The Episcopal Church of the USA will apologize for its involvement in the institution of slavery tomorrow, October 4, in a Service of Repentance at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A story about the service was on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer today.
At its 2006 General Convention three resolutions were passed to atone for the Church’s role in historic slavery. One of those resolutions called for the Presiding Bishop to lead a national day of repentance and reconciliation. Many bishops told us then–Dain, Constance, Ledlie, Katrina, and I attended the convention–that screening Traces of the Trade there helped many attendees see these issues in a different light and helped win approval of the resolutions.
It is both significant and appropriate that the service will be held at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which was founded by Absalom Jones in 1792. Several members of the Traces family will be in attendance.
I was honored to learn that Inheriting the Trade was included among the many books Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori read this summer. She’s currently reading the same book I’m in the midst of: Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon. I’ll write about Blackmon’s powerful book when I finish it. I agree with her that it is a very important book; one that “every American needs to read, mark, learn and chew on.” I hope these two books were helpful to the Presiding Bishop in her preparations for tomorrow’s service. In the article about the books she’s recently read Jefferts Schori wrote, “When we know where we’ve come from, we may begin to understand the present — our political realities, our challenges and relationships, both internally and with other nations.”
You can read the text of homily delivered at the service in Philadelphia by the presiding bishop, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, here.