Report from the Racial Justice Audit Task Force to the 2023 Convention. Task Force members: Roberta Newell, Josh Hornbeck, Kerry Allman, Vinh Do, Adrienne Elliott, The Rev. Bonnie Malone, and The Rev. Canon Carla Robinson

Bishop Skelton, members of the head table, delegates to Convention, and guests, greetings. I am The Rev. Carla Robinson, Canon for Multicultural Ministries and Community Transformation. And I’m here today in my role as member of the Diocese of Olympia Racial Justice Audit Task Force. The other members of that task force are Roberta Newell, Vinh Do, Kerry Allman, Josh Hornbeck, Adrienne Elliott, and The Rev. Bonnie Malone.

From 2018 to 2020, the Episcopal Church surveyed members of the church’s key leadership bodies. That included the House of Bishops, the House of Deputies, the Executive Council, and the Episcopal Church Center/churchwide staff. It also included leadership at the diocesan level: bishops’ staffs, Diocesan Councils, Standing Committees, Commissions on Ministry, Boards of Directors, or equivalent bodies. The goal of the survey was to gather data about people’s experiences of racism, racial identity, and power in the life of the church. A representative sample was drawn from 28 of the 99 dioceses in the Episcopal Church and from all nine provinces.

This data was published in January 2021 in a report entitled The Racial Justice Audit of Episcopal Leadership. The Executive Summary of that report was included in the reading materials for delegates to this convention.

The Diocese of Olympia was not one of the dioceses which were surveyed. In 2021, Bishop Rickel called together a Task Force to:

  1. Encourage people to read the Racial Justice Audit and
  2. Help people reflect on the experience of our Diocese in the light of the larger church’s experience.

At the last Convention, this task force requested that churches read and discuss the audit alongside five questions that we developed. Participants were asked to submit their church’s responses to the Office of the Canon for Multicultural Ministries and Community Transformation by the end of June 2023 so that we could report on the findings at this Convention.

We received responses from two out of our 90+ churches, though there were additional participants from other churches at the forum held at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in the spring. We learned that few participants read the report. As a task force, we recognize that churches have been asked to do a number of things in this time of transition. We also recognize that we need to improve publicity for this effort on the local level, possibly via Circles of Color and at Clergy Conference.

As the Diocese has expressed its commitment to advancing racial justice and equity, we see the Racial Justice Audit as fitting alongside support for Circles of Color, Sacred Ground participation, public policy advocacy, and other justice initiatives in our midst. Therefore, over the last few months, we have pivoted our approach to increase accessibility and participation by:

  1. Creating a video series about the audit and how it relates to our Diocese. After encouraging parishioners to read the audit and attend a forum, a convener at your church only needs to push the play button and hold space for discussion. Gather the answers and send them to the Office of Multicultural Ministries and Community Transformation. This series will be available by the end of January 2024.
  2. Assembling a survey of racial justice and advocacy efforts in our Diocese, including the above-mentioned areas. This survey will help my office better understand what efforts churches have engaged in and how my office and related groups can best support churches’ racial justice efforts. The survey will be emailed to clergy and parish administrators next week and are due December 13.

The Racial Justice Audit Task Force does need your input to complete our work. In addition to the upcoming survey, we are looking for people interested in becoming regional ambassadors. Regional ambassadors would connect with churches in your area about a time to meet, provide resources for the discussion, and help collect responses (or simply pass this info on to churches to complete themselves). We are a task force comprised of four diocesan staff folks, two lay volunteers, and one clergy; please consider helping our effort to get this audit discussed at the local level. Contact my office for more information. We will follow up with specific asks to various people as well.

There will be more information about the Racial Justice Audit shared through diocesan communications and the website, along with the Circles of Color newsletter and website.

The task force is here to give you all the support that you need and to help the Diocese of Olympia become a real beloved community. We know that our work will not be done until the task force has an “action plan” or when a new bishop decides otherwise. The committee’s vision is that this effort will continue to live with the Office of Multicultural Ministries and Community Transformation and that this office will continue to be the point of contact for this work into the future.

We recognize that another outcome of the Racial Justice Audit Task Force’s work may be folded into other processes (such as Sacred Ground and advocacy work). This is one outcome of the work; other actions can be taken as appropriate to the church community.

We believe if there is to be Racial Justice, we all need to make it a priority.