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

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…


On the National Day of Racial Healing, January 15, 2020, the Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, along with several other local partners, hosted a talk by Richard Rothstein, author of the book “The Color of Law.” More than 500 people attended the event at Elim…

Moving Beyond Good Intentions

Earlier this month, the Bishop James Theodore Holly Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians hosted the organization’s Northeast Regional Conference in Niagara Falls. The weekend event, which included Episcopalians from across the region, will benefit the Dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania for years to come, its organizers say. “We wanted a…