A theologically progressive congregation in New York has decided to donate around a tenth of its budget to help with housing and anti-racism programs, which the church views as being an act of reparations.
Middle Collegiate Church, a New York City-based congregation that's co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America and has approximately 1,600 members, will give $200,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Rev. Jacqui Lewis told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the church leadership felt it was “what God is calling our church to do in this moment.”
“Amid grotesque, systemic racism and police brutality, God demands we educate and act to build an anti-racist world,” said Lewis.
“When the federal government is putting millions of people in our community in risk of eviction, God demands we provide people with money so they can stay in their homes.”
Half of the money will go to grants for those who require financial assistance regarding rent while the other half will to go grants for groups like the Audre Lorde Project and anti-racism education.
Lewis explained that the exact breakdown of what the funds will go to is still in the process of being determined, but that Middle Church was already seeing results from their work.
“We just gave our first cancel rent grant to a single mom living with two young college-aged sons. She wept inconsolably when she heard that we would help her,” she noted.
Lewis also said that she considered these donations should be seen “through a broader lens of reparations,” as her church benefitted “greatly from wealth that was created through both the enslavement of black people and the theft of Lenape land.”
“We currently have a reparations task force that is meeting to more deeply understand the racism and violence in our own history, and making recommendations for how we can continue to undo its toxic legacy,” continued the minister.
“But reparations are certainly not accomplished by $200,000 in one programming year. It must be a larger and continuing conversation.”
According to its website, Middle Church describes itself as “a multicultural, multi-ethnic, inter-generational movement of Spirit and justice, powered by Revolutionary Love, with room for all.”
“We are on-your-feet worship and take-it-to-the-streets activism. We feed the hungry and work for a living wage; we fight for LGBTQ equality and march for racial/ethnic justice,” the church says.
“We aim to heal the soul and the world by dismantling racist, classist, sexist, and homophobic systems of oppression.”
The church’s donation comes as many congregations and denominations look to advance racial reconciliation initiatives following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear stated in June that he supported the Black Lives Matter cause, encouraging churches to listen to “those who hurt, lamenting with them, and bearing their burdens.”
However, Greear was cautious about the organization behind the movement, saying that he believed “the movement and the website have been hijacked by some political operatives whose worldview and policy prescriptions would be deeply at odds with my own.”
“I think saying bold things like ‘defund the police’ is unhelpful and deeply disrespectful to many public servants who bravely put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us,” stated Greear at the time.
“But I know that we need to take a deep look at our police systems and structures and ask what we’re missing. Where are we missing the mark? And I’ll say that we do that because black lives matter.”