The Church Awakens is an electronic publication and online exhibit of The Archives of the Episcopal Church. This Web exhibit arose from the combination of an institutional reevaluation of the impact of racism, the motivation of a generous donor, and a staff committed to uncovering the archival legacy of the Church’s African American faithful. In 1993, the Board of the Archives launched a new focus on diversity within the Archives’ expanding acquisition program. The Board and staff identified the Afro-Anglican experience as deserving special attention as a way of responding to the 1991 General Convention’s wide-ranging call for all Church bodies to address the institutional sin of racism and an emerging pattern of forgetting. This pattern had overtaken the legacy of the post-Civil Rights period. Structural and policy-level changes appeared to release the conscience of the Church from further concern for remembering or addressing the historic harm of three centuries of racism. A number of resolutions were passed by General Convention, but two in particular challenged the Archives to mined its archives and special collections to recover the memories of our common heritage.
That the Episcopal Church spend the next three triennia addressing institutional racism inside our Church and in society, in order to become a Church of and for all races and a Church without racism committed to end racism in the world, and that greater inclusiveness become one of the Episcopal Church's primary strategies for evangelism.
That it is the responsibility of all Episcopalians to increase our knowledge of the one faith by developing a truly multi-cultural historiography and by preserving and sharing this common religious heritage.
- Resolved, That The Episcopal Church apologize for its complicity in and the injury done by the institution of slavery and its aftermath; we repent of this sin and ask God’s grace and forgiveness; and be it further
- 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), both materially and relationally, and achieve the spiritual healing and reconciliation that will lead us to a new life in Christ.
Responding to the Convention’s call, the Archives acquired several important documentary holdings in the 1990s, among them the records of the Episcopal Society for Racial and Cultural Unity (ESCRU). A series of discussions ensued with one of ESCRU’s founding members and executive directors, the Reverend John (Jack) Morris. Morris’ dedication to the Church as an unfolding historical project led directly to the creation of this exhibit. In many ways this exhibit is a tribute to Morris’ desire that one of the central lessons of this period not be lost today – that the unified Christian community has within its grasp the capacity for extraordinary acts of justice and honor that can serve to renew the community and bring positive change to the larger society. In 1998, Jack Morris donated five thousand dollars in matching funds towards the funding of an installed exhibit at the Austin Research Office. This exhibit on Civil Rights and ESCRU became the basis for the current, expanded version. In many ways this exhibit is dedicated to him.
This exhibit draws on the rich historical collections of the Afro-Anglican Archives of the General Convention. The Archives continues to add to this unfolding story and has constructed the on-line publication to be a growing resource on the Episcopal Church’s African American narrative, knowing that technology can make history a more vivid experience for a wider audience. Viewers who wish to share their comments on the exhibit or experiences are invited to do so by using the comment form. Donors who would like to add documentary evidence to the exhibit or to the Afro-Anglican Archives of The Episcopal Church are encouraged to contact the Director of Archives, Mark J. Duffy at the Research Office, P.O. Box 2247, Austin, Texas 78768.
The exhibit, “The Church Awakens: African Americans and the Struggle for Justice” is the creation of several present and former staff members of The Archives of the Episcopal Church.
- Exhibit Curators: Mark J. Duffy, Maribeth Kobza Betton
- Web Design and Production: Rachael Gilg, Caroline Higgins
- Research: Jennifer Peters, Eileen Wright-Swan
The Archives gratefully acknowledges the counsel and critical input of the following readers, who have given generously of their expertise and time, but who, in sharing their knowledge, do so without sharing in the missteps, oversights, and other representations of the exhibit’s content in whole or part. We thank them for their contributions:
Mr. R.P.M. Bowden
Ms. Mary Klein
Ms. Margaret D. Lewis
The Right Reverend Larry E. Maze
The Reverend Canon Edward W. Rodman
The Reverend Gardiner Humphrey Shattuck
Mr. Newland Smith
The Reverend William H. Stokes
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All content in this exhibit copyright 2008 The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
Unless otherwise noted, text and images displayed in this exhibit are owned by The Archives of the Episcopal Church. Permission is granted to individuals and not-for-profit entities to use or link to this electronic publication for educational purposes only. The copyright holder reserves all other rights to the use and reproduction in all formats and media of text, images, audio, and video data. For permission to reproduce write to: Rights and Permissions Office, The Archives of the Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 2247, Austin, Texas 78768.