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Racism and Discrimination in the Episcopal Church: Personal and Parish Histories

Sat. Oct. 1

9:30 am to 12 pm (via Zoom)


To register:

The 6th annual fall forum of the History Committee will focus on the use of oral history as a way of documenting, exploring, and investigating discrimination and racism in our parishes, in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and the wider Episcopal Church - and what you can do about it. 

The diocesan History Committee exists to preserve the history of the Diocese and promote a deep understanding of it; acts as a resource for any official, parish, or organization in the Diocese that wants to discover and/or celebrate its history; fosters mutual understanding and reconciliation among our diverse membership by calling attention to our participation in or failure to oppose all forms of racism, discrimination, and injustice; and encourages the preservation of relevant diocesan, parish, and personal records and artifacts.


"The History Committee's 2022 fall forum is intended to build on the Loving Presence Report," said History Committee chairman William W. Cutler, a parishioner at St. John’s and the Church of Our Saviour, Huntingdon Valley, and Professor Emeritus of History at Temple University. "It calls upon every parish to explore their past, looking carefully for evidence of racism and discrimination. For some parishes, this might be more difficult than others." The first half of the program will be devoted to two oral history projects.


First, Riley Temple, Collection Growth Specialist for the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC) at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), will examine oral histories of African American Episcopalians from all over the country. The AAEHC, a joint project of VTS and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, actively conducts pertinent oral history interviews to collect and preserve the stories, experiences, and perspectives of Black Episcopalians in the first person. They gather letters, journals, photographs, sermons, oral histories, writings, records, and similar materials from Black individuals and organizations and others working with people of African descent in the Episcopal Church. The AAEHC's Black Episcopalian Research Guide is a comprehensive bibliography compiled to provide assistance to researchers in locating information in The Bishop Payne Library collection about the lives and experiences of prominent African American Episcopalians, from 1746 to 2012. VTS, the second oldest and the largest of the Episcopal seminaries in the country, has had a long-standing interest in ministry by and among African Americans. From 1878 through 1949, the Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg, Virginia, was the primary institution for the education of African American candidates for Episcopal ministry. Bishop Payne Divinity School merged with VTS in 1953.


Second, the program will examine the Diocese of Pennsylvania Oral History Project that resulted in 31 interviews with people who worked and/or worshipped in the diocese from the early 1960s to the recent past. These interviews often touched on the topics of racism and discrimination. Cutler and co-interviewer Clark Groome, a parishioner of St. Paul's Chestnut Hill, hope to educate forum attendees about the project and prepare them to utilize oral history records to explore their own parish histories. To access the oral history collections of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, click hereNokomis Wood, a lay leader who worked at Episcopal Community Services as a caseworker in the late 60s, will talk about being interviewed for the Diocese of Pennsylvania oral history project.


The second half of the program will include a panel session of clergy and laity from Church of the Holy Apostles and the Mediator (HAM) in West Philadelphia and Church of the Holy Apostles Penn Wynne in Wynnewood. Often mischaracterized as "sister" parishes, "Holy Apostles and the Mediator is our Mother church, in that they founded us and built our building," said Penn Wynne's current rector The Rev. James Stambaugh.


The Church of the Holy Apostles parish was originally founded in order to make the church more accessible to neighborhoods southwest of Center City. The Church of the Holy Apostles, the Mother church, had three chapels: St. Simon the Cyrenian, Holy Communion, and the Mediator. Holy Apostles and its largest chapel, the Mediator, formally merged to become the Church of the Holy Apostles and the Mediator in 1944. In 1958, the parish's fourth chapel, Holy Apostles Penn Wynne was built as a mission of HAM. In the late 1960s, the congregation was divided over whether Penn Wynn was a chapel or the main parish church. When it was decided that HAM would remain the parish church, Penn Wynne declared itself an independent parish. HAM, like many urban churches in our diocese's history from 1945 to 1979, experienced separation and a shift in resources. A rift developed between the two parishes that is only now being healed. Panelists, including Marcia Hinton, member of the diocesan history committee and a parishioner at HAM, will join Stambaugh in explaining how telling our parish stories honestly and openly can repair the rift.


To learn more, Cutler recommended Chapters 8 and 9 of This Far by Faith: Tradition and Change in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania edited by David Contosta. There they can learn about the two bishops who led the diocese between 1943 and 1976: The Rt. Rev. Oliver Hart (1943-1963) and The Rt. Rev. Robert DeWitt (1964-1973). Hart focused on the challenges posed by the suburbanization of the diocese, while DeWitt devoted himself to anti-racism and social justice. Cutler also recommended two oral history interviews: one by Jane Cosby and the other by The Rev. Donald Graff. "Cosby has been a lay member of the diocese for decades and has served it in many capacities. Her commitment to civil rights and racial justice is without parallel. Graff was a priest in the diocese for many years and the curate and priest in charge at the Free Church of St. John, an aided parish in the city’s Kensington neighborhood. He worked for many years to keep this parish viable."


To obtain a copy of This Far by Faith, contact Michael Krasulski ( For answers to any questions about the forum, please contact William W. Cutler ( You may register online here or email by Sept. 30.

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