CLERGY in the Episcopal Church in the United States are to be asked to supply data on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity to help address inequality, in deployment, financial compensation, and other areas.
The data would be used only for analysis and released in aggregate form, the Episcopal Church and the Church Pension Group announced.
The data are being collected to support the Church’s initiative Becoming Beloved Community, which was begun in 2017 but has been given renewed impetus by the protests since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May (News, 5 June).
The concept of the “Beloved Community” is drawn from Martin Luther King’s non-violent vision of achieving a society in which there was racial harmony.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry, said: “If our vision is to reflect the vision of Jesus, we need to know how close we are to it. Having a picture will help us understand how we are doing on the journey to looking like God’s Beloved Community. These data will help us engage issues of racism and full inclusion that reflect the outstretched arms of Jesus embracing all the Church with the same outstretched arms.”
The CEO and president of the Church Pension Group, Mary Kate Wold, said: “As a more fulsome demographic picture emerges, the Church will be in a better position to examine trends and respond to inequalities.”
The House of Bishops met online at the end of last month and issued a statement in response to continuing street protests and the use of unmarked cars by federal police to arrest protesters. Federal law-enforcement agents have since been withdrawn.
The Bishops’ said: “The Church cannot remain silent when we see such flagrant abuse of civil power deployed against those who stand for justice and peace and against systemic institutional racism.”
They quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak.”
A series of seminars on racial injustice as part of the Becoming Beloved Community initiative had been overwhelmed with interest, the Episcopal Church reported. Three sessions had explored truth, justice, and healing, with thousands of participants in each, on Zoom and on Facebook Live.
The President of the House of Deputies, the Revd Gay Clark Jennings, said in the second seminar on 29 July: “There have been leaders in our Church, particularly Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Asian leaders, who have been calling us all to this work for many, many years.
“These calls have too often gone largely unheard, ignored, or even forgotten. But the Holy Spirit and those General Convention leaders have been pointing toward a vision of Beloved Community for many decades now, and their wisdom in the form of scores of resolutions lights our path today.
“This is the time, particularly for white members of the Episcopal Church, to repent of our failure to listen and to commit ourselves fully to that vision.”