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Our Own Complicity: Bishop’s Thoughts on Race

As we move through the Great Fifty Days of Easter, we celebrate the risen Christ as both a moment in God’s saving work in human history and as a reality in our lives today.

Jesus shows us that God’s steadfast love means that God’s final answer for Jesus and for us is life. No matter how poorly we act in our discipleship, Jesus comes to forgive us and help us along his way of new life. At the end of John’s gospel, Jesus demonstrates this reality as he, again, appears to his disciples. Three times he asks Peter if Peter loves him. Three times Peter says “yes,” and Jesus commands him to feed and tend his sheep. The resurrected rabbi and messiah reclaims and redirects Peter’s three-fold betrayal by calling forth a three-fold commitment to love.

In this season of the resurrection, God is calling the church to once again enter, ever more deeply, into new life. Fifty years after Selma, we find ourselves witnessing a chilling litany of moments in which racism, sexism, homophobia, and other formers of discrimination seem almost resurgent. Possible presidential candidates make statements about gay persons that are breathtakingly hurtful. African-American men are already disproportionately imprisoned. And now, we find ourselves grappling with a series of incidents where African-American men are victims of death at the hands of law enforcement officers. Women continue to be paid less than men, and be the victims of sexual misconduct. Too many transgender teens choose suicide in the face of bullying.

In our baptismal covenant, we promise to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being. For this reason, our church has long striven to be an open community that values diversity. It is timely that we explore questions of diversity. For as much as we may have accomplished in living into our baptismal promise, we have much to do. We should not be satisfied.

Indeed, we should look inwardly as a church, and as followers, to come to understand our own complicity with discrimination and our own prejudice. For just like Peter, Jesus is seeking to draw us into his resurrected life and his love. We can almost hear him say to us, “Do you love me?” Then, “Feed my sheep . . . all my sheep!” +

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