Living in the Four Values of Reparations

By: The Reverend Chuck Kramer, Interim at St. Andrew’s Walden and St. Francis of Assisi, Montgomery and Reparations Committee member

The Reverend Chuck Kramer explains, in this text, the Four Values that the Reparations Committee adopted in 2021 to guide its work with the Diocese of New York’s Reparations Fund. The Four Values were presented and adopted at the 2021 Diocesan Convention as a guiding principle for moving forward in reparations.

Over the past few years, the Diocese of New York has been wrestling with its role in the history of slavery and its lasting, sordid, impact on present society.

We have studied the history, lamented our role in it, repented of the evils of both slavery and the underlying racism, and committed to a new way. Now we are working on repairing the deep and lasting damage of this particular form of racism.

But in order to effectively work toward repair, toward meaningful reparation, we need principles or values to guide us. Our number one value, it should go without saying, is love.

As our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry has told us “If it is not about love, then it’s not about God.”

But the Reparations Committee discerned four other values we feel are important to moving forward. They are Truth, Justice, Integrity, and Transformation:

That is, in order for there to be Reparation, we must tell the truth.  In order for there to be real Reparation, we must seek justice for all. In order for there to be Reparation we must pursue it with integrity. And in order for Reparation to truly happen, we must be open to transformation not only for ourselves individually but for society collectively.

You might say, “If it’s not about Truth, Justice, Integrity, and Transformation, then it’s not about Reparation.”

Truth as a Value for Reparation means speaking the truth. It means facing squarely and unwaveringly what was, what is, and God calls us to be. It means not hiding from history or glossing over it but learning from it — what not to do as well as what to do.

Justice as a Value for Reparation is more than simply penalizing those who do wrong  or giving some form of payment to those who have been wronged. Justiceishealing. Justice is not about revenge but about changing the power dynamic away from whiteness as the pinnacle. Justice is getting to Right Relationship in which all people see themselves and each other as equal and equally beloved children of God. And Justice is when we treat each other accordingly.

Integrity as a Value for Reparation means internal consistency. It implies wholeness and honesty. It implies a sense of “What you see is what you get.” Integrity is a crucial value for Reparation because it requires us to know who we are as God’s Beloved Community. It requires us to look deeply at ourselves, our words, and our actions and ensure that they match. It may mean recognizing individual fault, apologizing, and committing to repair the harm. Integrity is a corrective to stubbornness and to being held captive by past teaching or tradition. It is the act of living into our better angels.

Transformation as a Value for Reparation means growing into God’s Truth, into God’s Faith, Hope, and Love. Repair cannot happen until we are transformed as individuals, as community — especially as the Church — and in relationship to God. We recognize that while changing laws and policies may be necessary, this alone will not repair the breach, the deep gash in the tapestry of God’s vision for us. For that to happen, we must be changed. That is why the work of reparation is necessarily a spiritual discipline.  Nobody and no society can be just, equal, and fair unless they want to be — and that will not be possible without a transformation, a conversion, in the hearts not only of individuals, but of our entire society.

These values will guide us as we, the Diocese of New York, seek to repair at least some of the harm caused by slavery and the insidious racism that followed. We know we can’t fix everything, but we are committed to healing what we can.

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