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The Complicated History of The Diocesan Office Building

Jun 19, 2024 | News Releases

A Message from Bishop Stevenson

My dear siblings in Christ in the Diocese of Virginia –

I am standing outside the building that houses the offices of our diocesan staff. It is a grand structure that dates to the 19th century and is built on the ancestral and territorial homeland of various and honorable Indigenous Peoples. The building was donated to the Diocese of Virginia in 1923 by the Mayo Family for the purpose that we still use it today. In 1973, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places – and its history is indeed rich.

As it is located in the heart of Richmond, I can only imagine the breadth and depth of personalities that have walked by or stopped in over the years. And, I am certain that many conversations about gospel mission have occurred here. It is an historic place for the city, and for the Church.

History, of course, is never simple, static, or monochromatic. History is “complicated.” The history of “this building” is complicated. And, this complicated history needs to be recognized and told.

An important “piece” of the history of this building is the relationship that the donors, their ancestors, and their contemporaries had with the institution of chattel slavery and racial injustice. It is a sad fact of our past that human beings enslaved other human beings – and it is a sad fact as well that the legacy of that horrific practice affects the lives of Americans, Virginians, and Episcopalians even to this day. This is a truth – a history – that we must continue to tell out if we are to ever truly repair the breach and embody justice in our everyday work and ministry.

As a part of this honest truth-telling – and while the legal name of the building may not be changed under the terms of the original donation – as a part of this honest truth-telling, the Diocese of Virginia is no longer going to refer to this building in our common conversation by the name of the donors. Instead, we are going to simply refer to it by the purpose it serves – these are “the diocesan offices. ”

Then, as we strive to tell the “whole” truth of our past, the various plaques, portraits, and symbols that hang on the walls “inside” this building are going to be relocated to an exhibit space on the second floor – an exhibit that will look to tell a more “full” story of history – both the joyful, and the painful. We will honor the achievements of the past, and remind ourselves of the ongoing need for repentance, repair, and justice.

The Diocese of Virginia is a blessed place. It is, and has been, a community of human beings who strive – sometimes imperfectly – to live into the calling of love that Christ Jesus has put before us. We are working everyday to build the Beloved Community that our Creator envisions for us all.

My friends in Christ: Love Jesus. Embody Justice. Be Disciples. Because we are the Diocese of Virginia.

The Right Rev’d E. Mark Stevenson
Bishop Diocesan
The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia