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African Americans and the Episcopal Church

1624   First Baptism of African Slaves in American Colonial (Anglican) Church

1695   Episcopal Ministry to African Americans is Organized at Goose Creek, South Carolina

1702-1780   Society of the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG)
Society of the Propagation of the Gospel engaged in work among African Americans throughout the American colonies.

1776-1781   The American Revolution
The Episcopal Church emerges as an autonomous jurisdiction.

1784   Samuel Seabury Consecrated First American Bishop by Scottish Bishops

1789   Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America Established
The first General Convention was held in Philadelphia.

1789   William White (Pennsylvania), Presiding Bishop

1789   Samuel Seabury (Connecticut), Presiding Bishop

1792   Samuel Provoost (New York), Presiding Bishop

1794   St. Thomas African Episcopal Church Established and Accepted into Union with the Diocese of Pennsylvania
St. Thomas’ Church in Philadelphia was the first black parish organized in the Episcopal Church.

1795   William White, Presiding Bishop

1804   First African American Episcopal Priest Ordained
Absalom Jones was the first black priest ordained in the Episcopal Church.

1818   The Cardinal Black Parish of St. Philip'’s Church in Harlem, New York is Established

1821   Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (PECUSA) Formed, the Church'’s Corporate Form and Missionary

1824   The Cardinal Black Parish of St. Philip'’s Church in of St. James' Lafayette Square in Baltimore, Maryland is Established

1835   General Convention Votes to Send Bishops as Missionaries

1836   Alexander Viets Griswold (Massachusetts), Presiding Bishop

1843   Philander Chase (Illinois), Presiding Bishop

1845   The Cardinal Black Parish of St. Matthew’'s in Detroit, Michigan is Established

1849   The Cardinal Black Parish of Calvary Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina is Established

1852   Thomas Church Brownwell (Connecticut), Presiding Bishop

1853   Alexander Crummell Becomes a Missionary and Teacher in Liberia
Alexander Crummell

1854   The Cardinal Black Parish of the Good Shepherd in Mobile, Alabama is Established

1863   Birth of The Reverend George Freeman Bragg
During his appointment, African American George Freeman Bragg worked to advance the education of African Americans both within society and the Church.

1865   The Protestant Episcopal Freedmen'’s Commission Formed
As a result of emancipation, General Convention formed the Freedmen'’s Commission to aid in education and evangelism.

1865   John Henry Hopkins (Vermont), Presiding Bishop

1867   St. Augustine'’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute Founded in Raleigh, North Carolina
The founding of St. Augustine'’s was the first major result of the work of the Freedmen'’s Commission.

1867   The First Meeting of Anglican Bishops is held in London at Lambeth Palace

1868   Benjamin Bosworth Smith (Kentucky), Presiding Bishop

1871   Women’'s Auxiliary Formed

1874   James Holly Consecrated Missionary Bishop of Haiti
James Holly was the first African American bishop in the Episcopal Church. In 1861, he led 110 followers to Haiti. He remained in Haiti until his death, rarely returning to the United States.

1874   First Ordination of a Black Churchman in Mississippi

1878   Bishop Payne Divinity School Founded
Bishop Payne Divinity School was established in Petersburg, Virginia to train black men for the priesthood.

1883   Brotherhood of St. Andrew Founded in Chicago

1883   "Sewanee Conference" of Southern Bishops
Southern bishops involved in interracial work under the segregation policy held the first Sewanee Conference, which set the pattern for "colored convocations" in the south.

1884   First African American Congregation, St. Augustine'’s, Galveston, Established in Texas

1884   First African American Delegates Sent to General Convention
Black delegates from the dioceses of West Texas and Florida were sent to General Convention in Chicago for the first time.

1884   Alfred Lee (Delaware), Presiding Bishop

1885   Church Commission for Work Among Colored People (CCWACP)
Some local projects for education and evangelization of African Americans were undertaken by the churches after the Civil War. The Episcopal Church, however, takes no official action on behalf of southern African Americans until 1885, when it establishes the Church Commission for Work Among Colored People.

1887   John Williams (Connecticut), Presiding Bishop

1888   St. Paul's Normal and Industrial School Founded in Lawrenceville, Virginia

1889   United Thank Offering Established by the Women'’s Auxiliary

1891   Phillips Brooks Elected Bishop of Massachusetts

1897   Voorhees College Founded in Denmark, South Carolina

1899   Thomas March Clark (Rhode Island), Presiding Bishop

1903   Daniel Sylvester Tuttle (Missouri), Presiding Bishop

1904   Discussion of Suffragan Bishops Commences
Discussion regarding the election of suffragan bishops began at the 1904 General Convention in Boston.

