A church in New York is going above and beyond to atone for its role in the transatlantic slave trade.
According to CBS 2, The Episcopal Diocese of New York has apologized for its role in slavery and assembled funds for reparations. Additionally, the church pledged to put $1 million towards community work and education. The apology occurred during a Saturday morning service at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.
It’s unclear if any of the church members in the past owned slaves. However, slaves built the churches in the city but were denied access. Andrew Dietsche, the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New York, said it was time to take steps to make things right.
“We are ready now to begin to make tangible investment in African-American people and communities as reparation for our history of slavery,” Dietsche told the outlet. “But we can’t really do that and have it be meaningful unless, at the very beginning, we stop and take a moment and accept accountability.”
Since the early 2000s, the church has been researching and examining its role in the slave trade. During a meeting regarding the church’s actions to address their role, a member named Joan Gunderson spoke about how the church participated in slavery.
“My family, as far as I know, never owned slaves. They were, of course, complicit by buying sugar and other products,” Gunderson said. “I can confirm that the church is complicit. We financed our mission work in part with slave plantations owned by the church in places like Georgia. So, there is a story that needs to be told.”
One step the church took in its accountability efforts was creating the New York Diocesan Reparations Committee in 2006. The committee’s responsibility was to collect data and documentation that recorded how much the church benefitted from participating in slavery.
Tonika Custalow-Stuart, a praise dancer who performed at the ceremony, told reporters that the church has a long way to go.
“It’s going to be a long time moving forward because you have to get a lot of people on board, and it’s about cleaning up our hearts, I believe, and just to stand as one,” Custalow-Stuart said.