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Join EPF for our monthly chapter support call on Friday, August 27 at 2:00 pm Eastern over Zoom for an hour of learning on the Doctrine of Discovery. Email epfactnow@gmail.com for the Zoom link.

Papal Bulls of the 15th century gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and lay claim to those lands for their Christian Monarchs. Any land that was not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed, and exploited.  These Papal Bulls laid the groundwork for what we know today as international law, because they were generally accepted as legal rules that governed the conduct of monarchs (or nations), vis-à-vis other monarchs (or nations).

This Discovery Doctrine, or ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ then became a notion of public international law proffered by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, initially in Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823.  Under it, title to newly discovered lands lay with the government whose subjects discovered new territory. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring Indigenous possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. The Doctrine of Discovery governs United States Indian Law today.  

Please join us for a presentation offered by the Rev. Deacon Chris Sabas, showcasing the doctrine’s history and how it still impacts US jurisprudence today.  Prior to being ordained to the vocational diaconate, Deacon Chris was a licensed attorney, focusing on US immigration law.  After closing her practice, she joined Christian Peacemaker Teams and served within a variety of Indigenous communities where she focused on how the Doctrine of Discovery currently impacted the communities’ claims to sovereignty.  She also is a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship's National Executive Council. 

In light of the recent Statement on Indigenous boarding schools by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings, I have been reflecting on not only what I know about this legacy, but my past service with Christian Peacemaker Teams where I primarily served with the Aboriginal Justice Team (“AJT”) as well. [1] 

We accompanied and supported Indigenous communities seeking justice and defending their lands against corporate and government exploitation without community consent.  My most memorable accompaniments include the Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Barriere Lake Algonquins, and the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation.  I was also privileged to co-present a workshop at a Toronto Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) gathering, and I gave multiple presentations on the Doctrine of Discovery, using the Grassy Narrows communities’ complex lawsuit as an example of how the doctrine survives and is applied within Canadian jurisprudence[2].

With Presiding Bishop Curry’s and House of Deputies President Jennings’ statement, we now wait for the Executive Council to deliver a detailed proposal for addressing the Episcopal Church’s participation in the Indigenous boarding schools’ legacy.  I do wonder how Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation model can guide us.  Canada’s Commission was formed as a result of The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. One of the elements of the agreement was the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to facilitate reconciliation among former students, their families, their communities and all Canadians. Canada has recently received international news coverage regarding discoveries of mass graves at former ‘Indian Residential Schools.’ Canada has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse was rampant in the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages

While many refuse to budge from the notion that, while “such a darn shame,” the conquest is ancient history, many others are attempting to live in right relationship.  An increasing number do look to indigenous voices, in humility, for guidance.  I am quite thankful for this. And needless to say, I am quite thankful and appreciate Bishop Curry’s and Ms. Jennings’ bold and prophetic leadership here.

And now is the time for EPF to prepare.  Who will join me in responding to the call to live in right relationship with our Indigenous sisters and brothers?  Please email the Rev. Dn. Chris Sabas at persia.sabas91@gmail.com.  If you wish to join EPF in our work for racial reparations, please email Melanie Atha at epfactnow@gmail.com 


[1] Now named The Turtle Island Solidarity Network (“TISN”). I joined CPT after closing my law practice, with having nearly ten years of litigation experience. 

[2] I would like to tweak this presentation and use a US based community as an example.

The Rev. Deacon Chris Sabas was ordained to the vocational diaconate in October 2020 and is currently serving as the Deacon-in-Residence at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Somerset Parish, Princess Anne, Maryland in the Diocese of Easton.  Currently a postulant with the Communion of the Mystic Rose (https://www.mysticrose.org/), a dispersed canonically vowed religious community of the Episcopal Church, which is a designated special ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California. She is a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship's National Executive Council, which endorses and adopts this statement.

