In this most recent moment of national shame in our national life, I mourn for Freddie Gray and his family, for those who have been injured in the rioting, for those who have suffered any loss as a result of these sad events in Baltimore and other places throughout our nation. I call us to pray, too, for those whose desperation drove them to violence. I call us to pray for those who seek to serve as reconcilers and workers for justice among us in seeking to address and eradicate the injustices that led to this most recent outbreak of violence.
These brutal events are rooted in the elegantly interlocking mechanisms of racism and our nation’s inequitable systems in the distribution of wealth, power, food and access. Such inequities lead first to injustice, then growing despair and ultimately to violence. It does little to address hunger, racism, oppression and suffering without confronting the underlying injustices.
As Christians, we are called to seek to transform unjust structures in our society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation (The fourth Mark of Mission, as defined by the Anglican Communion). We are also called by our baptismal vows to persevere in resisting evil’, to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being as well as to serve Christ by serving our neighbor. (The Book of Common Prayer, pages 304-305)
I invite all who are part of our Diocese of Pennsylvania to join in mourning for all the continuing injustices that brought our nation to this tragic moment and to confess our complicity, known or unknown, in creating and sustaining the structures and environment that have led us to such suffering and tragedy on so many levels and in so many lives. I invite each of us to repent of the evils sustained by continuing support of the unjust structures of our society that drain hope, lead to lives of desperation and explode in violence.
I call on every member, vestry, parish and organization of this Diocese to commit to creating avenues of hope and pathways to reconciliation in order to eradicate the sin of racism; to commit to specific acts to eradicate the holocaust of hunger in this city and nation; and to resolve to restore hope where there is none.
Two years ago, we committed as a Diocesan family to ask ourselves “How does what we do here today affect the lives of those who live in poverty?” In this moment I call on all of us to commit to asking of ourselves in a regular and sustained way, “How does what we do here today work toward the eradication of hunger and racism in our city and nation?”
I call on all Episcopalians to confess our complicity in maintaining unjust structures in our society that oppress and deny the dignity of every human being. And I call on each of us to resolve – in the power of the risen Christ – to take up our part in dismantling these injustices.
Bishop of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, April 30, 2015