Posted on March 5, 2024

Church Fund ‘Not Enough’ to Right Slavery Wrongs

Nathan Standley and Adina Campbell, BBC, March 4, 2024

The £100m earmarked by the Church of England for a new investment fund to help repair damage caused by its historic links to slavery is “not enough”, a report says.

It comes after an investigation last year found the Church had invested large amounts of money into a company that transported tens of thousands of slaves.

The Church welcomed the report by the Church Commissioners charity and accepted its recommendations – but would not commit to raising the fund to the report’s £1bn target.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the report was “the beginning of a multi-generational response” to the “appalling evil” of slavery.

Mr Welby previously called the report’s interim findings a “source of shame”.

The report also reiterated calls for the Church to fully acknowledge its involvement in the slave trade, after the archbishop said he was “deeply sorry for the links” in 2022.

Money from the new fund should be invested in black-led businesses focusing on education, economic empowerment and better health outcomes, the report added.

The oversight group behind the report has been looking into the history of the Church’s investment fund, which in the 18th Century was known as Queen Anne’s Bounty.

At that time, it had investments worth £406,942 (potentially equivalent to about £724m in today’s money) in the South Sea Company.

The company transported 34,000 slaves in crowded, unsafe and inhumane conditions over a 30-year period.

The Church Commissioners’ report, published on Monday, recommended that the Church should:

  • Recognise the £100m initially earmarked for the new investment fund is “not enough”, and increase it to at least £1bn
  • Speed up the timeline for the delivery of the fund
  • Acknowledge and apologise for its historic denial that black Africans are created in the image of God, and for its “deliberate actions to destroy diverse African religious belief systems”

The report said a £100m investment was “very small compared to the scale of racial disadvantage originating in African chattel enslavement”.

Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, said it was “impossible to quantify” the lasting impact of slavery or just how much the Church had benefited from it.

He added: “Before science, it was the Church’s theology which justified the whole endeavour – and how do you put a price on that?”

The group says the investment programme should be ultimately owned and run by black communities, and should start later this year.

While there will be grants for some non-profit investments, there will not be cash compensation for individuals or grants to government bodies, it added.

Bishop Rosemarie Mallett, the group’s chair, said she hoped the report would be “a catalyst to encourage other institutions to investigate their past and make a better future for impacted communities”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the impacts of slavery that are still felt in communities today are that “we brought in a system of racism, where people were judged on the basis of their colour”.

She added: “We can’t change the past, but we can work for a better present and we can build a legacy for the future.”

The Church Commissioners manages the Church’s investment portfolio.

A spokesperson said the Church would not raise its fund to £1bn, but that the £100m was seen as a “seed investment”, which they hope will “grow over time”.

Gareth Mostyn, the group’s chief executive, added: “By addressing the past transparently the Church will be more relevant to more people.”

The group said the Church Commissioners had “embraced a target of £1bn for a broader healing, repair and justice initiative with the fund at its centre”.

Mr Mostyn said he hoped the establishment of the fund would encourage others to “co-invest and join us on this journey”, and that as an investment fund it would hopefully “grow and create a lasting legacy”.