In February 2017, The Episcopal Church’s officers approved a comprehensive strategic vision titled, Becoming Beloved Community: The Episcopal Church’s Long-term Commitment to Racial Healing, Reconciliation, and Justice. Proudly, our diocese’s Organization on Procedural Justice (OPJ) was listed in partnership with the Presiding Officers in the in the acknowledgments of the organizations and persons deeply committed to this work. (The acknowledgments can be found on page 4 of the document.)
The release of the strategic vision was the culmination of a year of listening, learning and discerning following the passage of Resolution C019 (Establish Response to Systemic Injustice) at the 78th General Convention and an allocation of $2 million to fund the ministry.
The vision included, as example, a citation from theologian and author Charles Marsh’s book entitled The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today. The introduction to this book is titled “Souls on Fire” and speaks about the December 1956 boycott in Montgomery, Alabama where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds the attendees that the boycott is not an end unto itself.
“The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. … It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
The Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community vision cites “widespread hostility to immigrants from Latin America; the deportation of millions and ripped families apart; structural poverty in indigenous communities, the detention and killing of unarmed black men, women, and children by the state,” and more. “Across the United States and into Europe, people from the Middle East…profiled as terrorists and enemies of ‘Western’ values. And human trafficking enslaves the most vulnerable in Asia, the Americas, and Europe…”
What I have learned is that the words ‘beloved’ (inferring extraordinary and intense love) and ‘community’ (which may infer a notion as broad as ‘humanity’ or as exclusive as ‘private club’) when linked together as “Beloved Community” go beyond exclusivity.
You can find the 23-page Becoming Beloved Community strategic vision at https://www.episcopalchurch.org/beloved-community
Dr. Merelyn Bates-Mims is the founding chair of the Organization on Procedural Justice and a member of Christ Church Cathedral.