The Church of England apologized on Tuesday for past links to slavery through a related finance agency that is now involved in a wide-ranging process to compensate affected communities.
“I’m deeply sorry,” replied Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the Church of England. “It is time for action to respond to this shameful past,” he added.
The report, released on Tuesday, follows revelations in June 2022 that the “Foundation of Church Commissioners has historical links” with the transatlantic slave trade.
The Commissioners of the Church of England were established in 1948, partly with an endowment from a fund dating back to Queen Anne in 1704, with the aim of helping poorer clergy.
The report reveals that this fund invested “large sums” in the South Sea Company, which traded in African slaves. It also received donations from people involved in the slave trade and plantation economy.
“Church leaders deeply regret their ancestors’ ties to the transatlantic slave trade,” the organization said in a statement.
The organization has pledged a fund of £100m (€113.1m) over the next nine years for “a better and fairer future for all”.
Specifically, these funds go to “Communities Affected by Slavery”. A portion of the money will be used to further research into the links between the church and slavery.
The church’s deputy chief commissioner, Bishop David Walker of Manchester, said the organization now hopes to create a “positive and lasting legacy that serves communities affected by slavery”.
Church Commissioners administer a £10.1 billion (€11.4 billion) investment fund to support church and clergy activities.
“Nothing we do hundreds of years later will restore slaves’ lives,” the commissioners wrote in the introduction to their report.
“But we can and will recognize the horror and shame of the Church’s role in the slave trade and take action to correct the injustices committed.”
The Church of England has previously apologized for its past links to slavery, as Britain grapples with the legacy of its colonial past.
In 2020, the church called it a “disgrace” that some of its members were actively benefiting from slavery.