Greetings Beloved in Christ Jesus.
Our lives are punctuated so to speak by our experiences and relationships. We are influenced by the people we meet and interact with. This includes family, friends, teachers, mentors and even the casual acquaintance or stranger. Sometimes we cannot fully account for the impact that some folks have made on us until we are at some distance or they have gone from this earthly pilgrimage.
This past week the Reverend Dr. Cain Hope Felder, Ph.D transferred his membership from the church militant to the church triumphant. I first met Dr. Felder when I was in my late teens. While I was never a student of his in the classroom at Princeton Theological Seminary or the Divinity School of Howard University I nevertheless learned much from him and because of him. He distinguished himself as a biblical scholar who challenged the church, the academy and his guild to take seriously the presence of people of color and black people in particular in the Bible. In so doing he called out the historical neglect of noting that presence. That neglect he suggested was in part responsible for the ease with which the misrepresentation of people of color and the negative stereotypes often attached to them have been so rife in our history in both church and society. He reminded us with careful scholarship, intense passion, good humor and relentless persistence that whose stories get told and how they are told matters to the the church and the culture. One obituary of Cain Hope Felder, says this:
"Felder believed his work was important because he said the erasure of positive depictions of black people in the Bible had helped fuel the racist readings sometimes used by white supremacists for white nationalism."
I give thanks to God for Cain's witness in word and deed. For every time he made us uncomfortable because we had never thought of it "in that way" I am humbled. For every time he helped one more person to see themselves in the story of stories that we call Holy Writ I rejoice. Rest in power dear brother.
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer