A Letter From the Rector: Charlottesville, Repentance, and Eucharist

Dear Christ the King,

It’s easy for me to make a public pronouncement, to take a position on an issue, and walk away feeling justified for having done the right thing. It doesn’t cost me much, and too often I believe that I have acted justly simply by taking a position. 

Yet, when we look at how Jesus Christ reveals and embodies justice through his incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension, we see that God’s justice is always costly and self-giving. God’s justice does not use power over others but lays down rights. God’s justice primarily takes the form of humble presence rather than pronouncements.

Pronouncements without presence, especially from those in power, tend to short-circuit the space (i.e. face-to-face relationships where we can submit one to another) where God’s reconciling justice breaks forth in Christ. More often than not, we can walk away from a pronouncement and nothing has changed. And in some cases, we end up reinforcing the very injustice we stood against.

Therefore, in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, the primary public statement I make today is this:

I want to name and own my complicity in the sin of racism, in the presumption that I am superior to others; my complicity is evident in the things I have done, but especially in the things I have left undone; I recognize that my complicity is more covert than overt, especially how, in large part, I live buffered from racism’s destructive force on the lives and communities of my brothers and sisters of color.

Today, I repent; I surrender the fear and ignorance that prop-up my complicity; I surrender the need to be right and be in charge; instead I desire to trust that God will teach me how, when, and where to be present to what he is already doing as I seek the Spirit’s leading.

Last Sunday, as we approached the Lord’s Table, we remembered that taking Eucharist is not merely a private act between God and me. Rather, we come forward corporately to celebrate God’s reconciliation of all things in Christ, which also constitutes a new social reality that redefines how we relate one to another.

Indeed, when we take Eucharist we remember that Christ put to death hostility on the cross, making a way for his peace. Christ nullified in his flesh any presumption that fuels racial antagonism. And not only do we remember. We come to the Table in order to enter that new reality in Christ so that we can be transformed by it, and be sent out as agents of Christ’s peace into a hostile world.

So, when we proclaim together that in Christ God has put to death the hostility that fuels racial antagonism – the very antagonism that is manifested in white supremacy and nationalism, however violent or seemingly benign – we do not proclaim it as a one-off or a check mark in the box of being right, so that we can get on with other things. In fact, we do not do it ultimately for our own sake.

Rather, we do it in order to become agents of Christ’s peace for the sake of those, namely our brothers and sisters of color, who live with wounds created by the hostility of white supremacy and nationalism in all its forms.

We move forward as a community under the presumption that repentance is always our primary mode of response. Through repentance we avail ourselves to the justice and righteousness God is working in Christ. May the Spirit illuminate our ignorance and hardness of heart and empower us to know how, when and where to be present amidst racial hostility in Fayetteville. 

Grace and peace,

Fr. Seth