After writing yesterday about the blog of a Baptist minister in England in which she told of her church’s process leading them to apologize for their role in historic slavery, today I find that the entire Baptist Union of Great Britain has been struggling with this issue. The BUGB Council met for three days this week with the slave trade as the main focus of their agenda. They unanimously chose to apologize. Here is the text of the apology:
As a Council we have listened to one another, we have heard the pain of hurting sisters and brothers, and we have heard God speaking to us.
In a spirit of weakness, humility and vulnerability, we acknowledge that we are only at the start of a journey, but we are agreed that this must not prevent us speaking and acting at a kairos moment.
Therefore, we acknowledge our share in and benefit from our nation’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade.
We acknowledge that we speak as those who have shared in and suffered from the legacy of slavery, and its appalling consequences for God’s world.
We offer our apology to God and to our brothers and sisters for all that has created and still perpetuates the hurt which originated from the horror of slavery
We repent of the hurt we have caused the divisions we have created,our reluctance to face up to the sin of the past, our unwillingness to listen to the pain of our black sisters and brothers, and our silence in the face of racism and injustice today.
We commit ourselves, in a true spirit of repentance, to take what we have learned from God in the Council and to share it widely in our Baptist community and beyond, looking for gospel ways by which we can turn the words and feelings we have expressed today into concrete actions and contribute to the prophetic work of God’s coming Kingdom.’
So, I know that Traces Of The Trade was shown at the Episcopal Church's General Convention — is the Episcopal Church of America going to issue an apology for slavery? Where does that stand these days?
Good question! The Episcopal Church is central to the story of Traces of the Trade. DeWolf ancestors have attended St. Michael's in Bristol, Rhode Island for over two centuries. Four of the family members who participated in the journey that resulted in the film (Katrina Browne, me, Ledlie Laughlin, and Dain Perry, as well as Dain's wife Constance) attended the General Convention in June 2006 in Columbus, Ohio. The Episcopal Church did, in fact, issue an apology for "its complicity in and the injury done by the institution of slavery and its aftermath; we repent of this sin and ask God’s grace and forgiveness…"
The apology was approved in Resolution A123 on the last day of the convention. Though I'm not Episcopalian, my understanding is that many people have been working within the Episcopal Church for a very long time to address its complicity in slavery. It was wonderful to witness their success. Two additional "slavery atonement" resolutions were passed at the convention. If you're interested, you can read them. They're short: Resolution A127 and Resolution C011.