BALTIMORE — A Maryland religious institution has pledged to create a $1 million fund for programs benefiting the Black community in an effort to make reparations for its role in slavery and racial injustice.
The Maryland diocese of the Episcopal Church voted Saturday in favor of establishing the fund, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Historians for the diocese have found that a majority of its churches built before 1860 were constructed using slave labor or by those who benefited financially from slave labor, and that the establishment of some churches contributed to the racial segregation of neighborhoods.
The diocese, which includes more than 44,000 congregants across the state, is 90 percent white, according to Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton.
“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?” said Sutton, who is Black. “We’ve benefited from racist institutions, and now we are going to invest financially.”
The $1 million makes up more than 20 percent of the diocese’s operating budget and existing funds in the diocese’s endowment will provide the capital, The Sun quoted the diocese as saying. Sutton said the million-dollar commitment “is going to hurt us, and it should.”
The bishop has suggested the church funds go toward providing job training, establishing urgent care centers, improving housing-assistance programs and providing community college tuition for members of the Black community.
He and church leaders said the effort aims to acknowledge and “repent” for the church’s role in systemic racism.