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Feb 25, 2016 | EDOT Staff

Houston Area Black Episcopalians Host Social Justice Education Forum

On February 20, people from all faiths and backgrounds gathered in Houston’s Third Ward to discuss social justices issues that face Houston’s African-American population today. The event was held in conjunction with the Episcopal Church’s celebration of Absalom Jones, the first African American to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, and was co-hosted by the Union of Black Episcopalinas and St. Luke the Evangelist Episcopal Church, Houston.


A Call To Action: Learning and Listening Toward a Healthy Houston featured Chuck Wynder, Jr., Missioner for Social Justice for The Episcopal Church, and focused on the question of  "What is a black life worth?” following on the events in Ferguson, Missouri, the Mother Emmanuel AME killings in South Carolina and the Sandra Bland death in Waller County, just north of Houston.


Chuck Wynder, Jr. 

“Most of our Christian congregations, regardless of denomination, have been silent,” Wynder told participants who gathered at the Third Ward Multi-Service Center. “So we know that if we go out in community, we will find hurt, anger, confusion and increased groaning about the concrete realities that impact those lives … Our sisters in our communities and too many of us everyday, regardless of our racial background, fail to value the dignity of black minds, black souls and black bodies the same way we respect the minds, souls and bodies of other people,” he added. 


Co-hosted by the John D. Epps Chapter of the UBE and St. Luke's, the event featured multiple panels that included Deloyd Parker, co-founder and executive director of S.H.A.P.E (Self-Help for African People through Education); Dr. James L. Conyers, Jr., director of the African-American studies program at the University of Houston; and the Rev. Francene Young, rector of St. Luke's.


“The goal was to combine resources of churches and community organizations to bring about lasting and sustainable change to develop, improve and save our neighborhoods for the next generation,” said Denise Trevino, Missioner for Intercultural Development at the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. 


Absalom Jones' life is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and he was committed to the causes of freedom, justice and self-determination. Jones was born a slave in 1746, yet became a leader among people of African descent after the American Revolution. He learned to read and eventually bought his own freedom as well as that of his wife Mary Thomas. He organized the Free African Society with a longtime friend, Richard Allen in 1787 to be a social, political and humanitarian organization that helped widows and orphans. His efforts helped to grow the congregation of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and he later established the African Church, later the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, as an outgrowth of the Free African Society. He led the congregation as a layman and deacon before ordination in 1802.


Jones organized petitions opposing slavery and mobilized the Black community to help care for those sickened in the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. He was also a member of the first African Masonic Lodge in Philadelphia. Absalom Jones Feast Day was added to the Episcopal Church Calendar in 1973.