Just Launched — Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism

We just launched Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. This  six-session curriculum is offered for free to any individual, congregation, or other group looking for deeper understanding of how systemic racism operates in our country and in our church, and for suggestions about what to do next in the process of Becoming Beloved Community.

In her powerful 2020 book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson writes, “America is an old house. We can never declare the work over…Not one of us was here when this house was built…but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures built into the foundation…they are ours to deal with now.”

[Image: “Old House” by Patty Fleckenstein. Used with permission. Prints available on Etsy.]

If we look at America as an old house, as Wilkerson suggests, we can see racism as a structural flaw. It’s central to the house’s framework, and not by accident. Many white Americans approach racism as an age-old human problem that history has never been able to surmount. In this course, Dr. Ivy Forsythe Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, Associate Professor of Church History at Bexley-Seabury Seminary and Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts, show us that on the contrary, while hostility to people and groups conceived as “the Other” has been a problem throughout human history, racism is a human construct — and not even a very old one — built for purposes of oppression.

As the current owners of this old house, the structural flaw of racism is ours to deal with now — as is the responsibility if we ignore the problems and allow them to grow.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, calls racism America’s original sin because of the inherited and fundamental nature of the problem — and, as with original sin, by the grace of God, we have hope. We can rebuild our house to eradicate structural racism and its many effects. The process will not be easy, or quick, or painless, but we can, and must do this work. As citizens who are responsible for the nation we have inherited and as Christians who are charged to love other human beings and resist sin, it is necessary on many levels that we make these changes. This course is designed to be an early step in that process.

In this course, Ivy and Tom take us through six sessions of material.

In Session One: Race, Privilege, and Beloved Community, Ivy and Tom describe this course’s mission in the context of the Christian call to resist racism, and they define key terms.

In Session Two: Building a Strong Foundation Ivy discusses how, if we alter our own behaviors, we can change the way we construct race and thereby contribute to dismantling systemic racism. She looks at key examples of systemic racism being deliberately incorporated into U.S. political and economic policies in the first 150 years of our history.

In Session Three: Systemic Racism in the U.S., Ivy examines U.S. history after the 1920s. She examines specific examples of deliberately constructed systemic racism and shows how they have led directly to racial injustices today.

In Session Four: The Episcopal Church and Race, Tom discusses The Episcopal Church’s active complicity in U.S. systemic racism and errors we have made in our attempts to combat racism. He talks about ways we can learn from our mistakes.

In Session Five: Racial Reconciliation and Personal Empowerment, Tom and Ivy discuss white privilege and white silence on racial matters as significant barriers to Becoming Beloved Community. They talk about ways to do productive racial justice work in your local community.

In Session Six: Actively Building Beloved Community, Ivy and Tom talk about traps into which people may fall, accepting or perpetuating racism without necessarily recognizing it, and how to avoid them. They talk about concrete actions congregations can take to Become Beloved Community.

At the end of the course, we hope each participant will have learned more about:

  • The racism inherent to our nation’s social, political, and economic structures.
  • The far-reaching effects of the racist policies white people have implemented into these structures.
  • The participation of The Episcopal Church in creating and sustaining systemic racism.
  • The need to change those structures and repair their negative effects.
  • Barriers to changing those structures to make them truly egalitarian (and how to overcome them).
  • The next steps we should take as congregations and individuals in Becoming Beloved Community.
  • Many resources for learning more about systemic racism and about taking effective action.

We hope you will join us in learning about Becoming Beloved Community in our congregations, in our local communities, and in our nation. The work to which we are called is urgent and complex and requires all of us to bring effort and empathy to the task. Take this first step today.

The course is funded by the grants from Episcopal Church’s Presiding Officers’ Advisory Council on Becoming Beloved Community and the Diocese of Michigan and by Forward Movement. We are grateful for their support.

ChurchNext Lenten Resources

Lent is approaching, and ChurchNext offers a buffet of Lenten resources, so step right up and make your choice. (These are especially useful tools for a Lenten season like this one in which some people may not be gathering in person because the classes offer participants opportunities for online discussions.)


Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. You can register for the course today. The course content will become available January 31.

Designed for study over a period of six weeks, the curriculum explores how systemic racism has been integrated into U.S. culture from the very beginning as well as the Episcopal Church’s history of active participation in systemic racism. The curriculum offers guidance on learning from this history and building toward what Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes as “the Beloved Community of God.” Each of the six sessions include half-hour videos, optional self-assessments, opportunities for discussion, take-home materials, and recommendations for further research. The course is led by two experts on the topic of system racism and the church: Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown, associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, affiliate professor of church history at Bexley-Seabury Seminary and rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

With Gladness: 5 Weeks of Holy Practices for Disciples

Do you long to grow in your relationship with Christ? Take a ‘Lenten challenge’ and join The Rev. Christopher Martin on an inspiring and informative journey, in which he offers insights into discipleship that can be truly transformative. In this course he touches on various habits and disciplines that can easily be incorporated into our walk with Christ.




A Spring in the Desert with Frank and Victoria Logue For Individuals and For Groups

This curriculum, based on Frank and Victoria’s book A Spring in the Desert, examines the seven Christian virtues through the lens of the desert. Using historical accounts of the desert fathers and mothers, meditations based on plant life and imagery of the desert, and scriptural references to the desert, Frank and Victoria walk participants through the Lenten season.



Your church and families within your church may find the following classes helpful during Lent:

Making Sense of the Cross Parts 1-3: These three courses  offer David Lose’s examination of how to understand Jesus’ death on the cross in the context of our life experiences (part one), the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and death (part two), and theological interpretations (part three).

Introducing Lent with Maggi Dawn: This class offers people new to the church and anyone who wants a refreshed understanding of the season an overview of Lent. Author, priest, scholar, and teacher Maggi Dawn discusses Lent’s history in the church and ways that we observe and commemorate the Lenten season today.

Lent for Families with Kim Baker: In this class, longtime educator and priest Kim Baker discusses ways that families can celebrate a rich Lenten season together.

Walk in Love Part 2: Marking Time with Scott Gunn and Melody Shobe: This course is part of our Walk in Love series. It goes through the church year as a whole, including a lot of focused discussion about Lent and Holy Week. This class is another one that people new to the church might find particularly useful.

Starting Thursday: FREE Live Class on the Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey

It’s Good Book Club time again, and as usual, ChurchNext is offering a FREE, live class in connection with the GBC program. This year, Vicki Garvey will be back to talk about Exodus in our Live Course: The Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey.

“Finally, I get to talk about the part of the Bible that is my first love,” writes Vicki. Those of you who have taken other classes with Vicki have seen the high quality of her teaching on other books of the Bible. Now imagine her talking about part of the Bible she describes as her “first love.” Whether or not you plan to formally participate in the Good Book Club, you really don’t want to miss this class.

Vicki Garvey is a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. She has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study, and we are very blessed to have her teaching this class. Vicki has already taught live courses on the Gospels of John, Matthew, and Mark. Her Gospel of Mark class was so popular that participants went back and viewed recordings of her classes on the Gospels of John and Matthew. We are grateful to have another chance to work with her.

Here’s how it works: from January 6 through February 10, every Thursday night at 8 p.m. E.S.T., participants will click on a link to a Zoom classroom to listen to Vicki Garvey’s talks about Exodus and to ask questions/participate in discussion. Course materials will be available on an online ChurchNext course. We will also post recordings of the class meetings on the course page, so don’t worry if you can’t attend every class meeting.

You can take this course with others from your congregation or on your own.

Sign up here today! We look forward to seeing you on January 6.