Truth and Reparations Press Conference

Minnesota Council of Churches Members Plan Truth & Reconciliation and Reparations

“Minnesota is at the epicenter of being transformed by racial justice” as BIPOC and white church leaders announce ambitious initiative.




Minneapolis, MN – “Minnesota is at the epicenter of being transformed by racial justice,” said Presiding Elder Stacey L. Smith of the St. Paul-Minneapolis District African Methodist Episcopal Church and Vice President of the Minnesota Council of Churches, in a press conference announcing that organization’s racial justice plans for Truth and Reconciliation commissions and reparations. She said the work is “Truly going to impact the future of our state.”

Bishop Ann Svennungsen of the Minneapolis Area Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church of America agreed: “Not every person living on the land that became Minnesota has experienced it as a place of equity,” she said. While “heart-breakingly, the Christian church has too often remained silent,” she applauded that “The MCC has made anti-racism a central focus of its work” and concluded that “together we follow Jesus, who came to bring good news to the poor and liberation to the oppressed, and we believe in a God whose love is boundless and whose passion for justice is mighty as an every-rushing stream.”

Bishop Richard D. Howell Jr., of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World – Minnesota, Wisconsin and Dakotas, named Minnesota’s nation-topping disparities across metrics comparing white with BIPOC communities and, referencing a Greek word Christians use to indicate the appropriate time appointed by God, said “this is a Kairos moment that the MCC is concluding to truth-tell, educate and seek reparations… a ripe moment whose time has come.”

The Minnesota Council of Churches’ director of racial justice, Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, said he was excited to work with faith communities from across the state. “It is time to learn about the historic trauma that has been perpetuated on [BIPOC] communities and the effects of that trauma that still impact our society today.”

“This has been building over the last two years as we have centered the leadership of the black denominations into lead positions in our board of directors and that has changed the conversation and the direction of our work,” said the Council’s CEO, Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung. Claiming the Council of Churches’ “unique role as a moral voice” in the statewide conversation, he offered a preview of future action: “Our next step is to seek partners – we cannot do this alone,” But “we step forward in faith today and are excited to be in this moment speaking forth a word and action of racial justice.”

The Council’s Board President and President of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention, Rev. Billy Russell, concluded by sharing that through adoption of this plan “We show that we are a people of love – not only do we love God but we love people. And we show with this kind of move that we mean business.”

In response to a media question about whether the work was focused mostly on changing the narrative, DeYoung shared “We envision a truth-telling process like South Africa or Canada … that make public the contested histories and history of harm that racism has produced. Our ultimate goal is to get at the systemic change that needs to occur, so as we do this work there will be efforts to connect with the legislature and the state and local municipalities.”

In response to a question about people challenging the histories that such a process might evoke, Jacobs said “Will there be pushback when we are in the phases of truth-telling and education? Absolutely, but this is not something that is unknown to indigenous peoples or to our black brothers and sisters. For centuries there has been a narrative that has been told and we are the voices that have dissented.”

He concluded with an illustration from the teaching of Matthew 5:23-24: “Christ says that if you are coming to the temple to worship to leave your offering and you realize your neighbor, brother, sister has a reason to hold something against you, you are to stop what you are doing and go and be reconciled. We recognize that reconciliation cannot happen unless we heal the repair.”

Find a video of the full virtual press conference here:

Find the entire plan, “Dismantling the Structures and Repairing the Damage of Racism in Minnesota,” here:

About Minnesota Council of Churches

Representing 25 member judicatories and about 1,000,000 Christians, the Minnesota Council of Churches creates unity built on justice through programs that include Refugee Services, Respectful ConversationsTM, Healing Minnesota Stories, Taking Heart Ramadan gatherings, justice advocacy, interfaith relationships, and fostering ecumenical relationships. For more information, visit