Samara O'Shea

When the Church Goes to Confession

In 2006, The Episcopal Church issued a comprehensive, formal apology (a resolution) for its participation in the institution of slavery. They accepted full responsibility for past actions and admitted they used scripture to justify their actions. “…we express our most profound regret that (a) The Episcopal Church lent the institution of slavery its support and justification based on Scripture, and (b) after slavery was formally abolished, The Episcopal Church continued for at least a century to support de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination…”

Instead of saying, “Now that we’ve discussed it and apologized, let’s never discuss it again,” they said something like, Let’s continue to uncover our transgressions (past and present) and continue to repent in order “to make a full, faithful and informed accounting of our history” and “be ‘the repairer of the breach'” (full quote below).

Today the Pope released a 2000-word letter addressing the Catholic Church’s systematic abuse of children. The letter is a good start. However, an apology without a tangible plan of action on how to prevent future abuse will not yield any change. I hope a detailed plan soon follows. I also hope the Catholic Church will use the Episcopal Church’s resolution as a guide. The Episcopal Church continues to try to make amends for past atrocities involving slavery. Here’s an update from earlier this year.

“Resolved,That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church through the Executive Council urgently initiate a comprehensive program and urge every Diocese to collect and document during the next triennium detailed information in its community on (a) the complicity of The Episcopal Church in the institution of slavery and in the subsequent history of segregation and discrimination and (b) the economic benefits The Episcopal Church derived from the institution of slavery; and direct the Committee on Anti-Racism to monitor this program and report to Executive Council each year by March 31 on the progress in each Diocese; and be it further…

Resolved, That to enable us as people of God to make a full, faithful and informed accounting of our history, the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church direct the Committee on Anti-Racism to study and report to Executive Council by March 31, 2008, which in turn will report to the 76th General Convention, on how the Church can be ‘the repairer of the breach’ (Isaiah 58:12)…”