1906   American Church Institute for Negroes Established
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society established the American Church Institute for Negroes whose chief activity was the support of less than a dozen secondary and college educational institutions throughout the South. The largest Episcopal school, for whites and African Americans, that became a part of the American Church Institute for Negroes was a historically African-American four-year college, St. Paul'’s in Lawrenceville, Virginia.


1910   Amendment of Canon Law
Canon law was amended, without mention of race or color, to permit the election of suffragan bishops. Two bishops are elected for ministry to Negroes in time to take their seats at the General Convention of 1919.

1918   Bishops Demby and Delany Consecrated Suffragan Bishops for Colored Work

1919   Church Missions House at 281 Park Avenue South Becomes Center for Mission Program and Administration of the New National Council.

1919   General Convention Adopts the First Churchwide Anti-lynching Resolution

1923   Alexander Charles Garrett (Dallas), Presiding Bishop

1924   Ethelbert Talbot (Bethlehem), Presiding Bishop

1926   John Gardner Murray (Maryland), Presiding Bishop

1929   Charles Palmerston Anderson (Chicago), Presiding Bishop

1930   James Dewolf Perry (Rhode Island), Presiding Bishop

1930   6,304 Clergy and 1,939,453 Baptized Members

1931   Black Churchmen in Virginia Granted Voting Rights
Diocese of Virginia enfranchised black churchmen to vote in its diocesan convention.

1935   Diocese of Southern Virginia Gives Vote to Black Clergy

1938   Henry St. George Tucker (Virginia), Presiding Bishop

1940   6,335 Clergy and 2,171,562 Baptized Members

1943   Bi-racial Joint Committee on Minorities Formed in National Council
As the successor to the Church Commission for Work Among Colored People, the Bi-racial Joint Committee was formed by the National Council to increase participation of African American laymen in the program of the Church.

1946   Federal Council of Churches’ Condemns Discrimination
Mainline Protestant churches began to move towards the goal of a "desegregated church in a desegregated society;" when the Federal Council of Churches condemned discrimination as a "violation of the gospel of love and human brotherhood."

1946   Black Churchmen in Southern Virginia Granted Voting Rights
The Diocese of Southern Virginia granted the vote to all black churchmen in future councils.

1947   Black Churchmen in South Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas Granted Voting Rights
The dioceses of South Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas grant the vote to all black churchmen in future councils.

1947   Henry Knox Sherrill (Massachusetts), Presiding Bishop

1949   Bishop Payne Divinity School Closes
Bishop Payne Divinity School closed due to the decline in enrollment caused by the integration of nearly all Episcopal seminaries.

1949   Pro-Civil Rights Clergy Begin Ministry in Inner City
At Grace Church, Jersey City, New Jersey, priests Paul Moore, C. Kilmer Myers, and Robert Pegram started a parish program aimed at inter-racial fellowship and service to ghetto residents. This became a model for other parishes in other northern cities, including St. Augustine’'s Mission in New York and St. John'’s Church in Boston. Black priests and congregations, alternately, saw a decline as many were absorbed into neighboring white churches over the next decade. The Urban Mission Priests group was organized to strengthen urban ministry. Black priests joined with whites in this mission.

1950   6,654 Clergy and 2,540,548 Baptized Members

1951   John Walker is Admitted as the First African American Student to Attend Virginia Theological Seminary

1952   General Convention Adopts Resolution on Racial Discrimination
The General Convention in Boston adopted a resolution that states: "[w]e consistently oppose and combat discrimination based on color or race in every form, both within the Church and without, in this country and internationally." A survey sponsored by the Church’'s Department of Christian Social Relations showed, however, that Episcopalians generally favored a moderate approach to issues of racism and that 27 percent of the laity were not opposed to segregation within the Church.

1952   Dr. Caution Presents Report on Post-war Negro Work
The Rev. Dr. Tollie Caution, Executive Secretary of Negro Work to the National Council since 1945, prepared a report titled "A Decade of Progress in Negro Work."


1952   Seminary Upholds Exclusion on Grounds of Race
The Board of Trustees of the University of the South (Sewanee), a school owned by 28 of the Church'’s southern dioceses, voted to continue the exclusion of black students from the School of Theology. Sewanee remained only one of ten Episcopal seminaries with no African-American theological students in attendance.

