Presiding Bishop to lead reconciliation pilgrimage to Ghana

The ocean-facing courtyard of Cape Coast Slave Castle. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will lead a weeklong Episcopal Relief & Development pilgrimage focused on reconciliation to Ghana Jan. 20-28, visiting cities and sites critical to understanding the trans-Atlantic slave trade and Episcopal Relief & Development partners and programs working to improve Ghanaians’ lives.

“At General Convention in 2015, we promised to address systemic, structural racism as a church. One of the first steps is learning the stories: how our church supported and prospered because of slavery and oppression, how black people have related to one another, how Ghanaian communities bear huge gifts and wisdom into the world today. That’s what this pilgrimage is all about,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation.

An estimated 12 to 25 million Africans passed through Ghana’s ports to be sold as slaves in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. Pilgrims will visit Cape Coast Castle, the W.E.B. DuBois Center, Elmina Castle and Pikworo Slave Camp for a historical perspective on the slave trade. They will also have an opportunity to meet Episcopal Relief & Development’s partners, including the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization in the Anglican Diocese of Tamale, and to witness its asset-based community development work.

“Episcopal Relief & Development is honored that the presiding bishop is leading this pilgrimage of brother and sister bishops along with current and former members of our board,” said Rob Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. “Our Ghanaian church partners and my colleagues look forward to sharing our asset-based community development work with the pilgrims in the northern part of the country, and later traveling to the Cape Coast to pray and reflect on the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the work of reconciliation required of all of us as followers of Jesus.”

Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807; the U.S. President Thomas Jefferson signed a law prohibiting the importation of slaves. The Episcopal Church and individual Episcopalians benefited from the slave trade. The 75th General Convention sought to address the church’s role in slavery.

Pilgrims will share photos, thoughts and videos of on a designated Facebook page, where Episcopalians and others can follow their journey. Episcopal News Service coverage and a video will follow the pilgrimage.

“We hope people everywhere will pray and join our reconciliation witness on Facebook. Most of us will never make the trip to Ghana. We’ll never see the camps where enslaved Africans were herded before being torn from the Mother Land, or see the Anglican church that rises like a blessing behind the main slave castle. So, we will go, and we will reflect and film and return to help our whole church to keep reckoning and changing,” said Spellers.