The Episcopal Church emerged from the Second World War in a period of peace and prosperity that is typically remembered as the halcyon days of renewal, growth, and vigorous religion. A large part of this growth was illusory, however, as the Church’s demographic followed the social exodus of the middle class from city to suburb. New church buildings and plantings coincided with the abandonment, closing, and merger of inner city parishes and the end of the institutional church movement of community parishes.
The irony of the looming urban crisis was that it brought into greater relief the separation and discrimination of African American congregations and their leadership in the circles of Church power and resources. The Civil Rights movement, which had its wellspring in Southern black churches, found allies among liberal whites whose consciences were stirred by alarming poverty and Jim Crow racism. The harsh realities of segregation were now feeding resistence to the point of violence as ordinary black workers, students, and housewives refused to cooperate with segregation.
The winds of change were blowing through the Church as theological understandings of mutual ministry, the liturgical movement, and Prayer Book reform called for each member to take personal responsibility for the Church as it is and would become. For black members of the Church, the 1960s and early 1970s were times for organizing a new Afro-Anglican identity, and demanding that the Church hold itself accountable and commit itself to a serious and persistent struggle to end racism in its own house. [Sources]