Should the Church generate a £1 billion fund for slavery reparations?

PR car-crashes for the Church of England are like buses—there are none for ages, then three come along at once. Except for the Church of England, the ‘there are none for ages’ bit isn’t true.

Following the constant stream of negative publicity about the sexuality debates, we then had two reports on safeguarding, Wilkinson and Jay, with the latter simply setting us up to fail. Instead of being asked to look at options for independent safeguarding practice, and independent safeguarding scrutiny, Professor Jay was briefed to look only at the option of fully independent safeguarding practice, despite the fact that experts in this field think that is a very bad idea. So either we follow her recommendations and do something stupid, or we do something sensible and get accused of defying the recommendations of the report.

Something similar has now happened on the question of race and slavery reparations. The Church Commissioners wanted to investigate any past dependance on and profit from the transatlantic slave movements, and found that its predecessor, the Queen Anne’s Bounty, had profited from investment in the South Sea Company which was involved in the transport of 34,000 slaves out of the approximately 12.5 million transported on about 35,000 transatlantic voyages. Its involvement in the slave trade ran from 1715 to 1739—a total of 24 years. It has been estimated that the profit to the Bounty amounted to around 3%, though subsequently its main sources of income were elsewhere until it was taken up into the Church Commissioners which were established in 1948.

But you wouldn’t know any of that from the report of the Oversight Group that the Commissioners set up to advise on the use of a £100m investment fund that had already committed to. Reading the report, you would get the impression that the historical chattel slave trade was the cause of all the world’s racist ills, and that the Church of England was responsible for all of this.

The reasons for this are multifold, but they begin with the ignorance and distortion of both historic and present facts around the issue. The report claims:

African chattel enslavement was central to the growth of the British economy of the 18th and 19th centuries and the nation’s wealth thereafter (p 5).

But this is not true. As Niall Gooch points out:

The typical discourse around these kind of proposals is endlessly frustrating. For example, it is often stated explicitly or assumed implicitly that British national prosperity was “built on slavery”. This is flatly untrue: Britain was a wealthy country well before the transatlantic slave trade and continued to be one long after we had entirely banned slavery throughout the Empire, at no small cost to ourselves. Even at its height, slavery was a relatively small component of the British economy. The economic power that underpinned our time as global hegemon was largely the result not of dark deeds or plunder, but of our innovative, free and dynamic economy and political stability.

But there is an ironic twist to this: the wealth that came from the innovation of the industrial revolution came from the mining of coal and iron ore, gruelling work conducted by white working men, a group the Church of England continues to struggle to engage with. There are no quotas in place to measure the involvement of this racial group.

And the report fails to make any mention of the fact that slavery was a routine practice of tribal conflict within Africa itself, and was likely introduced into Europe through the slavery practices of Islam. All this can be found in any primer on slavery, such as Jeremy Black’s Slavery: a new global history.

Whereas the prime European demand in the Americas was for male labour… in the case of these other trades[in the Islamic world] the demand was primarily for women, particularly as domestic servants and sex slaves. This was because there were few equivalents in the Islamic world to the large labour-hungry plantation economy of the European New World…Lack of sources makes it harder to estimate the number of Africans traded across the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean than across the Atlantic, but it was probably as many—and indeed there are suggestions that it was greater (pp 54–55).

And, on the other side of the historical argument, the report makes no mention of the significant role the Church of England had in the opposition to and abolition of the slave trade:

The Church’s report and summary make no reference to Christians’ admirable central role in the suppression and abolition of slavery. Anglicans (in addition to Quakers) were at the forefront of the abolition movement from the 1780s, all their bishops voted en bloc in favour when the abolition legislation was brought before parliament, and the Church spent considerable time, effort and expense for many years thereafter in suppressing the slave trade elsewhere.

The distortion of facts extends to the present, where it is claimed that Black Caribbeans are uniquely disadvantaged economically because of the structural racism in British society due to the legacy of the slave trade. But the very same ONS data points out that, in terms of the performance in education by racial group, at the top are Chinese, Asians, and then Black Africans, and at the bottom of the performance are Black Caribbeans and white working class—and in all groups boys perform worse than girls. (The chart on the right does not separate Black Africans from Black Caribbeans but does note the wide difference in other charts and in the narrative further up.) It is clear that the main factor here is not race; those groups performing well have cultures that value discipline and hard work and have an emphasis on family stability and marital commitment.

And the headline claim of the report, that the reparations fund ought to be not £100m but £1bn, is a figure that is simply plucked out of the air:

An overriding and consistent belief expressed by respondents was that £100 million is not enough, relative either to the scale of the Church Commissioners’ endowment or to the scale of the moral sin and crime (p 7).

…which being translated means ‘We asked some people, and they all through we should demand more’. That is no basis for a policy document—besides which, following such recommendations made on this basis would be illegal. The Commissioners, like the Archbishops’ Council, is a charity and controlled by charity law, which requires that all decisions are made in the best interests of the charity on the basis of evidence. There is none in this report.

