An Episcopal church in Baltimore wants to be on the right side of history.
This week the Memorial Episcopal Church announced plans to contribute a total of $500,000 by 2025 — $100,000 each year — towards racial justice organizations, particularly efforts to support slave reparations.
“Our church has a long history of, unfortunately, supporting racial segregation up until 1969 [and] being active participants in it,” the Rev. Grey Maggiano said Tuesday of his 160-year-old church.
“So we’ve identified a few key areas where we need to make particular amends and atone,” Maggiano said in a statement, according to the Religion News Service.
The move follows a decision by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland in September to allocate $1 million as “seed fund for reparations.”
The resolution reportedly passed with almost 83% approval, asking diocese members to “prayerfully consider committing a percentage of their endowments or other resources to this fund.”
By October, Bishop Eugene Sutton reported $100,000 in donations had been made to their reparations fund, “and we’re not even in a fund-raising mode [yet],” he said.
Prior to the pandemic, Memorial boasted a weekly attendance of about 110 worshippers. Maggiano’s predominantly white congregation (15% who attend are black) aims to demonstrate their accountability for a history of racial discrimination and past ownership of slaves.
The reverend cited one previous church rector who spoke “vociferously” against voting rights for African Americans. In the past, Memorial’s administration once included the leader of a local “protection” organization that worked to prevent black people from settling in their community.
It wasn’t until after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 that Memorial began actively seeking black members, after the promotion of a more progressive minister.
During this first year, half of the initial $100,000 will come out of the church’s own endowment — about a 10% chunk of it — and the other half from their annual operating budget. A portion of the donation will go to Maryland diocesan efforts, and the rest will be given to black-led organizations of the fellowship’s choosing.
RNS also reported that St. Luke’s Episcopal Church of Annapolis, which averaged about 45 churchgoers each Sunday, will also contribute $785 this year to the diocese fund. That’s about 1% of St. Luke’s operating budget.
“We are going to be spending Lent focusing specifically on issues of racial justice from a number of different angles so we’re very aware that monetary reparations is only one part of this work,” said St. Luke’s the Rev. Diana Carroll on Tuesday. “We also are engaging in self-education, looking at what kind of community partnerships we might engage in, in order to continue to work for racial justice in our community.”
Diocesan spokeswoman Carrie Graves told RNS that the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is still in talks over exactly how their reparations fund will be used.