The Church Commissioners has published a full report into its historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery and announced a funding commitment of £100mn in response to the findings.
Back in 2019, the Church Commissioners (which support the work and mission of the Church of England) decided to research the origins of its endowment fund to uncover whether there were any links to the transatlantic slave trade. It was able to trace the endowment’s origins partly to Queen Anne’s Bounty, a fund established in 1704, and found historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery.
Chattel slavery was the enslaving and owning of people and their children as property, who could be bought, sold, and forced to work without wages.
In response to the findings, the Church Commissioners’ Board has committed to trying to address some of the past wrongs, including through £100mn of funding, delivered over the next nine years to a programme of investment, research and engagement. Its actions will comprise:Establishing the new impact investment fund to invest for a better and fairer future for all, particularly for communities affected by historic slavery. The Church Commissioners hope this fund will grow over time, and will reinvest returns, with the potential for other institutions to participate and further enable growth. Growth in the impact fund will also be used for grant funding for projects focused on improving opportunities for communities impacted by historic slavery. Further research will be carried out, including into the Church Commissioners’ history, supporting dioceses, cathedrals and parishes to research and address their historic links with slavery, and sharing best practice with other organisations researching their slavery legacies. As an immediate action, Lambeth Palace Library is hosting an exhibition with items from its archives that have links to historic transatlantic chattel slavery. The Church Commissioners will also continue to use its voice as an investor to address and combat modern slavery and human rights violations, and to seek to address injustice and inequalities. A new oversight group will be formed during 2023 which it says will have significant membership from communities impacted by historic slavery. This group will work with the Church Commissioners on shaping and delivering the response.
The full report into into the links Queen Anne’s Bounty had to transatlantic chattel slavery can be found here: Church Commissioners Links to Historic Transatlantic Slavery.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Dr David Walker, Deputy Chair of the Church Commissioners, said:
“It is important for the Church Commissioners to understand and be transparent about our past so we can best support the mission and ministry of the Church of England, today and in the future. Discovering that the Church Commissioners’ predecessor fund had links to transatlantic chattel slavery is shaming and we are deeply sorry. We will seek to address past wrongs by investing in a better future, which we plan to do with the response plan announced today, including the £100 million funding commitment we are making. We hope this will create a lasting positive legacy, serving and enabling communities impacted by slavery.
“We recognise this investment comes at a time when there are significant financial challenges for many people and churches, and when the Church has commitments to address other wrongs from our past. We remain fully committed to our work to support the mission and ministry of the Church of England and we believe that this research and our planned response will help us to do so today and into the future.”