By Rachel Carr, Diocesan Missioner for Communications
The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina will offer a new workshop for confronting biases and learning about cultural humility this spring.
The Anti-Bias Workshop is a half-day gathering dedicated to exploring what inhibits human connection.
“This program invites us to look at the bias we all carry around any number of things, including gender, physical mobility, people’s size, their shape, their age. It’s really taking a look at a lot of things that get in our way of welcoming everyone into our communities in a deeply genuine way,” said the Rev. Canon Augusta Anderson, who developed the program for local use with the help of the bishop’s team and the Building Beloved Community team in Western North Carolina.
The Diocese first offered the Anti-Bias Workshop in 2019 in the context of transition ministry, for congregations searching for new leadership. Canon Augusta was first inspired to bring the Anti-Bias program to WNC after attending a gathering of transition officers from across the Episcopal Church. With help from resources provided by the Rev. Canon Liz Easton from the Diocese of Nebraska and resources offered by the Diocese of Maryland, the program started to take shape.
“I think bias is something that we can all come to the table and say, that’s me,” said Archdeacon Brenda Gilbert. “When you scratch below the surface, you find out that there’s still something that’s separating you from God’s people and which also separates you from God, and bias is that missing piece.”
Archdeacon Brenda went through a redeveloped Anti-Bias pilot program last summer with about a dozen members of the diocese’s Becoming Beloved Community team. The revised program looks at biases beyond transition ministry and invites anyone who is interested to attend and explore how bias affects our common life.
“I love the balance of the training because it opens our eyes to our biases but it’s not asking us while also resisting shame or blame. It’s just asking us to be aware and to nip it in the bud before it can take root and change who we are supposed to be in Christ,” Archdeacon Brenda said.
Canon Augusta will open the first workshop to about twenty interested people. The program will take place over 4–6 hours, but the work doesn’t end when the program does.
“We live in an age of wanting a quick fix and a quick answer and quick self-gratification. This is a countercultural response that invites a more holistic, self-reflective, humble, open process,” Canon Augusta said. “The intention is to equip us to slow down, to name bias. And it gives us some of those tools to just be able to say to ourselves, ‘this is a child of God, and there’s no way I’m going to know everything about them, even if it’s my closest friend or a member of my family.’”
The program invites attendees to begin with curiosity and listen and recognize things that might present as bias in our everyday interactions.
“It’s setting aside this quest for competence and expertise in another person’s life. And rather, it slows us down enough to say, I want to be held accountable for my actions and my learning, and I want to be a part of a journey with others,” Canon Augusta said.
Those who participated in the pilot program reported feeling encouraged and lifted afterward.
“Sometimes we hear cultural humility or dismantling racism and immediately our armor is up, you know, defenses are in place. Right from the beginning they take the wind out of those sails,” Archdeacon Brenda said. “It’s not a bunch of gotcha stuff. A lot of it is just saying, ‘let’s talk about stuff that we’re all observing and things that we carry around with us, but we’re too afraid to talk about. It gives us the freedom to have that conversation with others.”
Dates for the first Anti-Bias will be sometime after Easter and the program will be open to anyone who would like to attend. Watch for more information coming soon.