Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
February is Black History Month in the United States. I think this is important. I hope you do too. In fact, I think it’s as important now as it’s ever been. In some parts of the country, sadly Florida being one of the most egregious examples, a war is being waged on Black history and, by extension, on the Black community. It is sinful. Thank goodness others are standing up to this.
Today, a group of lawmakers led by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker reintroduced the African-American History Act, which would “invest $10 million over five years in the National Museum of African American History and Culture to support programs that are voluntarily available for students, parents, and educators.” In proposing the legislation, Senator Booker stated, “The story of Black people in America is inextricably linked to the story of America. The fullness of this rich history must be told—both its dark chapters and the light brought by generations of people determined to overcome and make our country better through an ongoing quest for justice.” He’s right, of course. Black History in this country is an integral aspect of American history, our history, the history of all of us.
I am excited that on March 14, 2023 our Antiracism Commission is sponsoring a Zoom event featuring author, historian and speaker Jemar Tisby. Mr. Tisby’s landmark book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism is a must read for every faithful Christian. It tells the truth. It tells the truth in love. Mr. Tisby loves the church. He wants to see the church live into the tenets and values it teaches and proclaims. Tisby makes this clear, writing:
This study is not about discrediting the church or Christians. I love the church. My concern for the church and for the well-being of its people motivates my exploration of Christian complicity in racism. The goal is to build up the body of Christ by ‘speaking the truth in love,’ even if that truth comes at the cost of pain.
The church has not always and uniformly been complicit with racism. The same Bible that racists misused to support slavery and segregation is the one abolitionists and civil rights activists rightly used to animate their resistance. Whenever there has been racial injustice, there have been Christians who fought against it in the name of Jesus Christ. Christianity has an inspiring history of working for racial equity and the dignity of all people, a history that should never be overlooked.
This February, during Black History Month, I urge you to read Jemar Tisby’s remarkable book. And when you get done with that book, read his next book How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice. This latter work provides rich reflection and practical guidance on how we can take what we have learned from our history and grow into a more just society. Also, be sure to mark your calendars so that you can be a part of the Zoom event with Mr. Tisby on the evening of March 14.
It should also be noted that that through the work of our incredible Antiracism Commission, the Diocese of New Jersey regularly helps people “know our story and live it boldly.” They have already begun a new online Antiracism Training. It’s too late to join this session, but if you haven’t participated in one of these trainings yet, do plan on signing up the next time it’s offered. It will change your life and, perhaps, even make you free.
Blessings and peace.
The Right Rev. William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
Register for Tisby Zoom Event
 Press Release – “As Black History Month Begins, Booker, Bowman Reintroduce African American History Act” – Office of Cory Booker, February 3, 2023 found at As Black History Month Begins, Booker, Bowman Reintroduce African American History Act (senate.gov)
 Tisby, Jemar The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019)
 Tisby, p. 19
 Tisby, Jemar How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021)