Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination

Mission and goals of the commission

The mission and goals of the Commission are “to promote greater understanding, training and practice of dismantling racism and furthering reconciliation and justice, both by laity and clergy within the Church.”

Racial Reconciliation

“Reconciliation is the spiritual practice of seeking loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God and one another, and striving to heal and transform injustice and brokenness in ourselves, our communities, institutions and society.”

(from The Episcopal Church’s Racial Reconciliation Team)


Matthew Lincoln (chair), Ursuline Bankhead, Erin Betz-Shank, Ellen Brauza, Martha Chambers, Michelle Cray, Joseph Croskey, Ann Dutton, Stacey Fussell, Helen Harper, Lisa Layman, Diana Leiker, Denise Merriweather, Sara Nesbitt, Hal Payne, Laura Peretic, John Ranney, Kim Rossi, Rose Sconiers, Faith Stewart, Ann Tillman, Thomas Tripp, Susan Woods


The Diocese of Western New York’s Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination was reborn in September 2018 when the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, visited the diocese to meet with the commission and give a public lecture.

“She presented fascinating information on the origins of racism in this country and on the particular ways segregation remains a significant issue in Buffalo, and she challenged us with her call that it isn’t up to Black people to explain racism to white people,” Canon Cathy Dempesy-Sims said. “Rather, it is up to white people to make the effort to listen and learn from others on how to bridge the divide that leads to the indiscriminate murders of Black people in this country.”

In the spring of 2019, the Bishop James Theodore Holly Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE), which includes several commission members, hosted the UBE’s Northeast Regional Conference in Niagara Falls. The weekend event included conversations based on Becoming Beloved Community, the Episcopal Church’s vision document on racial reconciliation, which includes the four quadrants of the Becoming Beloved Community labyrinth:  telling the truth, repairing the breach, proclaiming the dream, and practicing the way of love. The conversations were designed to help shape the action plan of the commission. Read a summary of the conversations.

To learn more about the commission and its work, email:

The Rev. Matt Lincoln, chair
The Honorable Rose Sconiers, first vice chair

An Introduction to the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

In this video produced for the diocesan partnership’s 2020 convention, Interim Director Ally Sponger and Visitor Experience Specialist Saladin Allah offer a preview of what visitors will experience at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. In July, the Episcopal Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination of Western New York awarded a $7,500 grant to…

Implicit Bias Training on January 9

On January 9 from 10 a.m. until noon, the Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination will host an online training about implicit bias with Dr. Ursuline Bankhead. The presentation will be interactive and include discussion in small group breakout sessions. Participants will learn definitions of bias and implicit bias; clarify how implicit bias impacts all…

Service of Reconciliation on November 6

On November 6, the evening before we gather for our joint diocesan conventions, the Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination will host an online Service of Reconciliation. This service, an introduction to the ongoing work that our congregations and dioceses will be doing together, is meant to bless and inspire our shared ministry of racial justice and healing….

Voter Suppression: The Racism of Voting

By Deacon Tom Tripp, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Eggertsville, NY and member of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination – Buffalo, New York, August 5, 2020 “The right to vote is the bedrock of American democracy, however, it has proven to be fragile and in…

Opening Space for Dialogue: Sacred Ground Reaches Midway Point

Earlier this summer, more than 200 people across the partnership dioceses enrolled in Sacred Ground,  an Episcopal Church dialogue series about race that includes readings, documentary film and short videos. Co-sponsored by the Diocese of Western New York’s Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination and the partnership Mission Strategy Advisory Group, the ten-week program includes…

Truth Before Reconciliation

By Denise Merriweather, retired high school principal, member of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination – Buffalo, New York, July 7, 2020 The cathartic experience of viewing videos showing the murder of George Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020 has emphasized…

Disproportionate Effect of COVID-19 on Communities of Color

On May 18, 2020, a New York State Joint Assembly and Senate Legislative Hearing was held to explore solutions to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.  The First Vice-Chair of the Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination, Hon. Rose H. Sconiers, testified on behalf of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable.  The…

Implicit Bias Training Continues Work of Dismantling Racism

In late February, more than 75 people from around the region gathered at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown for a workshop on implicit bias led by Dr. Ursuline Bankhead, a licensed psychologist and member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Buffalo, as part of the partnership’s efforts to combat racism and work toward racial justice…