Churches and religious groups across the country are beginning to acknowledge their links to slavery, and many are financially investing in programs benefiting African Americas, the Associated Press reported. The Minnesota Council of Churches is hosting a “truth and reparations” initiative involving its 25 member denominations. It launched in October. The Episcopal church has reportedly become “the most active major denomination” the AP reported.
“Minnesota has some of the highest racial disparities in the country — in health, wealth, housing, how police treat folks,” said the council’s CEO, the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung. “Those disparities all come from a deep history of racism.”
The initiative, which is supposed to span over 10 years, will model some of its efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which operated in South Africa after apartheid. It also hopes to address social justice in a way that unites African Americans and Native Americans, the AP reported.
“For so long these have been two separate camps — Indigenous people and African Americans felt they are competing against each other for the same limited resources,” the Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, a Native American and the church council’s director of racial justice, told the AP. “By bringing these two communities together, it removes that mindset of, ‘We have to get ours, and that might mean you don’t get yours.’”
Jacobs also hopes churches will commit to financially support a reclamation of Native American culture.
“I want it to be a line in their budget, like they do for building maintenance,” he said. “If all the churches do is take up a special offering, there’s no shift in the power dynamics that created these problems in the first place.”
An Episcopal church in New York recently installed a plaque acknowledging that the building's 1810 creation came from wealth accrued by slavery. The Episcopal Diocese of Texas also acknowledged that its first bishop in 1859 was a slaveholder, the AP reported. The two churches are just some of the many that have launched reparations programs in the past year, according to reports. The Diocese of Georgia is committing 3% of its unrestricted finances to create a center for racial reconciliation. The Diocese of Texas also announced that it would allocate $13 million to long-term programs that will benefit African Americans.
The Rev. Stacey Smith, an elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Minnesota, told the AP that “truth-telling in our stories is so important.”
“There has been such a vacuum of missing stories, not only from Black and brown people but our Indigenous people and others as well,” Smith said.