Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and chair of the Church Commissioners, and the Church of England apologized for the slave trade in the past and set up a £100 million fund.
The Church of England has pledged £100 million to a fund it is establishing to make up for its historical profits from the slave trade.
According to a report for the Church Commissioners (pdf below), the organization in charge of managing the C of E’s £9 billion-plus endowment fund, the origins of the fund may be traced in part to Queen Anne’s Bounty, a 1704 financial scheme built on transatlantic chattel slavery.
The Church Commissioners’ board will establish a £100 million fund to carry out a programme of investment, research, and engagement over the following nine years in an effort to “address past wrongs.”
The church does not refer to the programme as “reparations” because it would not pay out money to specific people but will instead fund initiatives “focused on improving opportunities for communities adversely impacted by historic slavery.”
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To make sure the church’s response is carried out “sensitively and with accountability,” the C of E is required to establish a “oversight group… with significant membership from communities impacted by historic slavery.”
The report “lays bare the links of the Church Commissioners’ predecessor fund with transatlantic chattel slavery,” according to Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and chair of the Church Commissioners. “I am deeply sorry for these links. It is now time to take action to address our shameful past.”
Following a four-page interim report released in June, the whole report was released on Tuesday.
The Church Commissioners “became more conscious” in 2019 “of the fact that the transatlantic slave economy played a significant role in shaping the economy, society and church we have today,” the study said.
The report claims that transatlantic slavery, which involved the purchase and transportation of slaves, was the South Sea Company’s primary commercial operation between 1714 and 1739. The corporation stopped trading slaves in 1739, but it was still around until 1853.
“The trade in enslaved African people was responsible for inflicting much pain and misery on people of African descent in particular but also on other groups around the world who have experienced deep injustices. It contributed to both the racial and class divisions and tensions we experience today in our society and, regrettably, in our church. Churches and societies with such inequity and divisions do not flourish.”
Queen Anne’s Bounty made large financial investments in the South Sea Company, which dealt in human slaves. Additionally, it received several gifts from people connected to, or who benefited from, the transatlantic slave trade and the plantation economy.
In cramped, unhygienic, dangerous, and brutal conditions, the South Sea Company purchased and transported thousands of individuals as chattel property.
Edward Colston, a renowned slave trader whose statue in Bristol was overthrown by Black Lives Matter demonstrators in 2020, was one of the supporters of the Queen Anne’s Bounty.
Bounty money was either used to acquire land that the clergy could live off of or to give needy clergy a financial stipend. When the Church Commissioners endowment was established in 1948, the money was incorporated into it.
The Church Commissioners’ deputy chair and bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said: “Discovering that the Church Commissioners’ predecessor fund had links to transatlantic chattel slavery is shaming and we are deeply sorry. We will seek to address past wrongs by investing in a better future, which we plan to do with the response plan announced today, including the £100m funding commitment we are making. We hope this will create a lasting positive legacy, serving and enabling communities impacted by slavery.
“We recognise this investment comes at a time when there are significant financial challenges for many people and churches, and when the church has commitments to address other wrongs from our past.”
He added: “The Church Commissioners recognised that it was important to know its past better in order to understand its present and ensure that the Church Commissioners continues to support the Church of England’s work and mission in the future as best it can.”
For the first time, records from Lambeth Palace’s archives that reflect investments in bounties are being made public. From 12 January to 31 March, they will be a part of an exhibition at the palace library.
Read the report given below: