The Elephant In The Room…

A few weeks ago, I was just casually scrolling through my Instagram feed and I came across a headline:

Church Of England Announces £100M Fund Dedicated To Compensating For Its Historic Links To The Slave Trade

The Shade Borough

I hadn’t realised this was being looked into or discussed within the Church Of England to even potentially become an option. So to read the headline, I was quite surprised – reparations of any kind have long been something the majority of us from the Black community had given up on.

So, where did this come from?

A report for the Church Commissioners, the body that manages the C of E’s £9bn+ endowment fund, traced the origins of the fund partly to Queen Anne’s Bounty, a financial scheme established in 1704 based on transatlantic chattel slavery.

In an effort to “address past wrongs”, the Church Commissioners’ board is to set up a £100m fund to deliver a programme of investment, research and engagement over the next nine years.

The church is not using the term “reparations” as the scheme will not compensate individuals but will support projects “focused on improving opportunities for communities adversely impacted by historic slavery”.

The C of E is to form an “oversight group … with significant membership from communities impacted by historic slavery” to ensure the church’s response is carried out “sensitively and with accountability”.

The Church Commissioners are said to be deeply sorry for its predecessor fund’s links with the transatlantic slave trade.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who is also Chair of the Church Commissioners, said:
“The full report lays bare the links of the Church Commissioners’ predecessor fund with transatlantic chattel slavery. I am deeply sorry for these links. It is now time to take action to address our shameful past. Only by obeying the command in 1 John 1:6-7*** and addressing our past transparently can we take the path that Jesus Christ calls us to walk and face our present and future with integrity. It is hard to do this at a time when resources in many parishes are so stretched, but by acting rightly we open ourselves to the blessing of God.”

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.”

What Does This Mean

It is yet to be decided how this money will be utilised and by whom. On the one hand, it’s great for such a large British institution to publically own up to the wrongs of it’s past with regards to the Afro-Caribbean slave trade. However, I feel it raises more questions than it answers:

  1. How will those who have been affected by the past atrocities really be reached?
  2. Who holds the purse strings and who are the decision-makers?
  3. How will the pot be divvied out in a fair way?
  4. Is it just for UK-based causes or will it help those worldwide?

3 weeks later, my questions still exist and of course, it will take time for the CofE to formalise a plan. So for now I guess we just need to watch this space and pray that the committee that is put in place for the funds, stay true to the aims that brought about this pot being pulled together.

Prayer For Those In Authority

Dear Lord
We pray for those in authority in this situation,
for those who will eventually make up the committee
and for those under them.
Give them the gift of your wisdom,
and a right discernment in all things.
Help them to stay true to You and all You want them to achieve with this fund.

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