A Church of England funding body on Tuesday apologized for its historical links to slavery, and promised to redress the wrongs of the past by investing in affected communities.
“The church commissioners deeply regret the previous fund’s connection to the transatlantic slave trade,” the organization said in a statement.
Investing in the victims of slavery
The commissioners have committed £100m ($122m) of investment over the next nine years towards a “better and fairer future for all”.
The money will target “communities affected by historical slavery,” and toward further research on the church’s ties to the practice.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the highest-ranking cleric in the Church of England and president of the Anglican Church Worldwide Communion, said he was “deeply sorry” for the links.
“Now is the time to take action to address our shameful past,” he added.
The church’s deputy chief commissioner, the Bishop of Manchester David Walker, said the body now hoped to create a “positive, lasting legacy”.
The Church of England Commissioners was established in 1948 in part with an endowment from Queen Anne’s Bounty, a fund dating back to 1704 to help poor clergy.
A commissioned report revealed that Queen Anne’s Bounty had invested “significant sums” of her money in the South Sea Company, which traded African slaves.
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She also received donations that likely came from individuals involved in the practice and plantation economy.
Queen Anne’s Bounty funds were included in the endowment of the church commissioners at its creation. It currently manages a £10.1 billion investment fund to support the activities of the church and clergy.
Researchers discovered links to slavery by combing through ledgers from more than 200 years ago at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London.
“Nothing we do, hundreds of years later, will restore the lives of the enslaved,” the commissioners wrote in the introduction to the report.
“But we can recognize and acknowledge the horror and shame of the Church’s role in historic transatlantic slavery, and through our response, seek to begin to address the injustices that resulted.”
The Church of England has previously apologized for its past links to slavery, as Britain looks to the legacy of its controversial colonial past.
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In 2020, she said that the fact that some church members “actively committed and benefited” from slavery was a “source of shame”.
Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell also called on his followers to acknowledge all aspects of the Church’s past, good or bad, in order to craft a better future.