Church plans to spend $121m to take action to address ‘our shameful past’ for involvement in the 18th-century slave trade.
The Church of England knew it was investing in the transatlantic slave trade during the 18th century, the head of its investment arm admitted, after it committed 100 million British pounds ($121m) to address the wrongs of links to the slave trade.
The Church Commissioners, who manage the church’s 10-billion-pound investment portfolio, will use the money for a fund that will invest in communities affected by past slavery, and conduct research and engagement related to the church’s ties to slavery.
A report commissioned by the church found last June that a predecessor of its investment fund, called Queen Anne’s Bounty, invested significant amounts in the slave-trading South Sea Company in the 18th century.
It found that by 1777, Queen Anne’s Bounty had investments worth £406,942 (potentially equivalent to around £724m in today’s terms) in the South Sea Company.
The report estimated that the South Sea Company transported 34,000 slaves “in crowded, unsanitary, unsafe and inhumane conditions” during its 30 years of operation.
The Church Commissioners, who manage the church’s 10 billion-pound investment portfolio, will use the money for a fund that will invest in communities affected by past slavery, and research and engagement related to its links with slavery.
“There’s no doubt that those who were making the investment knew that the South Sea Company was trading in enslaved people, and that’s now a source of real shame for us, and for which we apologize,” Gareth Mostyn, chief executive of the Church Commissioners, told BBC radio.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said on Tuesday it was now time for the church to take action to address “our shameful past.” Welby, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion of about 85 million Christians and also chair of the Church Commissioners, said it was necessary to address the church’s past transparently to face “our present and future with integrity.”