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Episcopal diocese to create task force to oversee $1.1 million slavery reparations fund

Episcopal diocese to create task force to oversee $1.1 million slavery reparations fund

Bishop Andrew Dietsche of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, giving remarks at the diocesan convention in November 2019. | Nicholas Richardson

A diocese of The Episcopal Church has decided to create a task force aimed at distributing approximately $1.1 million set aside to pay for slavery reparations.

The Episcopal Diocese of New York approved the creation of a task force at their diocesan convention in Tarrytown last Saturday. The task force is presently in the process of being set up.

A spokesperson for the Diocese directed The Christian Post to an address made by Bishop Andrew Dietsche at the convention, in which he argued that his diocese “played a significant, and genuinely evil, part in American slavery.”

“We have records of churches in our diocese which owned men and women as parish servants or as property assets. Churches whose wealth was built on the traffic in human beings. Sojourner Truth was enslaved in this diocese,” said Dietsche.

“So what we engage to do must be systemic, a remedy for a whole people, and for a church — white and black and brown and Asian — trying to come back to itself across the divide of a terrible history.”

Dietsche recommended that the task force consider putting the $1.1 million reparations to good use in the form of education projects and academic aid.

“I do not want to dictate to the task force the deliberations which will come. But may I say that this money could produce five ten-thousand-dollar college or seminary scholarships every year in perpetuity,” he suggested.

“This money could establish and fund an education and advocacy library and resource center in this diocese dedicated to racial justice and reconciliation. This money could support a first step program in this diocese to invite, nurture and prepare black young people, and men and women, to explore the possibility of ordained ministry.”

Members of the diocesan convention also finally passed resolutions first introduced in 1860 by John Clarkson Jay, grandson of founding father John Jay, condemning the practice of slavery.

In September, the Episcopal Church-affiliated Virginia Theological Seminary of Alexandria, Virginia announced that they were setting aside $1.7 million for a reparations fund.

Money from the Seminary fund is expected to go to projects like assisting African-American clergy and helping to aid work by historically African-American congregations.

The Rev. Joseph Thompson, director of the VTS Office of Multicultural Ministries, which oversees the fund, said in a statement that it “has 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,” stated Thompson.

“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.” 

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