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Diocesan Convention Approves $1.1 Million for Reparations, Passes Anti-Slavery Resolutions That Were Tabled in 1860

Clergy and Lay Delegates at the 243rd Convention of the Diocese in Tarrytown, NY unanimously approved on Saturday Nov 9 a resolution calling for the allocation of $1.1 million from the diocese’s endowment towards reparations for slavery, and passed a number of anti-slavery resolutions previously brought before the convention in 1860 by John Jay II, when they were tabled in the face of overwhelming opposition from both clergy and laity.

The resolution calling for the $1.1 million allocation was proposed from the floor of the convention, in response to a request to do so from Bishop Dietsche in his address at the start of the day’s business.

Explaining why this is appropriate, the Bishop said

“During the eighteenth century the proportion of people in New York owning slaves was the second highest among all of the colonies, after only Charleston, South Carolina.  We have records of churches in our diocese which owned men and women as parish servants or as property assets. Churches whose wealth was built on the traffic in human beings. Sojourner Truth was enslaved in this diocese. The State of New York had banned the importation of slaves in 1808, and passed legislation for a gradual emancipation of slaves, and finally freed all slaves in New York in 1827, 201 years after the first slaves arrived in this colony. Yet thirty two years later, in 1859, the year before the John Jay resolution, the London Times declared that New York City remained the largest slave market in the world, because of the ships which sailed from this city to patrol the West Coast of the African continent, continuing to kidnap slaves for the American south, generating untold wealth for the shippers and merchants in this city. New York was all in, and that is why the Episcopal Church, in this diocese, would not condemn slavery on the very eve of the Civil War, and would not accept the John Jay resolution, which, it must be said, was actually quite a modest proposal. We have a great deal to answer for.  We are complicit.”

In explaining the detail of his request, the Bishop said

“I am asking for a resolution, that this convention direct the trustees of the Diocese of New York to set aside 1.1 million dollars from the diocesan endowment for the purpose of reparations for slavery. Now I want to talk about how I came up with that number, and why, and what I believe this level of funding might mean as reparation. Right now, we have two examples, both of which have been widely publicized, and which I took as guides for my thinking about this. Earlier this year Virginia Theological Seminary announced that they would reserve 1.7 million dollars from their endowment to pay reparations to descendants of the slaves who helped to build the seminary. More recently Princeton Seminary announced that they would give 27 million dollars from their endowment for reparations.

Virginia Seminary has a 140 million dollar endowment, so the money they have pledged represents 1.1 percent of their endowment. Their endowment is some three and a half times larger than ours, so if we pledged the same 1.1 percent the amount of money which would be created would be too small to be substantive. Princeton Seminary has an endowment of 1.2 billion dollars, so that their 27 million dollar pledge represents a two and a quarter percent commitment. With these examples in front of me, I began to think about an appropriate level for this resolution, and arrived at 1.1 million dollars, which represents two and a half percent of our endowment. Much smaller, and the resources for significant reparation would be insufficient; much larger, and it might not be something we could do.”

He then called for, and the resolution that was passed stipulated, the appointment of a task force to work over the next twelve months that will be asked to “enter into a period of dreaming and imagining and hard deep research into what reparations could really mean in the Diocese of New York. What is possible for us? What can we do, with our strengths and our limitations, to address the moral imperative of repair, and the weight of our history.”

For the full text of the Bishop’s address, please click here.

For a scan of the floor resolution, please click here.