Here at Highland we seek to be truthful about our white privilege as we are a predominantly white congregation. It is no mystery that we have benefited from systemic racism in a variety of ways. The reparations task force was formed in the Fall of 2020 to research these benefits and to consider how we, as an institution, can reckon with the results in anti-racist ways. This will most likely included a public act of confession, financial offering to people of color, an exploration of the figures memorialized in our stained-glass windows, and hopefully partnership with other white churches in our city. Together we can increase our voice on local, state, and national levels as we advocate for broader, comprehensive reparation. Below you will find some quotes about what reparation means, followed by a portion of the task force’s ultimate purpose in convening.
“Reparations are a sign of repentance, an avenue toward conciliation, a show of contrition, a confession of guilt, an acknowledgment of responsibility, an admission of wrongdoing, an admittance of complicity, and an attempt to live up to religious belief.” ~Rev. Dr. Angela Cowser, Associate Dean of Black Church Studies and Doctor of Ministry Programs, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte. Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same. ~Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic in “The Case for Reparations”
“6 So Zacchaeus hurried down [from the tree] and was happy to welcome Jesus. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…” ~Luke 19:6-10a
Systemic racism in America is an ever-evolving system made up of political, legal, financial, educational, and religious institutions. Highland Baptist Church recognizes that American churches have been complicit in systemic racism. We also acknowledge that predominantly white churches and their members benefit from these systems while predominantly Black churches and their members experience oppression. We are awakening to the fact that churches have not only historically pushed racist ideologies but that we are currently promoting implicitly racist and oppressive theology.
Therefore, the three-fold goal of this task force follows: 1) To examine potential ways that Highland Baptist Church has benefited from racist systems historically, 2) to explore current ways that we uphold racist ideologies and theologies, 3) to consider when, how, and to whom we might offer reparation. For more information, click here.