The truth isn’t enough

Vice Chair of the CTE Trustees Rev Dr Lurliene Miller shares her Reflection of the Month for September 2023.

Consider this international call, an echoing plea that is finding resonance in social, political, and religious circles. It beckons us to delve into a topic that holds historical weight and significance: Reparations tied to the Transatlantic slave trade. At the heart of this movement lies an event named ‘We Will Repay,’ an opportunity for open minds and passionate hearts to convene and share perspectives at a thought-provoking one-day Conference.

The conference has a noble purpose—to foster understanding, ignite leadership, and shape the Church’s response to the narrative of reparations. One might ask, how does financial justice intersect with the pursuit of racial equity? This isn’t just an abstract question; it’s a bridge to a fairer future, a world where the echoes of history can finally start to fade.

Think about the evidence that has come to light over the past two decades. It has illuminated the complex role that historic churches played in owning and trading enslaved individuals. Investments in commodities have created substantial financial portfolios, not only for reputable organizations but also for those with a dubious past. And yes, there were times when biblical scriptures were misused to justify the subjugation of the enslaved. This isn’t just a matter of pointing fingers; it’s about understanding our past so that we can shape a better future.

Let’s not shy away from the uncomfortable truths—those moments when “science” was manipulated to delegitimize the rightful place of Black individuals as equals in the eyes of humanity. The horrors of family displacement, mental anguish, and economic disempowerment can’t be ignored. Even in more recent history, the revelation of compensation payments to slave owners’ descendants in 2016 underscores the ongoing impact of a dark past.

In the here and now, Black communities remain disproportionately impacted by institutionalised systemic racism, both in Britain and worldwide. It’s a legacy we can’t ignore, a truth that refuses to fade away. This isn’t about placing blame; it’s about acknowledging the scars left behind by an evil trade that affected generations.

When we consider all these facets, it becomes clear that we stand at a turning point. Joining the movement to advocate for reparations isn’t just an act of retrospection; it’s an opportunity to create tangible change. Think of the story of Zacchaeus, who found redemption through reparative action (Luke 19: 1-10). In that story, we find a testament to the power of acknowledging and mending wrongs.

As discussions about reparations unfold in secular spaces, it’s only natural for both Black and White congregants to anticipate the guidance of advocates within our ranks. This isn’t a divisive endeavour; it’s a collective effort to heal wounds, mend divides, and build a more equitable future. Indeed, the truth isn’t enough—it’s the action, the commitment to righting wrongs, that will truly make a difference.

Rev Dr Lurliene Miller is a Trustee and Vice Chair of CTE, as well as joint Chair of CTE’s Racial Justice Working Group. She is a member of the Joint Council of Churches for All Nations (JCCAN), a non-denominational international organisation set up to serve a wide community of churches and church leaders. She also serves as a trustee with Westminster Theological College and is the founder of a London-based Pastors Forum, providing pastors with a safe space to share and support each other. Rev Dr Lurliene is the senior pastor of Sozo House of Praise International and with her husband, Bishop Dr O Miller, they oversee several churches here and abroad. She continues to be engaged in developing and delivering several local community outreach projects and services.