In an effort to acknowledge its historical culpability in slavery, the Church of England has set up an exhibition in its library that explores the role of the church in the slave trade in the 18th century.
The Church Commissioners, the body that administers the church’s 10 billion-pound ($12.3 billion) investment fund, hired forensic accountants in 2019, who reported that the Church of England was heavily involved in the South Sea Company, an organization with an exclusive monopoly on the transport of enslaved people from Africa to Spanish-controlled ports in the Americas. During the period between 1714 and 1739, the company made at least 96 voyages, transporting 34,000 people.
Based on the report of the commissioners, the church at the time was aware of what it was involved in. “Investors in the South Sea Company would have known that it was trading in enslaved people,” it said.
On display in the exhibition is a version of the Bible geared toward slaves. In this version, all references to freedom from slavery have been removed, omitting 90% of the Old Testament and half of the New Testament.
When the commissioners’ report was released on Jan. 10, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby promised to “take action to address our shameful past," which includes a 100 million pound ($123 million) fund to support initiatives “focused on improving opportunities for communities adversely impacted by historic slavery.”
However, this commitment doesn't include reparations to individual descendants of slavery. “This isn’t about paying compensation to individuals, and its not really just about the money,” said Church Commissioners chief executive Gareth Mostyn. He commented that the new fund is for the church’s “journey of repentance.”
What are your thoughts on the Church of England's slavery exhibit? Do you think the funds administered by the church should be distributed to direct descendants of victims of slavery as reparations?
Source: NBC News