      On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, a Jewish friend stopped his car at a red light on the upper West Side of Manhattan. A man in the next lane rolled down his window, pointed his finger, and shouted, I hold you people responsible for this. Antisemitism in America is old as the nation and has too many flashpoints: Leo Frank lynching (1915), Hebrew Benevolent Congregation bombing (1958), Temple Beth Israel bombing (1960), Alan Berg murder (1984), Crown Heights Riot (1986), Jewish Community Center shooting (1999), Holocaust Museum shooting (2009), to name a few. The Anti-Defamation League observed:

      During the Civil War, for example, anti-Jewish intolerance increased dramatically on    both sides, with both the Union and Confederacy making baseless accusations that Jews    aided the opposing side. 

During the 2017 Charlottesville demonstration, right wing marchers chanted Jews will not replace us. In 2018, a gunman shouted, All Jews must die! while killing 11 and wounding 6 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. In 2019, antisemitic violence increased in the United States by 12%. Assaults went up 56%. The trend continued in 2020. Then came the spike of antisemitic violence in May, 2021. That surge is sometimes attributed to pro-Palestinian politics but the connection isn’t clear. Vox reports: 

      The connection between anti-Semitism and pro-Palestinian sentiment in Hersh and Royden’s data is tenuous at best. Among those who said Jews had too much power in   America, only a small percentage pointed to Israel-Palestine as the area where they   wield this malign influence — suggesting . . .  “that support for these statements is not     closely connected to the Israel/Palestine conflict.”

Fox News scorns Vox for doubting that antisemitism is caused by support for Palestinian rights, but previous Israel-Palestinian conflicts have not been accompanied by upticks in antisemitic violence here. We can’t explain what happened in May, but the current spike occurs in the context of a general surge in homicides, domestic violence, drug overdoses, and hate crimes. It cannot be simplistically reduced to differences over international relations. One cannot assume the political position of any American from their ethnicity or religion. Many Jews, both here and in Israel, seek a just peace and are by no means perpetrators of violence against Palestinians. Jewish Voice For Peace, Parents Circle—Family Forum, and Coalition of Women for Peace are a few examples. But even if someone holds views we find abhorrent, the Christian response is not resorting to base violence. 

      The Episcopal Peace Fellowship stands resolutely against violence, especially hate crimes which are on the rise, not only against Jews, but against many targets of prejudice – Blacks, AAPI, Latinx, Muslims, Sikhs, Transgender, and others. Whatever our convictions about international conflicts, we believe in mutual respect and the open-hearted quest for authentic understanding. In our Baptismal Covenant, we have vowed to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human beingThere is no room in that way of life for threats, intimidation, or acts of violence. We recommit ourselves to working for justice and peace through non-violent means. 

EPF Racial Justice Action Group’s Committee on Racial Reparations

“Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

At EPF National Executive Council’s (NEC) meeting last month, the NEC unanimously endorsed our planned initiatives with regard to racial reparations.   These include:

• All EPF action groups will focus energy on the issue of reparations through the lens of their unique work for the remainder of 2021.   

• We will intentionally work to identify, collect, and publicize previously passed Diocesan reparations resolutions which will be offered at General Convention and in collaboration with allies create our own resolution that our convention deputies may co-sponsor and for which they may advocate.

• We will undertake to have a half-day symposium on reparations, inviting thought leaders from within and outside the Episcopal Church to participate, with the underlying purpose being to empower and equip other dioceses and parishes to draft and pass their own reparations resolutions.

• Long term, we will create a curriculum which could be shared with our Peace Partners and Chapters to deepen the understanding for the need for reparations and racial reconciliation, writ large.

We note that this work is in keeping with the Episcopal Church’s Support Legislation for Reparations for Slavery, 2006-C011, which affirms the commitment to anti-racism and supports legislation initiating the study of slavery in the United States and reparations to the descendants of the victims of slavery.

