Restorative Actions (Giving1) at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, May 2022
Restorative Actions introductory video
The conversation around the racial wealth gap started at Oak Grove with a car ride discussion between Jim Koon and Pastor Jermaine, who served at Oak Grove, back in 2017. From that discussion, and many more with many others seeking to do something about the racial wealth gap, the economic justice initiative Restorative Actions was born.
Restorative Actions (https://restorativeactions.org/) is an economic equity initiative born from the intersection of theology, justice, and economics. It allows U.S. Americans who benefit from institutional racism, to provide credible witness for justice by surrendering ill-gotten gains toward the establishment of just relationships with our Afro-American & Indigenous communities.2
The term surrender is foundational to this initiative. It describes the act of transferring wealth and control of that wealth to those that should have been in possession of it had these racial inequities been resolved generations ago. With this surrender, individuals from the respective communities will serve as trustees and make all distribution decisions.
More formal conversations began at Oak Grove in the early part of 2020 during an in person adult faith formation class prior to COVID. Since that first adult faith formation (AFF) class, Restorative Actions has been shared and discussed in a number of forums during the 12+ month discernment process and after the commitment of surrender was made by the session. These forums included:
- Adult Faith Formation Sessions (multiple sessions)
- Social Justice Committee Meetings (multiple sessions)
- Surrender recommendation was sent to Session from Social Justice
- Finance Committee Meetings (multiple meetings)
- Session Meetings (multiple meetings)
- Print Announcements (multiple occasions)
- Invitation via announcements and during AFF for 1:1 meetings with for Jim Koon and Milissa Carter
- Invitation to ask questions through an anonymous survey prior to the last two AFF
- Announcements at beginning of worship (multiple Sundays)
- Mentioned in Multiple Sermons
Oak Grove is the inaugural congregation to make this commitment of surrender. The Synod of Lakes and Prairies and individuals have also made commitments of surrender. In total, over $900,000 has been committed to this economic justice initiative and the Restorative Actions Core Team continues to engage with congregations and mid-councils that are interested in learning more about what a surrender could mean for them. Oak Grove members Jim Koon and Milissa Carter are part of this Restorative Actions Core Team (https://restorativeactions.org/about-restorative-actions/).
Restorative Actions Updates
Advisory conversations recently finished up for the Afro-American Trusts and the legal documents are in progress. Development of the Indigenous Trusts are in the learning and relationship building stage. The curriculum The Time for Repair was developed in response to Pastors asking, “How can I have a conversation with my parishioners about the theological questions around Reparations?” Oak Grove recently concluded a pilot version of this curriculum.
In February, PC(USA) announced that Restorative Actions will be the GA Opening Worship Offering recipient this year.
Is Restorative Action the same as Reparations?3
No, they are not the same. The difference between the two is very important. Restorative action is a moral reckoning while reparations is more like a balance sheet of accounts.
Restoration is an effort to bring something closer to what it should have been by rebalancing misalignments, replenishing resources spent, and re-establishing trust. Restorative action is a relatively small and voluntary act by an individual, a family, a congregation, an organization, or an institution to acknowledge white complicity in the extreme wealth disparity that has existed since before this country’s founding under the dubious pretext of establishing what has become the United States as a “New Israel”. 4 Restorative action, therefore, is an unprecedented effort to achieve balance where true equity was never intended.
Reparations, however, is a much larger, systemic act of Congress that involves the whole of the United States aimed at making material amends to Afro-American and Indigenous people as well as legal changes to dismantle laws and policies that continue to sustain institutional racism and oppression.
In a way, you might consider restorative action as the church’s internal yet public witness demonstrating the necessity, feasibility, and righteousness of reparations from the United States for the appropriation of Indigenous lands and subjecting Africans and their U.S. American descendants to chattel slavery, Jim Crow policies, and ongoing institutional racism.
This is just one of a number of theological questions addressed on the Restorative Actions (https://restorativeactions.org/theology/) website plus so much more.
We invite you to explore more about Restorative Actions and Reparations, engage in conversation, and consider how you can personally surrender ill-gotten wealth.
In Gratitude, Social Justice Committee
For more information about:
The racial wealth gap and Reparations, check out the recommended reading from Restorative Actions at: https://restorativeactions.org/learn-more/books-video/
General anti-racism topics, check out the book, podcast, video, and more recommendations at: https://www.oakgrv.org/antiracism-resources/
How to surrender your ill-gotten wealth, go to: https://restorativeactions.org/make-the- commitment/surrender/
1 While Restorative Giving was being discussed at Oak Grove, it was also being discussed with theology and thought leaders in the arena of economic justice. One of the many pieces of feedback received was that the term ‘giving’ is not appropriate when it comes to paying a debt or returning something that shouldn’t have been ours to begin with, and so the new name Restorative Actions was identified.
2 Source: https://restorativeactions.org/
4 In the essay “The Idea of the Wilderness of the New World in Cotton Mather’s ‘Magnalia Christi Americana,’ George H. Williams provides an informative analysis of Mather’s concept of America as a New Israel. Williams offers that Mather held that “God in His providence was so to arrange human affairs that the Europeans prepared by Him to fill the waste places with would enter the devilish American desert only after literature had been reborn, the art of printing had been acquired, and the religion to be transplanted have been restored to the perfection of its apostolic ‘golden age.’” For Williams, Mather’s interpretation of the American wilderness is “no mere chronicle but a theodicy of the New English Israel renewed, regenerated, and ever ready to face ‘wilderness temptations,’ moving confidently toward a cosmic vindication of the faith.” from Cotton Mather: Magnalia Christi Americana, 49-53., ed. Kenneth B. Murdock.