Charleston, S.C. – Many remember the tragedy that enfolded the Holy City on June 17 as nine parishioners, many of them acting in official ministerial roles, were gunned down during a Bible study at the church that evening.
Since then, the outpouring of love, affection and support for the victims, their families, the survivors, and the entire church family has been formidable. Though the exact amount of funds is still being evaluated and carefully reviewed by an outside accounting firm, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has indicated it’s ready to start distributing the funds from donations, the majority of which were made to the church itself. A fund for the victims and their families was set up by the City of Charleston and is known as the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund. So far, the City of Charleston has received approximately $3 million in funds specifically set aside for victims and their families and has distributed a portion of these funds.
The Moving Forward Fund account was established by Mother Emanuel for the purpose of accounting for donations sent to the church and the families of the victims since the June 17 tragedy. Accounting lines include the Mother Emanuel Fund, which the historic church will use for physical plant improvements in keeping with the vision of the late Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney and church members; a Memorial Fund, set aside to create a living, physical memorial tribute to the victims and their families; the Mother Emanuel / Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney Endowment Fund, for future scholarships and community outreach; and a Mother Emanuel Nine fund for the families of those whose lives were lost on June 17. Donors noted what area they intended funds to go toward, and that has been accounted for by the church and independent evaluations by accounting firms out of Raleigh, N.C., and Columbia, S.C.
The church is also reviewing a possible donation to the survivors to supplement the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which would be made from the funds donated and designated for the church fund. Action within the church is required for such an initiative and will be considered over the next several weeks.
Reverend Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr., interim pastor for Mother Emanuel and presiding elder for the Edisto District, added, “Our faith is not broken, and we continue to minister to those who believe that there’s a greater message here, and that love and kindred hearts will always heal. We can only hope that the funds donated for the church, for memorials, for endowments, and for the families of the victims will help us all move forward as one.”
“The leadership of Mother Emanuel has always been cognizant of its responsibility to ensure, to the best of its ability, that donated funds are to be distributed in accordance with the intent of the donors. To that end, the church, with assistance from its bankers and accounting professionals, has made an extensive effort to manage the overwhelming amount of documents and records that have been graciously received. This distribution plan reflects, in part, the fulfillment of its responsibility,” noted Wilbur Johnson, attorney for the church.
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church congregation first formed in 1791, a coalition of free blacks and slaves. At first they were members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church, but in 1816 they left their white counterparts in a dispute over burial grounds. At the time, the church was 1,400 members strong. They rallied behind the leadership of Rev. Morris Brown (who later was elected the second Bishop of the A.M.E. Church) and organized under the banner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is referred to as “Mother Emanuel.” Emanuel A.M.E. Church is a fixture in Charleston. With seats for 1,500, it has the largest capacity of any African-American church in Charleston. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest A.M.E. church in the south.