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Maryland Episcopal Church pledges $1 million toward reparations fund

Maryland Episcopal Church pledges $1 million toward reparations fund
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A Maryland diocese of the Episcopalian Church voted to fund a $1 million reparations fund for programs benefiting Black residents of Baltimore and other areas after discovering the church's role in fostering systemic racism in the state.

The Baltimore Sun reported that more that 82 percent of delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland's annual convention voted in favor of the measure over the weekend. Bishop Eugene Sutton, head of the state diocese, said that individual congregations would be encouraged to give more to the fund.

The diocese does not represent all of Maryland's Episcopal churches, but includes most of the state including Maryland's largest city, Baltimore.

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Sutton told the Sun in an interview that the move is the result of more than a decade of research into the church's role in Maryland's racial history, including the revelation that one Baltimore-area church, the Cathedral of the Incarnation, was formed by congregants of churches fleeing areas of the city that were newly-home to Black citizens.

“We have done the work over the last 15-plus years to actually document how we as a church benefited from slavery and, after slavery, how we continued to benefit from the financial marginalization and oppression of Black Americans, and it just didn’t sit well with us,” Sutton, who is Black, told the Sun.

“Why should we continue to benefit as an institution when so many in the Black community have never had the opportunity to have a good education, good jobs or good medical care? We’ve benefited from racist institutions, and now we are going to invest financially," he continued.

The $1 million donation to the fund supplied by the diocese represents about 20 percent of its operating budget, a figure meant purposefully to impact the institution financially.

Sutton added that the move “is going to hurt us, and it should."

Calls for reparations and a reexamination of the history of race relations in the U.S. have intensified in recent months following protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May. Demonstrations in every state in the U.S. have called for major reforms to law enforcement and criminal justice.

Democrats in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said in June that support for their bill to establish a commission to examine the possibility of granting reparations to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans has grown since Floyd's death.

Corrected at 10:25 a.m. on 9/17 to clarify the region represented by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland as well as Rev. Eugene Sutton's name.