Meditation Monday: From Acknowledgement, to Apology, to Action

Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA is preparing to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2023. As part of that preparation, this Episcopal seminary is taking a step that is hopefully the first of its kind for primarily white educational institutions that benefited from slavery and participated in Jim Crow segregation. Officials at the school recognized and apologized for using enslaved people to build several campus buildings, three of which are still there. After slavery was abolished, the seminary followed the prevailing culture rather than challenging it by participating in Jim Crow segregation before admitting the first black student in 1951. In light of this past injustice, the seminary raised $1.7 million as an endowment which will be used to provide reparations for the descendants of enslaved people who helped build the school. A recent CNN report noted that, “…the fund will also be used to support local congregations with ties to the seminary, to bolster the work of African American graduates and to raise the profile of black clergy in the Episcopal Church.” (Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor 9-9-2019) That same report noted, “Several scholars of reparations said Virginia Theological Seminary is the first institution of its kind to set up a reparations fund, even while other colleges and seminaries have issued reports on their role in slavery or offered scholarships to slave descendants.” This commitment to justice is a specific example of what it means to move from acknowledgment, to apology, to action. It also raises the challenging issue of reparations on a national scale. While there is no easy answer, it is important to have the conversation and to take specific actions to rectify this kind of historic injustice that goes back to the very founding of our nation. Such a commitment to justice benefits everyone, because it leads to freedom that comes with the truth. As Jesus said so long ago, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)