The Diocese of Southern Ohio will turn 150 in 2025, and preparations to mark the occasion are already underway.
In keeping with diocesan convention Resolution R2022-07, Bishop Smith has appointed a Sesquicentennial Committee, listed below, to plan a three-year exploration of the diocese’s history and, ultimately, an observance of the anniversary. Dean Owen Thompson of Christ Church Cathedral chairs the committee.
Institutional anniversaries have often been marked by uncritical celebrations of longevity. This observance, however, will include not only time for celebration, but also opportunities to reflect on the ways in which institutional racism and other historical injustice have shaped the diocese.
This year, the committee’s work will focus on discernment and “lament,” John Harris, a longtime lay leader and former president of the Union of Black Episcopalians, says. To help the diocese come to terms with difficult aspects of its history, the committee will use a 2020 House of Bishops Theology Committee report titled “Realizing Beloved Community.” Bishop Thomas Breidenthal chaired the committee that produced the report, and Bishop Wayne Smith was a member of it.
“It is the Church’s responsibility to recognize and reckon with the problem of white supremacy,” the report’s introduction reads. “All Episcopalians, but especially white Episcopalians, must acknowledge the active and substantial role played by the institutional church, including the Anglican Communion, and The Episcopal Church, in constructing, maintaining, defending, and profiting from this monstrous sin and scandal.”
“The Sesquicentennial process gives us the opportunity to have conversations about the role of the diocese in racism and antiracism,” Harris says. “Not so much about shame and blame, but how far we’ve come in the last 50 years.”
In 1972, the Diocese of Southern Ohio was the first diocese in the Episcopal Church to create a formal diocesan antiracism commission, he says, and in 2020, was among the first to create a reparations task force.
“We have engaged in the Sesquicentennial Project because a sense of history fills us with hope and excites us about the future,” the Rev. Karl Stevens wrote to his fellow committee members after a recent meeting. “We desire to bring voices that have been left out – not heard, not seen – to the fore. We do this out of a belief that God wants us to be open and vulnerable, and out of the awareness that story-sharing calls us to speak our minds and address issues openly.
The committee plans to meet again at the end of March, and expects to have opportunities for diocesan leaders to participate in discussion of “Realizing Beloved Community” beginning in May. Leaders are invited to email Harris with questions.
Sesquicentennial Committee Members:
Bishop Wayne Smith, Sesquicentennial Committee Honorary Chair
Dean Owen Thompson, Christ Church Cathedral, Sesquicentennial Committee Chair
Dianne Ebbs, Christ Church Cathedral and Co-Chair, Reparations Task Force
The Rev. Scott Gunn, Christ Church, Glendale and Forward Movement
John Harris, St. Simon of Cyrene, Lincoln Heights
The Rev. Sallie Schisler, All Saints’ Church, Portsmouth & Christ Church, Ironton
The Rev. Karl Stevens, St. Stephen’s, Columbus and Co-Chair, Reparations Task Force
Deborah Stokes Wayne, St. Philip, Columbus
Amy Howton, Becoming Beloved Community consultant
The Rev. John Johanssen, Canon to the Ordinary
Miriam McKenney, Director of Mission, Forward Movement
Canon Julie Murray, Canon for Communications
The Rev. Jason Oden, Canon for Formation