1953   Seminary Reverses Decision under Protest
In the summer of 1953, the board of trustees of the University of the South reversed its admissions decision, after eight faculty members resigned in protest and following resistance from several theology students and a number of southern bishops.

1953   Diocese of South Carolina Allows Blacks to Participate
The diocese of South Carolina, the last diocese to exclude black clergy and laity from its diocesan convention, voted to allow "Negro representation" at the convention by a count of 85 to 31.

1955   General Convention Changes Meeting Site from Houston to Honolulu
The General Convention of 1955 was scheduled to meet in Houston, but protests from church leaders and black congregations over segregated facilities in the city led to a late change of venue by Presiding Bishop Sherrill. In Hawaii, the Convention adopted a resolution commending the clergy and people of the Church to accept and support the Brown vs Board of Education decision.

1956   National Council Aims for Total Desegregation
The National Council of the Episcopal Church revised a set of "Guiding Principles Pertaining to the Work of the Church among Negroes" to include the ultimate goal of desegregation for all church institutions and agencies, based on recommendations of its advisory Bi-racial Committee.

1956   National Council Creates the "Southern Project"
The National Council of Churches authorized the creation of the "Southern Project," which was designed to give aid to local church activists who were attacked due to their public support of desegregation.

1957   The Era of the Racial Episcopate Ends
The attempts of the Church at racial episcopacies with bishops Delany and Demby ended after the death of Bishop Demby (Delany died in 1928). The Church declared this idea unsuccessful.

1958   General Convention Supports Equal Opportunity and House of Bishops Releases Pastoral Letter
The General Convention approved a resolution supporting equal opportunity in education, housing, employment, and public accommodations. The House of Bishops released its pastoral letter on the recent Lambeth Conference, noting that racial tensions in the United States threatened to alienate the good will of other countries. The letter addressed the issue of civil disobedience but neither supported nor renounced its use.

1958   Arthur Lichtenberger (Missouri), Presiding Bishop

1959   Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU) Forms
This unofficial church organization was formed to promote acceptance of the Church’s policies of racial inclusiveness. John B. Morris was named Executive Director, and the group established a national office in Atlanta, Georgia. By August 1960, more than 1,000 Episcopal clergy and laity were members of ESCRU.


1960   ESCRU Supports Church Demonstrations
During the summer of 1960, a new aspect of the ‘sit-in’ movement in the South took place in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, when black college students visited white churches for Sunday services.

1960   9,079 Clergy and 3,444,265 Baptized Members

1961   ESCRU Addresses Intermarriage and Alienates Much of Southern Church
At the first annual meeting of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, members passed a memorial requesting the House of Bishops to state the position of the Church with respect to marriage between persons of different color. The memorial on intermarriage identified ESCRU as a militant group to some and alienated the laity and the clerical leadership in large parts of the South.

1961   15 Clergy Arrested on Prayer Pilgrimage
An interracial group of 28 clergy began a pilgrimage by bus from New Orleans to the 1961 General Convention in Detroit. The group, organized by ESCRU, planned to visit and agitate segregated churches and church-related educational institutions.

1961   Church Declares Prejudice to Be Inconsistent with the Gospel
The General Convention adopted a resolution expressing regret for past and present discrimination within the Church and encouraged all levels of the Church to reconcile itself to the "comprehensiveness of the body of Christ" and to establish worship and study programs in this area.

1961   Episcopal Hospital Targeted for Protests
St. John’s Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, an Episcopal institution of the Diocese of Long Island, was picketed for their policy of excluding black patients from semi-private facilities. ESCRU protested St. John’s policy and leads a public vigil outside the hospital and at the bishop’s office in Garden City, Long Island. Johnathan G. Sherman, Suffragan Bishop of Long Island, defended the hospital’s policy on overtly racist grounds saying, "the Negroes are a gregarious race (one of their most loveable traits), and they like to visit in sixes and sevens" thereby disturbing white patients. The hospital’s policy of segregated room assignments finally came to an end as the result of outside intervention by the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

1962   Episcopal Day School Denies Entrance to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Son
An application on behalf of the son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., submitted to Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia, was rejected based on unanimously adopted school guidelines that prohibited African American students.

