NJ Episcopal clergy issue statement condemning racism

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — More than five dozen members of the clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark joined together Oct. 3 to sign a joint statement condemning racism. The clergy members were responding to the failure to bring charges against the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., in March, calling it “a clear indication that justice has, once again, been denied a black person in this country.”

The statement was organized by members of a clergy networking group named for Absalom Jones, America’s first black priest, who had been born into slavery and later helped found the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia.

The statement reads, “We, the members of the clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, believe that our faith requires us to stand on the side of the marginalized and the oppressed, to respond to injustice when it occurs, and to relentlessly work to eradicate the racism that plagues our country.

“The highly publicized killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the disproportionate number of black persons killed at the hands of police reveal a system that is unable to heal itself, unable to carry out its responsibility to serve all people with equal justice and dignity,” the statement continued. “We believe our Christian faith calls us to meet this moment, and that in order to do that, each one of us must engage in a practice of prayerful discernment to uncover and repent of the racism we all harbor within our minds and hearts. We call on those of other faith traditions or no tradition at all to join us in this act of repentance.”

The statement also expressed the clergy members’ belief “that fewer resources are needed to militarize police departments and more resources must be devoted to community services, including social workers and public health personnel, affordable housing and first-rate schools.” 

“We say with one voice that racism is a sin, that black lives matter, and that we are committed to ensuring the rights to safety at home, when out for a jog or going about the business of daily life for those who currently are treated with suspicion because of the color of their skin. All of these privileges that white people mindlessly and effortlessly enjoy must be equally and fully available to all of our neighbors,” the statement reads. “We follow the One who stood with the powerless and weak against the might of empire, and we have all promised in our baptism to ‘strive for justice and peace’ among all people. We promise to use our voices, our dollars, our votes, and our bodies to prevent the continued violence against black people in this country, and to create a more just society where we all may flourish.”

Signers of the statement represent more than 50 churches in the Diocese of Newark,

and include both active and retired members of the clergy. Among the signers are the Rev. Diana L. Wilcox, rector at Christ Church in Bloomfield and Glen Ridge; the Rev. Rose Cohen Hassan, interim priest-in-charge in South Orange; the Rev. R. Grant Mansfield, rector at St. George’s Church in Maplewood; the Rev. Deacon Sun-Hwan Spriggs, from St. George’s in Maplewood; and the Rev. Sheelagh Clarke, from Church of Holy Innocents in West Orange.