Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina

May 29, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During a recent conversation with the Presiding Bishop, bishops were invited, on the occasion of the feast day of St. Augustine of Canterbury, to consider our origins as Christians and as Anglicans. I heard again the charge Pope Gregory the Great gave to Augustine,

"So do not let the toil of the journey or the tongues of men, discourage you, but with all earnestness and by God's guidance fulfill what you have started, knowing that great labor is followed by the greater glory of an eternal reward."

The journey before us as a global community is unique as we walk together navigating the uncertainties of Covid-19. We are also on a spiritual journey that is calling us to wake up to the reality to another pandemic facing our nation - the virus of deep-rooted, systemic racism, hate and fear of persons of color. This spiritual journey urges us to labor together in confronting this other virus and dismantling white privilege.

Truth be told, the novel coronavirus has washed over society and loosened the silt of our willful blindness or naiveté, laying bare the persistent reality of systemic inequalities in our world: inequalities in access to health care; inequalities in the justice system; inequalities in education; inequalities in employment and earnings; and the list goes on. I am especially aware how racial and ethnic minorities bear a disproportionate burden of coronavirus illness and death than predominantly white communities.

What is more, I am grieved by the endless acts of violence and death toward black men. The images of black men being terrorized and choked off from their lives, their dignity, and their freedom reveal more about the true nature of our nation and nation's history than many people choose to face. But we must face it; we must expose the thickness of our blindness and bigotry: excuses and avoidance lead to more funerals.

As the Presiding Bishop has encouraged, we are called to be:
             
Voices for those who don't have a voice;    
              Voices for those who are not being heard;
              Voices for those who are dying alone;
              Voices for those suffering with loneliness;
              Voices for those who have lost jobs;
And voices for those who, because of the color of their skin, systemically bear the burden of inequality, prejudice, violence and hate.
 
My friends, we are called to a spiritual accounting. As I said in my Pentecost message, I believe the Holy Spirit is inviting us to go deep and reclaim some of the ancient and life-giving practices of the Early Church.

I believe if we devote ourselves to the study and reflection of the sacred stories in Scripture, we will hear the steadfast dream of God for all people to be respected and honored.

I believe if we devote ourselves to prayer and silence, we will hear the voice of God calling us to examine our lives and welcome the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts, attitudes and behaviors, especially our ingrained dispositions toward black men.

I believe if we devote ourselves to service and care for those on the margins, not only we see the face of Christ in others, we may be the face of Christ for others.

I believe if we devote ourselves to the proclamation the Good News and love of God in Christ, we help bring joy and mercy to all those hungry for hope.

Finally, I believe if we devote ourselves to prophetic action to confront inequality and injustice, we participate in God's mission to reconcile and redeem the world.

I challenge you to be the voices that speak out against racism, voices that demand justice. I also challenge you to let your voices turn to action. Join me in the sacred work of building God's Beloved Community, where all people are lifted-up and loved.

"The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist." - Pope Gregory the Great

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin
Bishop of the Diocese of Western North Carolina


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