College of Bishops focuses on Race Awareness

The recent meeting of the College of Bishops saw a full day of the agenda devoted to Race Awareness training, led by USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Dr Jo Sadgrove, Research & Learning Advisor at USPG, was joined by Rev Dr Evie O’Brien of Inclusive Church, who was ordained in the Church in the Province of the West Indies before coming to the UK, and Garfield Campbell, a PhD student from Jamaica who is researching the legacies of slavery.

The session – held on Day 2 of the College meeting in Edinburgh – was divided broadly into three sections: where are we now (‘the past in the present’), where have we been (Scotland and racial justice in historical perspective), and where do we go from here (possible ways forward).

It is envisaged that the training will begin a process where the Scottish Episcopal Church can learn about its past and any links it may have with the slave trade, and then consider what should be done to address the findings of research. USPG described this scenario as “the entanglement of church, racism and Empire, and how we might approach it today”.

It became clear that the issue of establishing what happened in the past, and how to respond to those events today, is a complex one which requires significant work and great sensitivity, as illustrated by the presentations heard by the College.

The Bishops agreed that their next step would be to discuss what they had learned during the session, and then request specific further support from USPG.

The session came shortly before the Primus embarked on an ecumenical pilgrimage to Jamaica with the Church of Scotland and the URC, to learn about the effects of the slave trade.

“I am heartened by the enthusiasm of people across the Province to talk about the pilgrimage and its implications for our understanding of our past,” said the Primus upon his return.

“The stories I’ve heard resonate continue to play in my mind — some joyful, many not. I am now deeply aware of the responsibility I carry to keep these stories alive in my thoughts and in my ministry, and to share them with the Scottish Episcopal Church as we continue to examine the impacts we have had across the world.”

You can read a series of updates about this pilgrimage from the Primus here.

Picture: Members of the College of Bishops with representatives of USPG and GSO staff.