Taking Our Next Faithful Steps Toward Diocesan Reparations

by | Jul 13, 2023

On January 28th, 2023, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington took a committed step during our Annual Convention. We voted to look at ourselves and our history to start making tangible amends for past wrongs directed towards the African American community. Following much prayer, discernment and discussion, members of the convention boldly voted in favor of the resolution, “Toward Repentance and Reparations in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.” This vote called for the establishment of a Committee on Diocesan Reparations to further identify historical wrongs carried out within the Diocese of Washington, and craft specific solutions towards reparations for those harms. This new committee would continue the work of the Reparations Task Force of the Diocese–the group instrumental in crafting and passing the resolution.

On April 22nd, we began the next faithful step on this journey with an information session held for interested parties that also included Bishop Budde and ex officio members of the original Reparations Task Force. All gathered on a rainy Saturday in the basement of Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring, where experiences were shared, desired goals expressed, and working relationships developed. From this session, two working groups were formed: one to focus on education and one to focus on policy.

The Education Working Group’s focus is to “educate, encourage, and support the Diocese in preparing for, and carrying out” the developed recommendations of the Policy Working Group. This group will continue the research into EDOW’s (and individual parishes’) history with regards to slavery, anti-Black bias, and systemic institutional racism. This documentation will be collected and made accessible to all parishes of the diocese in a variety of formats.

The Policy Working Group’s charge includes, but is not limited to, investigating and making recommendations on:

  • Appropriate policies and changes to promote and achieve more equitable outcomes for Black communities, Black congregations, and Black individuals when interacting with this diocese.
  • Actions and goals which would be most appropriate to provide redress for harms done, including specific financial commitments and other targets.
  • Administrative and/or legislative action that would be necessary to make discerned diocesan resources available for redress.

On June 11th, both working groups met for a formal kickoff meeting hosted at the Church of the Epiphany, DC. Those of committed interest gathered, and held discussions to get to know each other and better understand where our views met or diverged. We also discussed next steps, future meetings, and what resources, tools, or efforts each group may need to better accomplish these tasks.
Thanks to the previous work of the Reparations Task Force, we have valuable starting resource material to delve into to further educate ourselves and inform our steps.
The Reparations Task Force initiated this endeavor with the understanding that “Reparations is the spiritual process to remember, restore, reconcile and make amends for historical and continuing wrongs against humanity that can never be singularly reducible to monetary terms, but must include a substantial investment and surrender of resources.” It is the intention of the Education and Policy Working Groups to move forward with this in our hearts.

Erika Gilmore
Co-chair, Policy Working Group
Committee on Diocesan Reparations