Credit where it’s due: An Episcopal seminary is setting aside a substantial amount of money as part of a slavery reparations fund. It’s a way to atone for the fact that slaves were used to build the school.
The income from the endowment will be allocated annually in conversation with key stakeholders for the following purposes:
- the needs emerging from local congregations linked with VTS;
- the particular needs of any descendants of enslaved persons that worked at the Seminary;
- the work of African American alumni/ae, especially in historic Black congregations;
- the raising up of African American clergy in The Episcopal Church;
- other activities and programs that promote justice and inclusion.
The plan is to spend approximately $70,000 a year on these efforts.
Rev. Joseph Thompson, who directs the Office of Multicultural Ministries that is overseeing the fund, said this funding had the “potential to be transformative.”
“… Though no amount of money could ever truly compensate for slavery, the commitment of these financial resources means that the institution’s attitude of repentance is being supported by actions of repentance that can have a significant impact both on the recipients of the funds, as well as on those at VTS. It opens up a moment for us to reflect long and hard on what it will take for our society and institutions to redress slavery and its consequences with integrity and credibility.”
For every white person who has ever asked, “Why should I feel guilty about something I’m not responsible for?” this is a great way to start that discussion in churches, where much ignorance — and yes, racism — still exists. Too many Americans are largely ignorant about how our nation’s origins paved the way for a system in which white people intrinsically benefit from racism, whether they want to or not.
Many white Americans today are so far removed from the truth about slavery that they get offended just hearing about it from plantation tour guides. They probably don’t want to hear that some of the cruelest slave masters professed Christianity either.
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