“All Are Welcome In This Place”

Ahmaud Arbery and the Episcopal Church’s Response to Racism by Aaron Morrison

On February 23rd of this year, Ahmaud Arbery, while jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, was murdered by two white men who allegedly thought he resembled someone who had been committing burglaries in the area. Ahmaud’s black body carried the presumption of guilt in those men’s eyes, and that was enough to justify arming themselves and shooting him. As of today, the perpetrators have been arrested, but not before a couple months had passed and a national outcry for justice had taken place. This demonstrates once again how white supremacy still maintains its hold over the lives of racial and ethnic minorities in this country.

Ahmaud Arbery’s name joins the long list of black people gunned down in recent years while doing routine daily things white people like myself take for granted. As a recent Facebook post from Lyndon Jones said:

   Black people are so tired. ???????

We can’t go jogging (#AmaudArbery).

We can’t relax in the comfort of our own homes (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).

We can’t ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).

We can’t have a cellphone (#StephonClark).

We can’t leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).

We can’t play loud music (#JordanDavis).

We can’t sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).

We can’t sleep (#AiyanaJones)

We can’t walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).

We can’t play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).

We can’t go to church (#Charleston9).

We can’t walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).

We can’t hold a hair brush while leaving our own bachelor party (#SeanBell).

We can’t party on New Years (#OscarGrant).

We can’t get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).

We can’t lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).

We’re tired.

Tired of making hashtags.

Tired of trying to convince you that our #BlackLivesMatter too.

Tired of being murdered.

Tired of being hated because of our skin.

Tired of oppression and injustice.

Tired of the silence of white privilege.

So very tired.

Soon God will have His day of vengeance.

Soon God will do away with evil, sin, and death.

Soon God will make all things new.

Soon we will live with God for eternity in the Holy city.

Soon.

The sin of racism continues within our country. In particular, we as the Church, both now and in the past, have failed to repent of racism and to work for justice. However, totally depraved as we are both corporately and individually, I still believe in the Church, because Jesus left us with no “Plan B” for proclaiming the Gospel. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that he believed that “the long arc of history bends towards justice,” and getting there will require the Church to take ownership of its failures in regards to racism while also calling for justice.

Within our Anglican/Episcopal Church context, we have the Becoming Beloved Community framework as a guide for our long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice. I would encourage all of you to familiarize yourself with two documents produced as part of the framework and following their directions: Telling the Truth, Proclaiming the Dream Stories of Leadership, Racial Injustice, and Healing  from Deputies, Bishops, and Leaders of Color in The Episcopal Church and Becoming Beloved Community Where You are… A Resource for Individuals, Congregations & Communities Seeking Racial Healing, Reconciliation and Justice

As we come together to grieve the loss of another one of God’s sons in Ahmaud Arbery and strive for justice for him and for all victims of racism, consider praying this lament written by the Rev. Elizabeth “Liz”  Costello, Rector of St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Littleton, Colorado:

A Lament for Ahmaud Arbery

Lord, another one of your children,

Ahmaud Arbery

bore the sin of racism in his body.

A body that you knew before he was in his mother’s womb.

A body that you called “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Fearfully beautiful, like you.

Wonderfully black, like you.

A body you cherished seeing delight in the simple act of running.

A gift you gave,

a right that his grandparents’ bodies fought for.

A body that shone forth your glory, for it was fully alive,

Until…

the vibrations of yesteryears’ lynching trees broke into the present,

reenacting the original sin of white savagery,

that is embedded in our white skin.

That retells the story of violence that was taken upon the cross

and destroyed your body.

A body, fearfully and wonderfully made –

Fearfully beautiful, like you.

Wonderfully black, like you.

At the foot of the cross, I pray:

Forgive us, Ahmaud Abery, for we, your family, still do not know what we do.