The DoubleTree by Hilton in Danvers is not the first place you'd expect something transformative to happen, but it did. Last weekend as representatives from all the Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Massachusetts gathered for our Diocesan Convention, we prayerfully considered resolutions that would shape our common life and ministry in this diocese. We approved various pieces of legislation: to encourage parishes to explore partnerships with the Poor People's Campaign, to urge parishes to foster right relationships with indigenous populations and acknowledge our place on lands once populated by indigenous peoples, to allow for the appointment of an Assistant Bishop, as Bp. Gayle Harris retires this year — just to name a few.
Perhaps the most significant resolution was the decision to create a Reparations Fund, as part of our effort, the legislation states: "to address our legacy of the wealth accumulated through the enslaved labor of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans on our behalf and for our use today." You can read the whole resolution (along with others), here. This action will affect our diocesan budget for years to come; at this point, our parish budget is not directly affected. However, as the Diocese of Massachusetts, we agreed that such action was a spiritual and moral obligation as we seek right relationship and to live as repairers of the breach (Isaiah 58:12). Such restitution, even if microscopic when placed next to the horrors and devastation of slavery in this country, is rooted in the biblical story. Even this past week, we heard the story of Zaccheus, a tax collector, made wealthy by unjust means, pledged to right these wrongs by giving half his wealth to the poor, and paying four-fold to those who he defrauded. Those are reparations on a scale that is simply dizzying on both a financial and moral scale.
We, as the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, have taken one first step in seeking truth and reconciliation when it comes to our accumulated material wealth. This is complicated, complex, and new territory for us as the church. The spirit in the convention hall this past Saturday was transformative, as people raised their hands to say, "yes, now is the time". Now is the time —there is no wrong time — for seeing the full truth of the world around us and I'm proud that we, as a diocese, have not turned away from seeing and knowing it.