Beloved Community Commission

The Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice.
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The Mission

In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in keeping with our baptismal covenant, we join with others to study up, speak up, stand up, and show up in order to bring the Beloved Community closer to realization in our time and place.

Follow the Diocesan Commission for Beloved Community Facebook page for new resources and to share your parish’s anti-racism events and activity.

Facebook: Beloved Community WMA
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Becoming Beloved Community
Photo of Rev. Nina Pooley and Eric LaForest

Meet the Co-Chairs

The Rev. Dr. Nina Pooley & Mr. Eric LaForest

Commission Members:

  • Ms. Katharine Burnett
  • Ms. Lee Cheek
  • The Rev. Tim Crellin
  • Ms. Jahn Hart
  • The Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
  • The Rev. Vicki Ix ex officio
  • Mr. Eric LaForest
  • The Rev. Dr. Nina Ranadive Pooley
  • The Rev. Pamela Porter
  • The Rev. George Porter
  • The Rev. Anna Woofenden

New Liturgy

Download resources here

Preaching Racial Justice:
A Conversation with the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

Upload Your Racial Justice Sermon

Beloved Community Commission 2020 Book Selection:

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

Discover the book carried by Dr. King that continues to inspire humans to endure the terrible pressures of the dominating world without losing their humanity or soul.

The Beloved Community Commission of the Diocese of Western MA invites all people and parishes in the diocese to read and discuss Howard Thurman’s 1949 classic, Jesus and the Disinherited in 2020.

A mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Thurman anticipated many of the themes of liberation theology, including Black Theology. But Thurman’s focus was not direct activism so much as cultivating a liberated spirit. The result is a short, inspiring work of pastoral theology.

Parishes could use Jesus and the Disinherited as the basis for one or more Zoom conversations about Christian formation, spirituality, and racial justice. To prepare for these conversations, you may stream a 57 min. video about Thurman called “Backs Against the Wall”. Diocesan clergy watched this video together at the 2019 Clergy Conference.

In order to facilitate conversations, here is a discussion guide for the book. You may purchase the book from your local independent bookstore via Bookshop or find it on Amazon.

Visit the Howard Thurman Virtual Listening Room in Boston University’s audio archive to hear hundreds of sermons and talks from 1951 to 1980 which are organized both by date and by subject. There are 12 talks recorded in Marsh Chapel  1958-59 comprising a 10 year retrospective of Jesus and the Disinherited that is not to be missed.  

Previous Diocese-Wide Book Reads

  • Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois, 1903.
    W.E.B. DuBois, 1868-1963, a native son of Great Barrington, MA. A classic book by one of America’s literary giants. “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” This is the problem of the twenty-first century as well.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander, 2012.
    A stunning distillation of a complex argument and history of the continuation of the legacy of slavery in the United States.
  • Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, 2015.
    A heart-wrenching and hopeful book about the reformation of justice in the U.S. by the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Resources for Group and Personal Learning

Note: These resources are weighted toward the history & legacy of slavery in the United States, including the origins of racism and its forms. Resources for the history of the slaughter and continuing racialized treatment of Native Peoples can be found in websites listed below. Most of these resources address the necessity of an honest appraisal and awareness of whiteness for becoming Beloved Community.

Framework for Anti-Racism/Reconciliation

Completing Anti-Racism training is mandated by Episcopal Church Canon for those being ordained, required for those serving in church leadership roles, and necessary for laypersons to help eliminate the sin of racism in the world as we Become Beloved Community. Anti-racism training is something that many want to incorporate into their formation programs. But what should that training teach? What should it really accomplish? The Episcopal Church Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism (ECCAR) has identified that there seems to be no consistency in the training that exists on anti-racism. Episcopal theology is missing. Base definitions of concepts such as race, white privilege, and chattel slavery are ill-defined or not defined at all. There is frequently little or no opportunity to practice techniques for dealing with tense situations stemming from racial discrimination or violence. For a pdf, please click here.

Steps to Becoming Beloved Community for Postulants

In 2016-2017, the Social Justice Commission of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts provided two 1-day introductory anti-racism trainings for postulants for Holy Orders, as well as lay leaders. In 2017 The Episcopal Church (TEC) reformed its anti-racism efforts to work toward racial justice through the lens of “Becoming Beloved Community.” In response, several members of the Social Justice Commission split off to form a separate dismantling racism group—the Beloved Community Commission. We are responsible for assisting clergy, clergy postulants, and lay members with the tools of TEC’s Becoming Beloved Community. One of the guiding tenets is that for each person, understanding and dismantling racism is a life-long activity, not the content and work of a single-day workshop. READ MORE

House of Bishops Theology Report on White Supremacy, 2020

The Episcopal House of Bishops released the report from its Theology Committee titled “White Supremacy, the Beloved Community, and Learning to Listen” on Sept. 16, 2020.

