Diocese of New York revives long-tabled anti-slavery Resolutions

At its Convention this weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of New York will revive Resolutions to condemn slavery which were tabled at its 1860 Convention. The background is described at the Olean Times Herald.

In 1860, John Jay II, introduced the Resolutions,

in order to prevent all misapprehension in regard to the position of the Church in this diocese on the subject of the Slave-trade, do hereby declare and announce that the Convention do utterly reject the doctrine that men may be lawfully kidnapped and held in slavery by any other person, and do utterly condemn the said practice as a great sin against God and man. And do adopt in regard thereto, the words of St. Cyprian, in writing to the Bishop of Numidia:

“Both religion and humanity make it a duty for us to work for the deliverance of the captive. It is Jesus Christ, himself, of whom we ought to consider in our captive brothers. It is Him whom we should deliver from captivity–Him who hath delivered us from death.”

While the trading in slaves had been outlawed in the United States for decades, the port of New York continued to trade illicitly in enslaved people, as Jay described in the introduction to his Resolutions:

Whereas, This Convention are advised by numerous and convincing proofs that the traffic in African slaves, which the people of the United States intended should forever cease after the year 1808, hath been re-established in the city of New York, the seat of our Episcopate, within the limits and jurisdiction of this Diocese, in violation of the laws of God and the statutes of the Republic:

And whereas, It further appears that the said traffic hath during the last year increased so rapidly from this part, that the city of New York hath become, in the language of the London Times, “the greatest slave trading mart in the world:”

Jay went on to argue that the church had a duty to act so that “all errour, ignorance, pride and prejudice may be dissipated, and that truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us.”

To that end, he called upon the Bishop to issue a Pastoral Letter to the people decrying the slave trade, and recommended that clergy of the Diocese preach “from time to time … in their respective parishes against the wickedness of the slave trade;” and that the lay people of the Diocese be urged to exercise their influence to end that trade through the port of New York.

Fifty-five clergy and forty-four lay delegates voted to table Jay’s Resolutions, against seven clergy and six lay people voting in favor of their adoption. One hundred forty-nine clergy and 137 lay delegates declined to cast a vote. The Resolutions were duly tabled for 159 years.

The Reparations Committee of the Diocese of New York explained why they were bringing the Jay Resolutions back to Convention this weekend in an introductory video.

In the Resolution before Convention the Reparations Committee explains:

The Reparations Committee is calling on this 243rd Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York to remove the 1860 Resolutions from the table and adopt said 1860 Resolutions with retroactive force and effect.

As we continue our process of lamentations for slavery, this act is the right thing to do and will move us closer to the 2020 Diocesan Convention when we are calling on the Episcopal Diocese of New York to execute a formal apology for the sin of slavery.

More details of the original and 2019 Resolutions, the script for a dramatic reading from the 1860 Convention, and a video introducing the Resolution to the 2019 Convention are available at the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the Olean Times Herald.

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