Fans of the Washington Redskins are smarting from a come-from-behind 26-29 loss to the Minnesota Vikings this past weekend, but the opposing ethnically-named team wasn’t the only Minnesota-originating opposition piling on the football franchise.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who lived in Minnesota for 18 years prior to her election as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, weighed in before the game with an October 31 press release announcing her support for a change of Washington’s team name.
Budde, who professes support for both teams, relayed how she could “feel my anger rising”:
“If I were in Minneapolis this weekend, I would be joining the pre-game protests of Native Americans and their allies who are rightfully appalled by the name of my new hometown team.
“Just as one cannot live in Washington, D. C. without appreciating how every city block has a history tied to the struggle for freedom and justice for African Americans, one can’t live in Minnesota without realizing that every acre has a story connected to the Native American tribes whose forebears once lived on that land.
“How could the name of Washington’s team not be offensive to those who know that there was once a $200 reward for every ‘redskin’ killed in U. S. territories? Can you imagine our nation tolerating a sports team with the name, once normative in public discourse, which we now never speak because we have finally acknowledged the offense it causes to African Americans?
“I therefore add my voice to the growing chorus of people calling upon Dan Snyder, owner of my hometown football team, to change its name.”
Some African Americans take issue with Budde’s characterization of the team name as a racial slur: the Redskins enjoy strong support from the Washington area’s black community. Similarly, the NFL franchise has highlighted Native American support for the team name, which some assert is a source of pride.
While Budde weighed in on football, Episcopalians in the Detroit-based Diocese of Michigan argued over another of her favorite causes: firearms restrictions.
Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press wrote earlier this week on Michigan Episcopalians passing a controversial resolution at their October 24-25 diocesan convention calling for stiff gun control measures. The resolution drew sharp criticism from conservative members who say it violates the right to bear arms.
Among a series of resolutions on social justice “faith-rooted organizing,” “justice and peace advocacy” and poverty alleviation, Resolution #7 “Solutions to Gun Violence” calls for requiring and enforcing “universal background checks” on all gun sales; a ban on all future sales of “military-style” semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines and high-impact ammunition and making gun trafficking a Federal crime.
The resolution sparked a fierce debate at the convention, with each side referring to the other as “extremists”. According to the Free Press, a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Detroit attempted to amend the gun resolution by striking the word “universal” before “background checks” and replacing the call for “a clear ban” of all military-style semiautomatic weapons with “a substantive discussion.”
Dennis Lennox, a member of St. John’s, said he was called a “radical with an extreme NRA agenda,” during the debate and his amendments were rejected.
Warikoo notes the gun debate comes at a time of continued membership declines in the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. From 2000 to 2013, average Sunday attendance in its roughly 90 congregations has decreased 35 percent, from 10,400 to 6,791. Over the same time period, the number of baptized members has declined 37 percent, from 29,769 to 18,816.
“Passing an inherently political resolution … does absolutely nothing to proclaim the glory of God and bring new people to the pews of churches,” Lennox said. “I wish churches … would focus on being a house of prayer for all people, instead of becoming extensions of political movements and parties.”