We join with the following Episcopal communities which have already advanced racial reparations initiatives:

Episcopal Diocese of Maryland; Episcopal Diocese of New York; Episcopal Diocese of Long Island; Episcopal Diocese of Texas; Virginia Theological Seminary; Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

Members of this special committee include EPF members:  Roger Conville (Birmingham, AL), Tom Foster (Rochester, NY), Bob Lotz (Lexington, MI), Paul Ricketts (Fort Wayne, IN), and the Rev. Mike Wallens (Alpine, TX).  Would you like to help?  Let Melanie Atha, EPF Executive Director, know. Email her at epfactnow@gmail.com.

Coalition of Over 180 Groups Announce Launch of the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day; Peace & Justice Community of St. Cross, Hermosa Beach, CA EPF Chapter Among the Lead Sponsors

Local Groups Host Massive 100+ City Mobilization In the Streets Via Votercades To Defeat Voter Suppression Efforts and Promote Democratic Reforms 

TORRANCE, CA –On April 21, a group of organizations dedicated to the protection and expansion of voting rights announced the launch of the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day during a virtual press conference. Scheduled for May 8th, this national day of activism will bring together over 180 coalition partners to raise awareness and create energy around protecting the right to vote. Specifically, the event will urge Congress to immediately pass S 1, the For the People Act, H.R. 4 the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, and to eliminate the filibuster. 

Led by the Transformative Justice Coalition,  an organization founded by voting rights champion Barbara Arnwine and led by its Board Chair Daryl Jones, the event will be organized by groups like Declaration For American Democracy (DFAD), Public Citizen, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Indivisible, and many others. This day of action will feature over 100 “Votercades” held simultaneously in 100 cities. The day will also feature educational opportunities such as a free 2 hour National Broadcast, Voter Education Teach-Ins, Celebration and Activism Villages.

Following the record-breaking Black, Brown and Youth voter turnout in the Georgia Runoff election, state legislatures across America have released an offensive onslaught of undemocratic legislation designed to specifically suppress the vote of communities of color and youth voters. Most publicly, Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp and his fellow republicans in the state legislature passed S.B. 202 -- a highly restrictive voter suppression bill that has been compared to Jim Crow laws. Georgia is one of 47 states that have introduced or passed over 360 anti-voter legislation. 

“The scourge of racist voter suppression laws sweeping across our nation is a direct threat to the continued vitality of our democracy,” said Barbara Arnwine Esq, President of the Transformative Justice Coalition (TJC). “On May 8th, Americans will collectively rise up in major US cities, share in the National Broadcast and take to the streets in their cars to loudly demand that Congress protect All voters by passing uniform standards for federal elections and restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.”

"In crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, John Lewis risked his life to gain and protect the right to vote for every American,” said Daryl Jones Esq., Board Chairman of the Transformative Justice Coalition.  On May 8, we continue to honor his legacy by crossing every Edmund Pettus Bridge in America that separates American voters from their right to cast a meaningful ballot and demanding the passage of HR1/S1 and HR4."

“Georgia may have passed Jim Crow 2.0, but the passage of John Lewis Voting Rights Act can negate this  egregious law and move us forward,” said Helen Butler, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda. 

“This Congress might be the last chance Democrats have to fix our democracy. With state Republicans ramming through new voting restrictions and anti-democratic laws across the country, we need urgent action to protect the right to vote and ensure our elections are fair and the will of the people is respected. That's why grassroots activists like Indivisibles are holding nothing back as we work to abolish the filibuster, pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the For the People Act, and make D.C. the 51st state. The fate of our democracy depends on action." said Leah Greenberg Co-Executive Director of the Indivisible Project.

 “A thriving democracy is dependent on maximum participation. Each of our votes strengthens America,” said Voto Latino Co-Founder and President María Teresa Kumar. “Today, we continue John Lewis’ good trouble by demanding Congress pass the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Fulfilling our democratic promise towards a more just country means that each eligible voter should be able to cast her ballot without prejudice. The health of our nation demands it.”

Events in Los Angeles County will be held in Torrance / South Bay, South Central Los Angeles, Venice / Santa Monica, Sierra Madre, Whittier, and others.  Details can be found at National John Lewis Voting Rights Day of Action.  A media storm sponsored by Field Team 6 can be accessed from anywhere;  Sign up here.

By Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce

(Thanks to Natalie Devine for making us aware of this litany)

Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound.

Let us not rush to offer a band-aid, when the gaping wound requires surgery and complete reconstruction.

Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment.

Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations and restoration, or how we can repair the breach and how we can restore the loss.

Let us not rush past the loss of this mother’s child, this father’s child…someone’s beloved son.

Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance.

Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice.

Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is life in community together.

Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those whose hearts are being torn asunder.

Instead…

Let us mourn black and brown men and women, those killed extrajudicially every 28 hours.

Let us lament the loss of a man, dead at the hands of a police officer who described him as a demon.

Let us weep at a criminal justice system, which is neither blind nor just.

Let us call for the mourning men and the wailing women, those willing to rend their garments of privilege and ease, and sit in the ashes of this nation’s original sin.

Let us be silent when we don’t know what to say.

Let us be humble and listen to the pain, rage, and grief pouring from the lips of our neighbors and friends.

Let us decrease, so that our brothers and sisters who live on the underside of history may increase.

Let us pray with our eyes open and our feet firmly planted on the ground

Let us listen to the shattering glass and let us smell the purifying fires, for it is the language of the unheard.

God, in your mercy…

Show me my own complicity in injustice.

Convict me for my indifference.

Forgive me when I have remained silent.

Equip me with a zeal for righteousness.

Never let me grow accustomed or acclimated to unrighteousness.

Originally posted on Kinetics Live, November 28, 2014.
 

Offered by Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher-Stewart

I’ve had to truly re-think what it means to be Black and Episcopal, particularly in these times of civil uprising, racial unrest, and falsehoods coming from the President of this country being accepted as truth. What is the role of the Church, the Episcopal Church in speaking out, advocating for the humanity of her Black members?  Where is the church on the conflict that continues between the police and African Americans those who are Episcopalians and those who are not? There are times, most times, when I find myself conflicted, particularly when it comes to the issue of policing and its role in maintaining a racist society. I am conflicted because I spent twenty years as a police officer in Washington, DC, and the next thirty, studying, teaching, and consulting on police and race. I am conflicted because I am Black and get nervous when I see a police car behind me. I am conflicted because I have a Black son and nephews with whom I have had “The Talk.” You know, “the talk,” how to be Black in America and survive an encounter with the police. The talk, a conversation the majority of white parents never have with their children.  And so, while I speak out against policing as it was created and continues to function—to surveil and control black and brown bodies-- I must also face my role – knowingly and unknowingly -- in maintaining that system – a system that has disproportionately and continues to negatively affect the life chances of people who look like me. I must ask how my faith now guides any discussion of what must be done.  

“Respect the dignity of every human being”—Book of Common Prayer

Respecting the dignity of Black people and seeing Black people as human beings has never been part of the mission and goal of American policing. From slave patrols to Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (who murdered George Floyd) to mass incarceration, black people have been the fodder of the American criminal justice system. From what was considered a crime (running away from the plantation was theft), to initial contacts with the police (driving, walking, breathing, sleeping while black), to processing (sentencing disparities for Blacks and whites), to mass incarceration (slavery has just evolved according to Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson), the aim of the criminal justice system has been to maintain white supremacy, to keep white space white (President Trump’s not-so-veiled attempt to garner support from white suburban housewives by poorly hinting that he will keep those suburbs white), to ensure that Blacks were not (are not) seen as human beings and therefore have “no rights a white man is bound to respect.” And, yet, we as Episcopalians are called to “respect the dignity of every human being” and perhaps therein lies the problem. Do the mass of Episcopalians see Blacks as human beings, the carriers and reflectors of God’s image? Somehow, we must see each other as fully human and live in a way that makes God truly visible. It is more than going to church; it is more than beautiful liturgies. To respect the dignity of every human being, we must eliminate any and all barriers that keep God’s people from being all they can be; break down all barriers that keep God’s children of ebony grace from being fully human. We are called to destroy any barriers that keep any of God’s children from being able to live full lives and to be free to love others as Jesus loves us. Retired bishop John Shelby Spong offers, “I experience God as life. The God who is the source of life causes me to worship God by living – by living fully. The more fully I can live, the more I make God visible and I experience God as the source of love calling me to love, freeing me to love. The more fully, the more gracefully I can give my love away, I believe I can make God visible.” The Church is being called to be make God visible by destroying a system that denies humanity to God’s black and brown children; that keeps them from living fully, from loving fully.

