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‘Source of shame’: Justin Welby apologises for Church of England’s investment’s link to slavery

by Tola Mbakwe

The Archbishop of Canterbury has publically apologised for the Church of England investment fund’s connection to slavery.

It comes after a three-year investigation by the Church Commissioners found it contributed "significant amounts" in the slave trade.

The investigation revealed that the Church Commissioner’s predecessor fund, Queen Anne’s Bounty, had links with transatlantic chattel slavery.

The Church said in a statement: “In the 18th century, Queen Anne’s Bounty invested significant amounts of its funds in the South Sea Company, a company that traded in enslaved people.  It also received numerous benefactions, many of which are likely to have come from individuals linked to, or who profited from, transatlantic chattel slavery or the plantation economy. ” 

Most Rev Justin Welby, Chair of the Church Commissioners described it as a “source of shame”.

He said in a statement: “I am deeply sorry for the links with transatlantic chattel slavery that the Church Commissioners has identified. This abominable trade took men, women and children created in God’s image and stripped them of their dignity and freedom.

“The fact that some within the Church actively supported and profited from it is a source of shame. It is only by facing this painful reality that we can take steps towards genuine healing and reconciliation – the path that Jesus Christ calls us to walk.

“This is a moment for lament, repentance and restorative action. I pray for those affected by this news and hope that we may work together to discern a new way forward.”

In 2019, the Church Commissioners started research into its £10.1 billion endowment fund to get a better of understanding of its history. The investigation included reviewing early ledgers and original documents from the Queen’s Bounty.

Rt Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, a member of the Church Commissioners Board and also chair of the group that had oversight of the research, said they will use what they’ve learned for good.

“The Church Commissioners is deeply sorry for its predecessor fund’s links with transatlantic chattel slavery,” he said.

“The Church Commissioners aims to be transparent about its history and we will use this knowledge to ensure we are at the forefront of responsible investment globally. Alongside this work to consider our past, we continue to lobby for change in the companies in which we invest today and call for those companies to champion human rights within their supply chains.

“Through our policy of advocating ‘respect for people’, we aim to create a fairer world today in which all of God’s children can flourish.” 

That Church Commissioner’s research has concluded, and a final report of the findings will be published later this year. It also will form a group to consider the research and how to respond to these findings.

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