Western New York’s Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination and the Bishop James Theodore Holly Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians, in January we hosted author Richard Rothstein in order to understand better the policies that have segregated our communities and divided us from one another. Last Saturday, the commission sponsored a workshop with Dr. Ursuline Bankhead in which we learned to identify our implicit biases—the attitudes and stereotypes that we all impose unconsciously—and correct those patterns of thinking. And in March, we will begin participating in a racial justice survey, sponsored by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s office, that will help us transform our structures and practices to foster healing, reconciliation and justice.

In all of these ways, we are building our capacity to face honestly the history of structural racism in our church—to acknowledge, in the words of the confession, the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf. Our journey toward justice will undoubtedly be difficult at times, but I pray that it will lead us to understand what Beloved Community might look like in our dioceses and how we as the people of God can foster reconciliation, justice, and healing.

If you would like to join me in making the work of racial reconciliation part of your Lenten discipline, you can find resources, including a video from Presiding Bishop Curry, prayers, reading lists, and more on the Episcopal Church’s website. I invite you to share your reflections and experiences with me as we undertake this journey together.

May this season of reflection and repentance lead us all to perfect liberation in Christ’s resurrection at Easter.