1962   African-American Elected Suffragan Bishop
The Ven. John M. Burgess was elected Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts on September 22 and consecrated December 8. He was the first African-American bishop with authority over black and white congregations, and became the first African-American diocesan bishop in 1969.

1963   Presiding Bishop Commits Church to Action
Presiding Bishop Arthur Lichtenberger issued a "Whitsunday Statement" committing the Episcopal Church to maximum participation in the civil rights movement. The statement had a profound impact on the Church. Many interpreted it as the Church'’s sanction of direct action against segregation.

1963   Religious Groups Join March on Washington
The Episcopal Church participated in the planning of the March on Washington D.C. for Jobs and Freedom. Observers at the march estimated more than half of the banners and signs were from churches, synagogues, and related agencies and organizations.

1963   National Council Staff Members Arrested at Protest
Two members of the National Council staff, Bishop Daniel Corrigan and Father Daisuke Kitagawa, Executive Secretary of the Division of Domestic Missions, were among a group arrested trying to desegregate Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore, Maryland.

1964   National Council of Churches Establishes Delta Ministry
The National Council of Churche’s' Commission on Religion and Race established the Delta Ministry. The year-old commission determined that black citizens of Mississippi wanted the Churches’ help in their struggle. Beyond voter registration, there was a vital need for programs of social service and community development. The Rev. Warren McKenna, an Episcopal priest and member of the National Council of Church’s (NCC) staff, served as Co-director of the Delta Ministry. The Ministry was concentrated in some of the poorest and most primitive counties in the state. It enrolled 70,000 Negro voters, organized workshops for black candidates seeking public office, and provided other community services.

1964   General Convention Adopts Policy Prohibiting Racial Discrimination in Churches

1964   King Speaks to ESCRU
ESCRU sponsored a dinner at the General Convention where Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed an audience of nearly 2,000. King condemned segregation in American churches saying, "the Church is still the most segregated major institution in our country." Dr. King was named the winner of the 1964 Nobel peace prize the following day.

1965   Seminary Students Work in Selma
Judith Upham and Jonathan Daniels, students from the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, who were present for the Selma demonstrations, decided to return to Selma as ESCRU'’s representatives. They worked closely with civil rights leaders and also attempted to open communication with St. Paul’'s Church, the all-white Episcopal parish in Selma. When Upham and Daniels attended an early-morning Eucharist on Easter Sunday, 1965, accompanied by a group of young Negroes, they are directed to the rear pew, from which they were the last to receive Holy Communion. ESCRU issued a statement attacking the bishop’s approval of segregated seating in parish churches.

1965   Jonathan Daniels Killed
Seminary student and civil rights crusader Jonathan Daniels was shot at close range by a former deputy sheriff in Hayneville, Alabama. Daniels was the 26th civil rights worker killed in the South. ESCRU launched "Operation Southern Justice," a campaign undertaken in conjunction with the NCC and other groups to force the integration of southern juries, which have not yet convicted anyone accused of these murders.


1965   John Elbridge Hines (Texas), Presiding Bishop

1966   ‘Negro Churchmen’ Support Black Power
A position statement formulated in support of Black Power by the National Committee of Negro Churchmen was signed by nine Episcopalians, including Bishop John F. Burgess, Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts.

1966   ESCRU Brings Attention to Global Racism
ESCRU coordinated Episcopal participation in demonstrations at the Chase Manhattan Bank and the Episcopal Church Center in New York City to protest church investments in South African banks that were being used to support apartheid. The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church responded by appointing a committee to study ways in which the Church might transfer some of its assets to banks located in poor urban centers.

1966   ESCRU Charges the Church with Heresy for Continued Racism
ESCRU charged the Episcopal Church with heresy because of its continued racism. At its meeting in October 1966, the Board of Directors adopted a statement, which read: "We charge the Church to which we belong and which we love with heretical and blasphemous distortion of the Christian doctrine of man." Citing the racism implicit in the parish system, clergy placement, religious education, and church investments, the statement was delivered to the Presiding Bishop and in January 1967 became the basis of a petition, which was addressed to the General Convention. Over 10,000 signatures were obtained on the petition.

1968   Union of Black Clergy and Laity (UBCL) Forms
The Ad Hoc Committee of Negro Clergy gathered in Philadelphia to form a united group opposed to racism within the Church. Although initially composed of clergymen, the UBCL sought to involve black laity and emerged as a powerful and innovative organization on issues relating to racism in the Church. It was renamed the Union of Black Episcopalians in 1971.

