Letter to the Vice Chancellor and Chancellor of Sewanee in Response to Incident at Men’s Lacrosse Game

May 12, 2021

On Saturday, March 13, Sewanee hosted Emmanuel College for a men’s lacrosse game. In an email to the Sewanee community, Vice Chancellor Reuben Brigety reported that “Approximately 120 Sewanee students attended. To our great dismay, a few of the Sewanee students hurled the most vile racial epithets… toward members of the visiting Emmanuel team… So pronounced were the shouted slurs in the third quarter that the game officials on the field ordered that Sewanee fans be cleared before play could continue.” Vice Chancellor Brigety has called upon all connected to Sewanee to recommit to shared values and to support accountability. 

The undersigned bishops of Province VII of the Episcopal Church, some of whom are bishops of constituent dioceses of Sewanee, are grateful for the leadership of the Vice Chancellor. Vice Chancellor Brigety accepted the call to lead Sewanee at a time when the University had begun to address longstanding questions related to its southern heritage and the matter of race. For several years, members of the community have been studying and acknowledging the University’s historical connections to the institution of slavery and have been advocating for and advancing efforts to overcome racism’s costly and ongoing legacy within our community. That important work continues under the Vice Chancellor’s leadership. 

Race-based prejudice, oppression, and violence have been factors of our country’s life since its founding. Taking various forms across the years and in different regions, intolerance and hatred based on skin color continue to emerge in every state and community. 

Race-based hatred has proven resistant to eradication. We often think of Sewanee as being apart from the world and, therefore, free of these manifestations of the worst of human behavior. In truth, however, the struggles of the world have always emerged there, too. The recent shouting of epithets by student spectators toward the members of the visiting lacrosse team, coupled with the lack of intervention by other spectators, is a disturbing example of the persistence of racism on the Mountain.

At the same time, Sewanee is an Episcopal University, committed in its charter and ideals to the good news of Jesus Christ and to “the dignity and worth of every human being” as articulated in the Baptismal Covenant in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer. The Sewanee Motto, taken from Psalm 133:1, “Ecce Quam Bonem”, means “O How Good it is” and calls to mind the complete verse: “O how good and pleasant it is when siblings dwell together in unity.”

Any behavior that demeans, attacks, or oppresses other people is out of step with the University’s and Episcopal Church’s identity, mission, and vision. We support Vice Chancellor Brigety in his use of persuasion, inspiration, and disciplinary measures to shift the culture and advance accountability.

No one should be subjected to racist, homophobic, or xenophobic speech, or any abusive behavior or physical attacks that demean their worth as a human being. We grieve that our neighbors in our communities, in our country, and in our churches continue to be targeted with disrespect and forms of violence from the lips and hands of members of our communities. We yearn for the increase of self- correcting community action to immediately interrupt these behaviors whenever they occur. If a few in our country, our church, or at our University will not respect others because of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, or status, we commit to stand up and speak out until there is lasting change.

We invite others to join us with swift and universal condemnation of these behaviors, and an equal show of solidarity with those who have been maligned.

Bishops from Province VII of the Episcopal Church

The Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield
The Diocese of Arkansas President of Province VII

The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle
The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Jeff Fisher
The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Kathryn M. Ryan
The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso
The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Marty Field
The Diocese of West Missouri

The Rt. Rev. Michael Hunn
The Diocese of the Rio Grande

The Rt. Rev. Poulson Reed
The Diocese of Oklahoma

The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer
The Diocese of Northwest Texas

The Rt. Rev. Jake Owensby
The Diocese of Western Louisiana

The Rt. Rev. George Sumner
The Diocese of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. Michael Smith
The Diocese of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. David Reed
The Diocese of West Texas

The Rt. Rev. Rayford High
The Diocese of West Texas

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