Delegates to the top legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church voted to support a study of reparations for African Americans and to petition the vice president and House of Representatives to support the passage and signing of House Resolution 40.
The denomination’s 2004 General Conference approved a May 7 resolution affirming a congressional committee studying reparations and slavery’s effect on African Americans’ lives, economics and politics today.
The approved resolution, a revision of 1996 General Conference action, acknowledges the United Methodist Church’s profound regret for the massive suffering and the tragic effect slavery and the transatlantic slave trade had on millions of black men, women and children.
Reparations, defined as making amends for a wrong or injury, is the payment numerous African Americans and activists desire for the work black slaves did in building up the United States and the abuses they suffered while performing the task. They point to the government’s payout to Japanese Americans who were held across America during World War II as one example of other groups being paid for the wrongs the government imposed on them.
The resolution notes that the plan for the economic redistribution of land and resources to former slaves after the Civil War was never enacted, which made the “civil and political rights” of newly freed blacks “all but meaningless.” It also says “conditions comparable to ‘economic depression’ continue for millions of African Americans in communities where unemployment often exceeds 50 percent.”
The delegates voted to petition the president, vice president and the United States House of Representatives to support the passage and signing of H.R. 40. The delegates also mandated the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race and the churchwide Board of Church and Society develop a strategy for interpretation and support of passage of the resolution.
Finally, the delegates authorized the appropriate United Methodist boards and agencies to develop and make available resources on slavery and the role of theology in validating and supporting both the institution and the abolition of the slave trade.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
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