Dear STE Community:
Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church and School strongly condemns racism in any form. Too often the injustice and inequality that has been deeply rooted in our country’s history has led to senseless and terrible deaths—whether it be the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, or the deaths of so many other black men, women, and children. These individuals are our brothers and sisters, made in the image and likeness of God and deserving of love, dignity, and respect.
The STE community has not been immune from the sin of racism. The founding rector of our church and school, The Rev. T. Robert Ingram, published writings advocating segregation. This is a sad and ugly part of our community’s history, and one with which we must come to terms. In fact, it has taken us too long to take action. We publicly repudiate these writings and the ideology they advanced.
Over the last few days, STE’s alumni have led the charge in rightly pushing our church and school not only to take ownership of its past, but also to acknowledge how that past continues to impact the culture of our community today. Many have voiced their pain and frustration with injustice and discrimination that occurred during their time on campus. These events are inexcusable and never should have happened.
In keeping with the doctrine of Christian repentance, STE publicly repents of any remaining effects of the racist ideology of segregation that remain at our church and school. We ask for forgiveness from those who were hurt and we ask for forgiveness from those who were never given the opportunity to attend our school or be part of our community.
The Apostle John writes in 1 John 2:10-11, Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (ESV)
Our Lord, Jesus Christ said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)
We recognize that our words will ring hollow without action, so we are taking these initial actions within our church and school. These actions are only the beginning of a greater institutional change:
- Adopt a new tartan for the STE Pipe Band. Many in our community see the colors of the current Hunting MacPherson tartan, which resemble those of Confederate army uniforms, as honoring the Confederacy. Because of this association, we will change the band’s tartan. Our administration is working out the details of this change and will announce a timeline soon.
- Host a Call to Action Series, during which past and present members of our community can share their concerns and experiences with STE Church and School. We will engage an independent facilitator for these sessions to ensure representation of all who wish to speak. Look for more information on these sessions to follow.
- Conduct training with our faculty, staff, and students to support an environment of cultural awareness and anti-bias within the STE community.
- Engage a consulting firm to help us in our efforts to reform our practices and culture to promote equity and respect.
It is clear that, in the Christian Faith, there is no room for racism. It is time for repentance, time to reject sin, and time to walk purposefully toward Jesus Christ in reform and change. This will mean much hard work and open communication as we make the changes necessary at our church and school.
As Christians, we are a part of the new creation. In the new creation, we are brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to love, support, and serve all people. When injustice is done, with God’s grace and guidance, we will be there in support and solidarity.
(The Rev’d) David O. Browder
Michael F. Cusack, Jr.