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Church of Scotland to issue apology for links to transatlantic slave trade

by Sophie Drew

The Church of Scotland is set to issue an apology for its role in the transatlantic slave trade following a report into the ways in which the Church benefitted from slavery.

The statement will be prepared ahead of a future meeting in consultation with the broader church. As part of the process, congregations will be encouraged to research the links in their church and local areas.

The report – presented by the Faith Impact Forum – recognises that some church members received substantial sums from links to the slave trade, which in turn benefitted the Church through donations and tithes.

It also admits that the organisation itself is the custodian of a multi-million-pound fund which can be connected to compensation paid out to a family upon the abolition of slavery.

The report calls for the Church to educate people instead of covering up the links. Plaques and memorials in churches should remain but should be used to inform parishioners of the Church’s history.

The report recommends to the General Assembly that a statement of acknowledgement and apology should be brought to a future General Assembly, and a dedicated page about the Church's connections to the slave trade should be created for its website.

Speaking on the final day of the General Assembly, Rev Peter Johnston – who is a vice-commissioner of the Faith Impact Forum – told Premier Christian News he was pleased with the detail of the report.

He said: “It's not going to be everything, but it gives a real flavour of the kind of connections that there were amongst congregations, and folks that would be members of congregations during that time, or those who might later have had money and wealth handed down to them, and then perhaps they donated money to the church or helped in the addition of a part of a building.

“We know that the money was to set up a fund to help the poor in a parish, but that some of that money would have come from benefits of the slave trade.”

The report states that up to as many as 20,000 Scottish migrants arrived in the West Indies during the latter half of the 18th century, and it is likely that many places of worship were built by enslaved people.

The report – which took 18 months to compile – is available to view via the Church of Scotland website.

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