Friday, October 03, 2008

Episcopal Church to apologize for slavery: from the Philadelphia Inquirer

Rev. Absolom Jones

from the Philadelphia Inquirer:



In what has become the cause du jour this year, the Episcopal Church will publicly make amends for its part in the trans-Atlantic slave trade with a "Day of Repentance" today and tomorrow.

The two-day event at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, at 6361 Lancaster Ave., Overbrook, was mandated by a resolution at the church's General Convention in 2006.

The event begins today at 1 p.m. with presentations on the church's role in the slave trade. Tomorrow, the services are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will conduct the service at the church, founded in 1792 by Absalom Jones, a former slave and the first black Episcopal priest.

Jayne Oasin, staff officer for the New York-based Episcopal Church Center, said that the church can't deny its complicity in slavery even after the trans-Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1808.

She noted that some historic Episcopal churches were built using slave labor and that members owned or profited from industries associated with it.

"Slavery went against God's law of equality and justice," she said. "This apology is made to the descendants [of those] who were wronged."

The Rev. Martini Shaw, rector of St. Thomas, said that it's fitting to host this event at the oldest black church.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic and excited about it," he said. "When anyone enters reconciliation and the sacrament of repentance, that is always a good thing," he said.

In part, the resolution declared that the "peculiar institution . . . was and is a sin and a fundamental betrayal of the humanity of all persons who were involved."

The Episcopal Church's apology comes in the wake of several apologies made by government and religious entities recently.

In 1995, the Southern Baptist Church was the first religious organization to denounce its role in slavery. Last year, Virginia became the first state to issue a public apology; several states, including New Jersey and Maryland, followed. Last July, Congress issued an apology.

Critics who oppose the acts of contrition say that it's an attempt to seek reparations and stroke white guilt.

But Shaw sees it as redemption for all those who were involved.

"You can forgive a person for the actions taken. We shouldn't forget slavery, but to forgive the perpetrators." *


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