Last week, the Church of England announced that it set aside £100 million in a fund “to address past wrongs” related to the CoE’s links to the slave trade. The money, which is not being called “reparations” since it doesn’t go to individuals, will be used to provide a “better and fairer future for all, particularly for communities affected by historic slavery,” according to a statement released last Tuesday.
An investigation conducted by the Church Commissioners, the charity that manages the Church of England’s investment portfolio, examined the CoE’s18th Century investment fund known as Queen Anne’s Bounty. By 1777, Queen Anne’s Bounty had invested £406,942 in the South Sea Company, which transported 34,000 slaves during its 30 years in operation. That £ 406,942 would be approximately £724 million today.
In their announcement last week, the Church Commissioners said that the CoE will commit £100 million over the next nine years to a new program of investment, research, and engagement to address its historic links with slavery. The money will fund further research into the history of the Church Commissioners, as well as supporting dioceses, cathedrals, and parishes to investigate and address any links they may have to the slave trade.
Additionally, any growth made on the £100 million fund will be used to provide grants for projects helping communities that were negatively impacted by slavery. In a statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby expressed his deepest apologies for the links between Queen Anne’s Bounty and “transatlantic chattel slavery,” saying it was time for the Church of England to “address our shameful past.”
The archbishop said only by “addressing our past transparently” can the Church of England “take the path” Christ “calls us to walk and face our present and future with integrity.” The British slave trade was abolished when Parliament passed the Slave Trade Actin 1807 making the transatlantic slave trade illegal.
The law eventually led to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire.