A pastoral letter entitled "The Sin of Racism," which is being studied and discussed in parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, contains a promise by the denomination's bishops to avoid "racially discriminatory" clubs.
"The lingering image of the Episcopal Church as essentially white and Anglo-Saxon does not serve us well," the document from the church's House of Bishops says. It is addressed to all Episcopalians.
Issuance of the pastoral letter was required by the 70th General Convention of the church three years ago in Phoenix.
"While our generation is not the first to experience it, racism has surfaced with particular intensity today because pluralism -- the inevitable result of a shrinking world -- exists on a scale not known before," the bishops say in the letter. "The challenge of people with differing backgrounds having to live together has never been greater."
The bishops confess that they themselves have been guilty of racism. "The sin of racism is experienced daily in our society, in our church and its institutions, in the House of Bishops," the pastoral letter says.
"White privilege" exists, the bishops contend, "even in places where whites may be a minority in the surrounding population" and where whites "may even see themselves as victims of various violent reactions against the dominant culture."
Stating that "there are many in our society at all levels who seem to find a certain security in racially restricted communities, schools, clubs, fraternities, sororities and other institutions," the bishops renounce such a course.
"Among specific personal commitments we make," their letter says, "are the refusal to participate in racially discriminatory clubs or other institutions, and the refusal to engage in racially denigrating stories and humor."
They also promise changes in the leadership and worship style of the Episcopal Church. The letter says:
* "In a church which is increasingly diverse, racially and ethnically, we will place a high priority on the development of strategies for the recruitment, deployment and support of persons of color, including Native Americans, Asians, African-Americans, Hawaiians and Hispanics at every level -- congregational, diocesan, national -- and their inclusion in decision-making positions throughout."
* "As leaders of the worship of the church, we will encourage the development of liturgical expressions that reflect the church's racial and ethnic composition and articulate clearly the good news that in Jesus Christ every barrier that separates God's people is broken down."
The Alliance of Catholic Women, a group based in Baltimore, has issued a ringing defense of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter affirming the Roman Catholic Church's position that only men may be ordained priests.
Loretta Hoffman, president and executive director of the alliance, said, "We do not support the feminists and their supporters who have been lobbying for women priests and dividing the church in recent years."
Applauding the pope's "wisdom and courage" and declaring that the Catholic Church is not "sexist or discriminating unjustly against women," Mrs. Hoffman said, "Feminists must begin to realize that they and their supporters do not speak for all women on this issue and others.
"Instead of issuing diatribes and expressing disappointment with the Holy Father, they need to search their hearts and come to the realization that the Holy Spirit guides the pope in his decisions and calls us to obedience to the will of God."
The Music Ministry of St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church at 810 N. Carrollton Ave. in Baltimore will present a concert at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Author to speak
Max Lucado, author of "And the Angels Were Silent" and other religious books, will speak at 7 p.m. Sunday at Perry Hall Baptist Church, 3919 Schroeder Ave. in Perry Hall.
Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler will offer the 10 a.m. Mass Sunday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, Calvert and Madison streets, culminating weekend events honoring Ignatius Loyola, the church's patron saint and founder of the Jesuit order. Information: 727-3848.