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The Namaste Commission on "A Theology of Race"

Namaste Commission members attending a March 2018 retreat led by the Rev. Charles Wynder, Jr., Episcopal Church Staff Officer for Social Justice and Advocacy Engagement.
The Rev. Jerry Racioppi
Namaste Commission members attending a March 2018 retreat led by the Rev. Charles Wynder, Jr., Episcopal Church Staff Officer for Social Justice and Advocacy Engagement.

If you are a member of the Diocese of Newark you have witnessed history being made with the recent Consecration of the Right Reverend Carlye J. Hughes. This marks the first female ordained as Bishop of our diocese, as well as the first African American. We, your Namaste Commission, would like to acknowledge this significant event in the life of our Church, and remind us all that there is still work to be done.

Bishop Carlye attended our October Namaste Meeting and shared her views on anti-racism work, and gave us her perspective on The Episcopal Church's emphasis on the sin of racism. She told us that her hope is that everyone would have a "theology of race" and that her dream is that all recognize the existence of one race, that is the human race. Bishop Carlye's experience in this work has led her to find success in dismantling racism only when people who want to participate in this work come together.

Bishop Carlye shared with members of Namaste that she was very impressed with her experience of the Diocese of Newark. During both search interviews and walkabouts, her race and gender were not topics of conversation. This was the first time during an interview process within the Church that she was only questioned about ministry, the merits of her work and commitment to God.

In the sermon at Bishop Carlye's Consecration, the Reverend Brenda G. Husson, recognized the significance of the day, when she reminded the two thousand plus attendees that "just 156 years ago, on September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln announced that he would order the emancipation of slaves in 1863. So by all means, let’s ordain Carlye Juanita Hughes Bishop of Newark on this date; that anniversary. For good measure, today our Lutheran brothers and sisters are consecrating Patricia Davenport, another African American woman, bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. God is having a good day. So are we."

We, members of the diocese’s Namaste Commission, would like to acknowledge the significance of Bishop Carlye's episcopacy, but also remind us that there is still much work to do. As a diocese, we have not ordained an African-American priest or deacon in over ten years, we have yet to call a person of color as Rector to one of our congregations of significant size, and a woman of Hispanic or Latino descent has not been ordained priest or deacon in years. Also, many roles on our diocesan boards, commissions and committees do not reflect the diversity of our congregation members. And let’s not forget that Bishop Carlye is the 1109th Bishop of the Episcopal Church, but only the second African American female bishop consecrated as Diocesan Bishop (The Right Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows was consecrated Diocesan Bishop of Indianapolis in April 2017).

During a clergy meeting (the day before the Consecration) with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, retiring Bishop Mark Beckwith and the soon-to-be consecrated Bishop Carlye, one of the female clergy stood up and highlighted the significance of what the Diocese of Newark was about to do. The Presiding Bishop had mentioned a book, In Memory of Her, by Elizabeth Fiorenza. This clergy woman acknowledged the power of that book upon its publication and how looking at who is represented at the leadership table matters. After a rather long pregnant pause, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, "it makes all the difference."

As a member of our diocese, we would ask you to take a pause and answer the following questions. What has been your role in racial reconciliation and healing? How do you live into your Baptismal call to "respect the dignity of every human being"? When have you last attended an Anti-Racism Dialogue? If you are interested in participating in one, check out our page on the diocesan website.

Ken Bledsoe, St. John’s Ramsey
Bill Cruse, St. John’s Ramsey
Helen Dannatt, Christ Church Newton
Janelle Grant, St. Paul’s Paterson
Gladys Hughes, St. Peter’s Clifton
Canon Gregory Jacobs, Diocese of Newark
Jane Jubilee, Diocese of Newark
Jerry Racioppi, Holy Spirit Verona
Willie Smith, Trinity Cliffside Park
Joan Slepian, Redeemer Morristown
Michele Simon, St. Paul’s Englewood