An Afro-Anglican Journey

Excerpts from: “The Life of an Afro-Anglican by Earl Clinton Williams, Jr.” on Bishop Marc Andrus’ blog, on contemplation and living for justice.

Being born and brought up in the Episcopal Church has been an interesting thing to experience. Most of my friends through school did not attend the Episcopal Church, and when I would tell them what church I did attend, they would ask what Episcopal meant. I remember working at a camp in the Pocono Mountains and being asked that question by another counselor. He responded by saying “Oh, you go to one of those quiet churches.” All that I could do was to smile and say that I did. I think that it was at that point in my life in which I noticed that most of the Episcopalians that I knew were white. Sure two of my best friends and most of my mother’s family were Episcopalians, and were black, but I really didn’t know many other Black Episcopalians.

When I moved to Oakland in 1980, I figured that since I had made a change in where I lived, I might as well change the church denomination that I attended. After being here for a little over a month and attending other church denominations, I awoke one Sunday morning needing to go to an Episcopal service. I asked my aunt, whose house I was living in at the time, where the closest Episcopal Church was. We looked in the phonebook and found two that were close by. She drove me over to the first one, but I just didn’t like the color that the church was painted, so we drove over to the second one, and she asked me if I wanted to go to that one or back to the first one. I looked at the clock and saw that service was about to start, and said that I would go to that one. Now I wasn’t thrilled with the looks of this church either from the outside, but it had a better paint job. When I walked through the doors, I knew that I was home. My searches for a new denomination lead me back to the one that I was already in.

Like I did in with the congregations, I wonder what this diocese really has to offer and I to offer as a person of color? Why should I put the effort in to do things on the Diocesan level when I know that when I walk on the ground and in the buildings of the Episcopal Diocese at California & Taylor that I will only see a couple of pictures of people of color, and I had to look hard for those? It bothers me at times to go onto the property and the only people of color that I see working anywhere there are “Indians” and not “Chiefs”. It bothers me that we have one of the finest seminaries in the world and the best School for Deacons in the world, but the vocations of being either a Priest or Deacon really isn’t presented to the youth of color as viable careers.

As I have sat in commission meetings not too long ago, I have come to realize that those of us who are Afro-Anglicans really don’t know each other, or get involved here. I know that some of it has to do with the lack of color in DioHouse, but I think that if we get involved that we could make a difference on who is inside there. Yes I want for the Bishop to hire the best-qualified people for jobs regardless of their color, but it would be great to walk into that place and know that we of color have some voices inside those walls. We of color would then feel as though we really matter to the diocese.

I’m going to continue this joyful ride in this diocese with the belief that this diocese will help in fulfilling the dream of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many other great Black leaders. I believe that some day some day we will not think about trying to become multicultural and multiethnic, but a place where when we build new churches that they will be that way naturally. I want for their to be a time and the norm that when the National General Convention meets that when resolutions come from this diocese, they don’t get discussed in committees, but go straight to both Houses and are fully supported by all, for people will know that they have come from a diocese that works together regardless of the color of our skin.

The diocese has begun to change in that it does listen to the voices of those not within the now one Afrocentric congregation. Now we just need to get Afro-Anglicans and other people of color involved at all levels of the diocese. We need to get our Clergy of Color to be visible to the youth of color so that our youth realize that becoming a Cleric of Color is a viable career.

I call upon the diocese to find visible place on the grounds of Grace Cathedral to place pictures of current clergy and laity of color, so that all will see that this is not a diocese or church of nothing but Europeans, but that we are diverse.

I call upon the Clergy and Laity of color within this diocese to get involved with the different Ethnic Commissions, and to be visible at different events not only at the diocesan level, but also at events held at other congregations.

It’s going to take more than just the office to make changes and us visible. We must also go out and do what it takes to make the world know that we are an inclusive to all regardless of our color.

Read the rest here.

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