There have been calls for the abolition and/or defunding of American policing.  American policing denies the humanity of God’s black and brown children. American policing is a barrier to living fully; to being fully human; therefore, it must be abolished. The problem with either word -- abolition or defunding is that people jump to their own conclusions and/or definitions of what the terms mean. To abolish the police does not mean the elimination of policing. There are people who make decisions not to play by the rules society has established and when those rules are broken, they must be stopped; that’s what arrest means – to stop. Abolition in this context means to abolish the police as they were created (to surveil and control black and brown bodies) and continue to act (to surveil and control black and brown bodies) and establish a system that serves and protects all. It is difficult to change direction if you keep going in a straight line and that is what has occurred over the years under the mantra of police reform. The decision must be made to “stop” and then create a system that is truly based on justice. It is not easy; however, it can be done. Community policing was an attempt to do this; however, community policing was overlaid on a diseased system and became diseased itself. 

Part of abolition and re-creating American policing is de-funding, although a better term would be re-allocation of funds. Defunding, like abolition frightens people because it has either not been defined or applied in a manner that invites failure. There are any number of tasks or functions the police perform that do not require law enforcement authority. The problem is that for most cities, the police are the only agency available 24/7. As we look at re-creating the police in a manner that serves all, an analysis of the functions of the police is undertaken and those tasks that do not require law enforcement authority are diverted to agencies or organizations that are better prepared to handle them. Once those tasks have been identified and the agencies/organizations prepared to assume those functions (to include possible 24/7 response), the police department budget is then adjusted and those monies identified with the tasks transferred are re-allocated to the receiving agencies/organizations. Is it easy? No. Can it be done? Yes. What is usually missing is the will to change and that pressure must come from outside policing because police departments are not change agents – they are to maintain the status quo and, in this country, it is a racist status quo.

As a person of faith, who truly believes in what I promised to do – to respect the dignity of every human being -- -is it imperative that we dismantle a system that has at its core the dehumanization of black and brown people; that denies the imago Dei. This must be a priority for the church. In addition to marching, praying, and preaching; we must be engaged in dismantling a system of oppression.  Whenever God’s justice is being denied to God’s people, whenever it is being perverted, the church, the Body of Christ, must be in the forefront of changing that system and the time to start is now.

God of all graces and of all the cultures and colors we call races, Holy God who from one blood formed the great masses of the human family, we come together in your presence as siblings, we come before you knowing in our minds, and feeling in our bodies the wrongness of white-body supremacy, of the beliefs and practices that make white bodies the standard of humanness and that cause violence, pain and death to those who are not white in this country. We also name the wrongness we know and feel about how the riches of this land have been despoiled, stolen, and allotted to a few, while the vast number of your beloved children of all hues and cultures go without, struggling to survive. 

We come as family, God, yet we acknowledge we bring with us different experiences of our church, nation, and world. We are one body, yet as members of that body we come with multivalence. With our own individual cultures, traumas, insecurities. And so, as we begin a conversation about how we might be agents of your peace, as we speak together about how we want to heal the open wounds we see and know and feel with our whole beings, we need your grace and your help.

Give us your grace, Lord,  to listen carefully and to really hear each other. As we share our stories, give us grace to be authentic and humble. And above all fill us with that Divine Love, without which any of our words, works, or revolutions will come to nothing.

Holy One, help us to see, know and feel your presence among us, guiding, guarding, loving and welcoming. All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ, who with you Creator of All and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Offered by Anthony Calzia, Nashville, TN

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