“It is the Church’s responsibility to recognize and reckon with the problem of white supremacy,” the introduction reads, in part. “All Episcopalians but especially white Episcopalians must acknowledge the active and substantial role played by the institutional church, including the Anglican Communion, and The Episcopal Church, in constructing, maintaining, defending, and profiting from this monstrous sin and scandal.”

Click on the links in England and Spanish below. Also included is a link to a covenant.

House of Bishops Theology Report on Reparations & Beloved Community, 2021

June 2020 - A New  Resource from the Episcopal Church:

Responding to Racist Violence

Recommended Reading

  • How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, 2019.
    The current term-defining book by the founder/director of Boston University’s new Center for Antiracist Research.
  • Be Antiracist: A Journal for Awareness, Reflection & Action, by Ibram X. Kendi, 2020.
    A journal with prompts designed to help everyone in any racial grouping self-reflect and confess the moments when we are being racist and celebrate the moments we are being antiracist–the first steps toward building a just and equitable society for everyone.
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, Robin DiAngelo, 2018.
    NY Times bestseller explores the emotions and behaviors of white people that prevent meaningful cross-racial dialogue.
  • Waking Up White, Debby Irving, 2014.
    Inspiring autobiographical journey from white oblivion to white awareness. It is one of the two books that accompany the film-based dialogue series Sacred Ground. (The other is Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, our 2020 book selection.)
  • Preaching Black Lives (Matter), edited by Gayle Fisher-Steward, Church Publishing 2020.
    While programs, protests, conferences, and laws are all important and necessary, less frequently discussed is the role of the church, specifically the Anglican Church and Episcopal Church, in ending systems of injustice. The ability to preach from the pulpit is mandatory for every person, clergy or lay, regardless of race, who has the responsibility to spread the gospel. For there’s a saying in the Black church, “If it isn’t preached from the pulpit, it isn’t important.”
  • Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman, 1949.
    Thurman, first African American Dean of Marsh Chapel, Boston University, mentored Martin Luther King, Jr., who carried this book with him as he shaped the non-violent message of the civil rights movement. It answers the question “What does Christianity have to say to those with their backs against a wall?”
  • The Cross & the Lynching Tree, James Cone, 2011.
    Long-time African American professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary NYC shows how the thousands of men and women who died on lynching trees were the body of Christ crucified all over again. 2019 BCC book selection.
  • Stand Your Ground—Black Bodies and the Justice of God, Kelly Brown Douglas, 2015.
    Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union and African American mother, Dr. Douglas writes a brief, lucid account of the historical, cultural, and religious forces  that have given rise to our “stand your ground” culture that defines the lives that matter. Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism from Tacitus to Manifest Destiny to Florida.
  • America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege & the Bridge to a New America, Jim Wallis, 2016.
    “It’s time for white Christians to be more Christian than white” –Wallis. How facing this sin can liberate us to live out our true mission of love and justice.
  • The Radical King, Martin Luther King, Jr., edited & introduced by Cornel West, 2012.
    A compilation of King’s most radical sermons/speeches/essays where he deployed his intellectual genius to express a radical love—“Christocentric in content and black in character”—in a revolutionary, unsanitized, anti-racist, anti-colonial witness.
  • Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion, by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, 2018.
    “God has entrusted Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove with a message–the gospel of Jesus Christ has been tragically defaced by American white supremacy and must be reconstructed.” –Will Willimon
  • White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, by Robert P. Jones, 2020.
    Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) whose polling on religion is cited in scholarly studies and news outlets, provides a “concise yet comprehensive combination of deeply documented religious history, social science research about contemporary religion, and heartfelt memoir … An indispensable study of Christianity in America.” –Kirkus Reviews
  • The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery & the Making of American Capitalism, Edward Baptist, 2014.
    “A myth-busting work that pursues how the world profited from American slavery… This is a complicated story involving staggering scholarship that adds greatly to our understanding of the history of the United States.” –Kirkus Reviews
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson, 2020.
    An examination of the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.