An Episcopal church in Maryland has announced that it will be donating $500,000 to reparations and social justice organizations over the next five years.
Memorial Episcopal Church of Baltimore released a statement on Monday announcing that the funds would go into the Guy T. Hollyday Memorial Justice and Reparations Initiative.
The initiative’s namesake, Hollyday, was an activist who campaigned on behalf of issues including civil rights, environmentalism, and the LGBT movement.
The funds will go to various organizations that focus on housing inequality, education, civic involvement, and environmental issues.
According to the statement, the decision to fund these organizations as reparations derived from the knowledge that the church had a history of being supported by slave-owners.
“Since 2017 this parish community has focused on uncovering the truth of our past and studying the true impact that Memorial inflicted on our neighbors through housing segregation and redlining, disenfranchisement of black voters, and inequity in school and youth programs here in Baltimore,” stated the Rev. Grey Maggiano, rector at Memorial Episcopal.
“As a faith community dedicated to social justice, we acknowledge how our history has shaped our present reality. This initiative is one more step toward repairing that harm.”
Memorial Episcopal has also removed plaques dedicated to its slave-owning founders and has commissioned an artist to create an art piece to honor the founding rectors’ slaves.
In recent years, many churches and Christian schools in the United States have grappled with how to handle having histories that included supporting slavery and racial segregation.
Last October, the Minnesota Council of Churches announced that it was creating a 10-year plan to educate residents about racism and offer reparations to minority communities.
The Rev. Stacey Smith, the presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Minnesota and MCC board member, told the Star Tribune that “we have a responsibility to respond as a church and talk about these things.”
“There has been such a vacuum of missing stories, not only from black and brown people, but indigenous people and others,” Smith said last year.
When it comes to the general debate over reparations for slavery, many, including John Carpenter of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in Yanceyville, North Carolina, have denounced the idea.
“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,” Carpenter posted to Twitter 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.”