From Columbus: Church Acknowledges Role in Slavery, Plans Reparations Study

Episcopal News Service. June 21, 2006 [062106-6-A]

Jim DeLa, Director of communications for the Diocese of Southwest Florida

The 75th General Convention acknowledged the past involvement of the Episcopal Church in slavery and supported a study of monetary and non-monetary reparations to descendants of the victims of slavery.

During action on June 21, the last day of the nine-day Convention, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies concurred on resolution A123: "Slavery and Racial Reconciliation," which calls for the Episcopal Church to express regret for supporting and justifying slavery.

The Deputies heard debate on both sides of the issue. Billy Alford, Diocese of Georgia, said the discussion was overdue. "Yes, civil rights laws have been passed. But I remind this house that they were rights; they were not repairs. And they were 100 years late in coming," he said.

But Bennett Jones, Diocese of Northern Indiana, disagreed. "The Episcopal Church has demonstrated its commitment to justice and the eradication of racism," she said. "Sooner or later, all victims of hatred and violence must some to terms with God's command to forgive. Forgiveness involves, among other things, giving up our perceived right to be vindicated."

Resolution C011: "Church Responsibility in Reparations," urges Congress to begin dialogue on the history of slavery and entertain proposals dealing with possible reparations.

"A simple apology would be greatly appreciated," said the Rev. Angela Shepherd, deputy, Diocese of Maryland. "The church does not do enough across the board to keep the conversation going."

But Anneke Bertsch, Diocese of Central Florida, spoke against the idea of reparations. "No amount of reparation can heal the pain," she said, revealing she was a concentration camp survivor.