The Church of England is committing £100million to tackle the slave trade’s ‘shameful past’

The Church of England has pledged £100m to right “past wrongs” surrounding its involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and has apologized for its “shameful past”.

in one report on Tuesday, Grant Thornton forensic accountants and historians determined that the church’s financial arm had received enslavement-related funds potentially worth more than £1 billion in today’s money.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said the report “examines the connections of the predecessor fund of Church Commissioners with transatlantic . . . Slavery”.

“I deeply regret these links. It is now time to take action to address our shameful past,” he added.

Welby has pledged £100million from Church Commissioners’ funds to initiatives to address “past injustices”, including an “impact investment fund” aimed particularly at communities affected by the legacy of enslavement.

The announcement marks recent efforts to address concerns raised by investigations into how the church benefited from the slave trade, particularly Queen Anne’s Bounty.

Founded in 1704 to support poor clergy, the fund was transferred in 1948 to the then newly formed Church Commissioners.

Tuesday’s report, commissioned in 2019, concluded the bounty may have received around £1.21 billion worth of funds from sources linked to the slave trade.

The total endowment from Church Commissioners is £10.1 billion. The research was led by Grant Thornton’s forensic accountants, with the support of two historians – Helen Paul of Southampton University and Arthur Burns of King’s College London.

The report found two main links between commissary endowment and enslavement. The main source was buying shares in the South Sea Company, the government-affiliated company that handled much of the slave trade between Africa and the British colonies.

By 1739, when the South Sea Company ceased the slave trade, the bounty included annuities worth £204,278 issued by the company – the equivalent of around £443 million today.

The premium continued to invest in the company’s pensions until they peaked in 1777 when they were worth £406,942, or about £724 million today.

The bounty also received cash and land donations, which the accountants said they believed came from people with ties to enslavement, including Edward Colston, a merchant and slave trader. A statue of Colston was toppled by protesters and dumped in Bristol Harbor during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020.

Accountants estimated that between 1713 and 1850 the bounty received £359,242 worth of charity from those at very high or high risk of being associated with the slave trade. They put the bounty’s value at around £482 million in contemporary money.

The church said the £100m for the Impact Investment Fund would “invest in a better and fairer future for all”.

“It is hoped that this fund will grow over time and reinvest earnings so that it can leave a positive legacy that will last forever,” the church added. The Church of England is committing £100million to tackle the slave trade’s ‘shameful past’

Adam Bradshaw

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