Majority white Illinois church with no ties to slavery donates over $50K to reparations fund

First United Methodist Church of Evanston, Illinois.
First United Methodist Church of Evanston, Illinois. | Frank Montagna

A predominantly white congregation in Illinois has donated over $50,000 to a reparations fund to benefit African Americans in the area. 

First United Methodist Church of Evanston donated $50,080 late last month to the Reparations Stakeholders Authority of Evanston through the Evanston Community Foundation.

The RSAE is a nonprofit organization that is overseen by African American community leaders and will provide grants to various local community projects. It does not receive taxpayer money. 

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This fund is not tied to a separate reparations fund created following a resolution passed in June 2019 by city officials aimed at ending systemic racism and advancing equality that is funded by "recreational cannabis" sales.

First UMC Senior Pastor Grace Imathiu told The Christian Post that the donations came from an effort to raise money for the fund on Easter Sunday last year.

“In the spring of 2021, the church council approved a motion to dedicate the 2021 Easter offering to reparations. We were hoping for at least $500. In less than five weeks, 91 members had donated $50,080 toward the fund,” Imathiu said.

Imathiu told CP that she found the RSAE appealing because their "programs and projects will impact the local African American community."  

Although the congregation was established in 1854, Imathiu told CP the church had not directly benefited from slave labor during the Antebellum Era.

Nevertheless, explained Imathiu, the congregation wanted to set an example by showcasing an “experience of renewed courage to confront and repent our past injustices,” as well as a “sense of renewed determination and bravery that we can do big hard things as a community” and an “experience of great hope for our future together as One Evanston.”

In recent years, some churches and seminaries in the United States have created funds to pay reparations for slavery, generally because they had historic connections to the abolished practice.

For example, Virginia Theological Seminary of Alexandria, an Episcopal seminary founded in 1823, announced the creation of a $1.7 million reparations fund in 2019 in response to the school having direct ties to slavery.

The VTS fund is supposed to pay for projects such as assisting African American clergy and helping to support work by historically African American congregations.

Others within American Christianity have been critical of slavery reparations in general, arguing, among other things, that it punishes the wrong people and fosters unnecessary division.

John Carpenter of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in Yanceyville, North Carolina, has previously denounced the idea as something that “creates ‘social Justice Contras.’”

“Calling for ‘reparations’ ignores the enormous sacrifice already given to end slavery and the (failed) attempt to re-organize the South (i.e. ‘reconstruction’), like the 300,000 lives lost,” tweeted Carpenter in 2019.

“I don’t know if those calling for reparations are intentionally ‘race baiting’ but I don’t see how they cannot see that their campaign is certain to inflame racial animosity. It’s irresponsible.” 

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