PCUSA Launches “Historic Damage Repair Center”

The Presbyterian Center
The Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky. |

The Presbyterian Church (USA) plans to launch a new initiative called the Center for Repair of Historical Harms, which aims to advance historical justice for minority communities the denomination has allegedly abused over generations.

The center, which remains under development, recently appointed its first director, the Reverend Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam, who previously served as associate pastor for social justice at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Ross-Allam told Presbyterian News Service that the center will be “an organized way to right the wrong that the PC (US) has done to Indigenous peoples, African Americans and other groups.”

Once in operation, the center will likely oversee webinars, panel discussions, listening sessions with various groups to get their views on what repairing the damage may look like.

“The church has played a distinct role in creating a political, economic, religious and social environment that gives people permission to participate in creating cross-generational harm,” Ross-Allam said.

“But he’s also historically given people permission to wipe their hands of the damage that’s been done to Indigenous communities and African-American families through the generations, so the church needs to recognize those things so that the church can realize his own complicity in creating these problems and excuse people for walking away from these problems.”

The fledgling center will fall under the umbrella of the PC (USA) Presbyterian Missionary Agency, which sponsored a 2023-2024 mission work plan at the 225th PC (USA) General Assembly in July, which was approved by The denomination.

Under the plan, the center will build on previous faith-based efforts to address structural racism, advance reconciliation and eventually champion reparations.

“The Center for Historic Damage Repair will form teams to partner with churches, intermediate councils or other entities that are doing the work or want to do the repair work,” the plan says.

“Teams will listen and work with our partners to determine innovative and meaningful approaches to addressing repairs already in place and other approaches that may need to be developed.”

Ross-Allam believes that “the church is perfectly placed to begin to lead the culture to believe that reparation is necessary, right and possible.”

“Our job is not to try to find a way to make people feel guilty so that out of their guilt and shame they suddenly engage in feverish activity,” he said. he adds.

“I think that cycle ends when people say, ‘It doesn’t matter if I am personally guilty or not, but my personal honor and my love for God and my love for humanity will not allow me to see others suffer from ‘a legacy that in fact, support me and give me a platform, so that my hard work amounts to something while others are still working with a deficit.’

At the same General Assembly meeting in July, PC (US) delegates voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution to explore the possibility of unifying the PMA with the General Assembly Office. .

Proponents of unifying the two agencies argued it was a matter of financial necessity, while critics claimed it would hamper the PMA’s social justice efforts.

According to a 2019 survey by the Barna Group, 16% of practicing Christians in the United States believed the Church should repent of America’s history of slavery and segregation.

The Barna study found that 12% of practicing Christians in general and 19% of African American Christians specifically believed that the Church should “pursue restitution”.

About 33% of practicing white Christians said they believed there was “nothing the church should do” in response to the country’s history of slavery, while 15% of practicing Christians African Americans said the same thing.

Thirty-three percent of practicing black Christians said the church needs to “fix the mess,” while 24 percent of practicing white Christians and 28 percent of all practicing Christians surveyed said the same.

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