The Church of England aims to raise more than $1 billion to address its past links to slavery

An advisory committee said the Church of England should set up a £1 billion, or $1.27 billion, fund to address its historical links to slavery.

LONDON – The Church of England should set up a 1 billion pound ($1.27 billion) fund to address its historical links to slavery, an advisory committee said Monday. This is 10 times the amount previously allocated by the church.

An independent monitoring group set up by the church said the £100 million announced last year was insufficient compared to the church's wealth and the “moral sin and crime of enslaving African property.”

The church commissioners, the financial arm of the church, said they had accepted the group's recommendations, including a target of raising £1 billion “and above” for a pool of money known as the Healing, Reform and Justice Fund.

The church said it would not immediately add to its £100m commitment. But it will spend the seed money over five years, rather than nine as originally planned, and hopes to start distributing it by the end of the year, Church Commissioners chief executive Gareth Mostyn said.

Other organizations or individuals who want to address their own ties to slavery can add to the fund and “join us on this journey,” he said.

The fund was established as part of efforts by the Anglican Church to reckon with its historical complicity in the transatlantic slave trade. The church commissioners, who manage the church's £10 billion ($12.7 billion) wealth fund, appointed forensic accountants in 2019 to search the church archives for evidence of slave trade links.

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They found that the church's vast assets traced their roots to Queen Anne's Bounty, a fund established in 1704 to help support poor clergy. It invested heavily in the South Sea Company, which had a monopoly on transporting slaves from Africa to Spanish-controlled ports in the Americas. Between 1714 and 1739, the company transported 34,000 people on at least 96 voyages.

Queen Anne's Bounty has also received donations from individuals who enriched themselves through the slave trade, including Edward Colston, the British slave trader whose statue in his home city of Bristol was toppled by anti-racism protesters in 2020.

Britain banned the slave trade in 1807, but did not pass legislation to free slaves in its territories until 1833.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who heads the Church of England, promised to address its “shameful past”. He said the recommendations were “the beginning of a multi-generational response to the horrific evil of transatlantic property slavery.”

The new fund's money will be invested in underserved black communities, with the goal of “supporting the smartest social entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare providers, asset managers and historians,” the oversight committee report said.

This commitment does not rise to the level of some activists’ demands that institutions that benefited from slavery pay compensation to the descendants of the enslaved.

The watchdog group also called on the church to apologize “for denying that black Africans are created in the image of God and seeking to destroy diverse African traditional religious belief systems.”

Rosemary Mallett, Bishop of Croydon, who chaired the oversight group, said no amount of money could “fully atone for the centuries-old impact of African chattel slavery, the effects of which are still felt around the world today” on afflicted lives. Opportunities for many black people.

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But she said the church is “stepping forward very boldly and saying, 'We can do this, and others should join us.'”

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