1969   ESCRU Leads Ash Wednesday Protest
On Ash Wednesday, the Chicago chapter of ESCRU sponsored several demonstrations to publicize concern over racism in the Episcopal Church’'s curriculum materials. Clergymen burned the offensive curriculum materials and imposed ashes on the heads of the penitents.

1969   Special Convention Addresses Racism
The Special General Convention of 1969 met in South Bend, Indiana, from August 31 - September 5. The General Convention of 1967 had requested this meeting, which included additional delegates to ensure that youth, women, and minority groups would be adequately represented.

1970   ESCRU Disbands
ESCRU was denied a request for funding from an outside foundation. On October 18, ESCRU sponsored a banquet at which the Rev. Jesse Jackson was the speaker. At the conclusion of the banquet, ESCRU'’s Vice President Barbara Harris announced that ESCRU’'s life had come to an end.

1970   First African American Bishop of the Episcopal Church Consecrated
John Burgess of Massachusetts became the first African American diocesan of the Episcopal Church.


1970   Charles Willie Elected as Vice President of the House of Deputies
African American Charles Willie was elected as Vice President of the House of Deputies, a position he resigned from in 1974 after the House of Bishops considered the ordinations of the "Philadelphia 11" to be invalid.

1970   11,772 Clergy and 3,475,164 Baptized Members

1970   Ordination of Women to the Diaconate Approved

1970   Women Allowed to Serve as Delegates to General Convention

1974   John Maury Allin (Mississippi), Presiding Bishop

1974   Eleven Women Ordained Priest in Philadelphia
The ordinations of the "Philadelphia 11" at the Church of the Advocate were declared invalid by the House of Bishops. That is later retracted with the decision at the 1976 General Convention to regularize the ordinations.

1976   General Convention Approves Ordination of Women in All Three Orders
There was strong opposition to this resolution approving the ordination of women to the three orders of bishop, priest, and deacon, and a division over gender equality and human sexuality developed within the Church.

1976   Dr. Charles Radford Lawrence, II Elected as President of the House of Deputies
In 1967, Dr. Lawrence became a lay delegate of the House of Deputies. At the 1976 General Convention, he was elected president of the House of Deputies and would serve in that office until 1985. Dr. Lawrence holds the distinction of being the third lay person and the first African American to hold the position.

1977   Bishop Paul Moore Ordains Homosexual to the Priesthood
The Rev. Ellen Barrett is ordained in the Diocese of New York by Bishop Paul Moore.

1979   New Book of Common Prayer Book Approved
The approval of a new standard Prayer Book causes an additional fracture within the Church.

1980   13,089 Clergy and 3,037,420 Baptized Members

1986   Edmond Lee Browning (Hawaii), Presiding Bishop

1989   Barbara Harris is Consecrated Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts
Upon her consecration, Barbara Harris becomes both the first woman and first black woman bishop in the Anglican Communion.

1990   14,878 Clergy and 2,446,050 Baptized Members

1991   Pamela Chinnis Elected First Woman President of House of Deputies

1998   Frank Tracy Griswold III (Chicago), Presiding Bishop

2003   Gene Robinson Consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire
Gene Robinson is the first openly gay priest to be ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church.

2006   Episcopal Church Elects First Woman Presiding Bishop
Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, is elected as the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

2006   General Convention Resolution 2006-A123
General Convention passes Resolution 2006-A123, affirming that racism is a sin, apologizing for the complicity of the Church in the slave trade, and seeking to repair the injustice "both materially and relationally."

2008   Episcopal Church Holds "Day of Repentance"
In response to a call from the 2006 General Convention, the Episcopal Church publicly apologizes for its complicity in slavery in a service held at St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, the first black Episcopal church in the United States.

2015   Episcopal Church Elects First African American Presiding Bishop
Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, becomes the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

2016   Episcopal Church Implements "Becoming Beloved Community."
In response to Resolution 2015-C019, members of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies create an anti-racism resource, Becoming Beloved Community, “a set of inter-related commitments around which Episcopalians may organize our many efforts to respond to racial injustice and grow a community of reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers.” The resource seeks to root Episcopal responses to racism in the Baptismal Covenant, and emphasizes the ongoing nature of the journey towards reconciliation and healing.

2017   First African American Woman Elected Bishop Diocesan
In April of 2017, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows becomes the eleventh Bishop of Indianapolis.