Why is the report so detached from reality on all its key points? Because it appears to be driven by the culture wars language of the United States, based on Critical Race Theory, which constructs and explains conflict in society by means of a Marxist binary between powerful white oppressors and oppressed black victims. This has found its way into theological thinking through the work of influential commentators like the late James Cone, who argues that Jesus was ‘black’ in the sense of being the ultimate victim of the ‘white oppression’ of the Roman Empire.

The definition of Jesus as black is crucial for christology if we believe in his continued presence today. Taking our clue from the historical Jesus who is pictured in the New Testament as the Oppressed One, what else, except blackness, could adequately tell us the meaning of his presence today? Any statement about Jesus today that fails to consider blackness as the decisive factor about this is a denial of the New Testament message. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus reveal that he is the man for others, disclosing to them what is necessary for their liberation from oppression. If this is true, then Jesus Christ must be black so that blacks can know that their liberation is his liberation (from Black Theology and Black Power, 1970).

This seems to me to be an essentially racist configuration of both the world and Christian theology, taking as absolute racial categories in defiance of social and historical evidence, and overlaying that on Christian theology. It is no surprise then the report sees the entire global investment system as a white conspiracy which disadvantages black people at every turn.

But this distortion of theology also leads the group to make an astonishing call (in both the summary and in the full report):


32. Penitence: We call for the Church of England to apologise publicly for denying that Black Africans are made in the image of God and for seeking to destroy diverse African traditional religious belief systems. This act of repair should intentionally facilitate ongoing and new sociological, historical and theological research into spiritual traditions in Africa and the diaspora, thereby enabling a fresh dialogue between African traditional belief systems and the Gospel. This work should reach beyond theological institutions and be presented in the enslaved to discover the varied belief systems and spiritual practices of their forebears and their efficacy. We recommend the Commissioners work with all faith-based communities to which descendants of African chattel enslavement belong.

The Church of England taking the gospel to Africa is apparently an act of Afriphobia (report, p 5) causing ‘spiritual rupture’ for which we should repent. So the whole reason for the Anglican Communion now being majority black (and Asian) is something we should regret! What on earth must African Anglicans think about this? The gospel, for which they are so grateful, and which they continue to share with great courage in the face of militant Islam, is something the Church of England regrets sharing with them? This demonstrates, more clearly than anything, the racist nature of this report, and the distance it has travelled from anything resembling orthodox Christian belief, let along Anglican doctrine.

And the ‘welcome’ given to this report by the Commissioners and the Archbishops appears to endorse this view.

All this was anticipated in 2022 by Charles Wide writing in The Critic:

In the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York felt they had to act. They had a golden opportunity to set in train an inclusive, broadly representative, generous, open-minded process to examine whether there are things about the structures of the Church, or the ways they are operated, which impede the Church’s mission due to conscious or unconscious racism and, if there are, to propose effective remedies.

It would be motivated by love of God and neighbour, uninhibited by preconceived theories and categories. It would foster mutual understanding across the whole Church, as a widely-shared endeavour. Any proposals would be based on carefully gathered, objectively evaluated, contemporary empirical evidence. It would, by this, achieve a lasting, generally agreed settlement of this potentially explosive issue and avoid the bitter divisions which can be seen on the other side of the Atlantic.

The Archbishops could have done this. But they blew it.

Hurriedly, they set up an “Anti Racism Taskforce” which, as the Archbishop of York said, was “not intended to be a broad representation of different church contexts”. Its starting point was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sweeping assertion that the Church is “deeply institutionally racist”.

Hampered by Covid, the taskforce never physically met, had limited specialist expertise, conducted no critical analysis of work done (often many years ago) by the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns, commissioned no contemporary research, delegated topics to small groups of its members or even a single member, never considered the possibility of causes of disparity other than racism, and did not evaluate or conduct cost-benefit analysis of any of its 47 “actions”, which are now treated as Holy Writ.

The work was then taken up by the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission (ARJC). Its members were selected in secret, with no open competition, and no published criteria for appointment. It seems to believe that its role includes delivering the Taskforce’s “actions”, despite their manifest deficiencies. The ARJC has just produced its first report. Its institutional mindset is revealed by an otherwise unimportant detail: the adoption of the term “GMH”. This neologism stands for “Global Majority Heritage” and means everyone in the world who is not white. It is an activist invention, spun out of divisive, dehumanising “critical/intersectional” theories, according to which society is crudely understood in terms of the exercise of power and categories of oppressor/oppressed.

Wide is highlighting a double dynamic here in terms of process. Like the previous report, From Lament to Action, this one avoids engaging with evidence, and completely disregards its actual brief; issues around governance, due process, and accountability have been completely set aside. And in both cases, the authors appear to have been egged on by people in positions of influence; I understand the that figure of £1bn was specifically suggested to them. This is more evidence of the incoherence of governance that is dogging the Church at every turn.

The reaction has been fairly predictable—across the spectrum of views, this is seen as a disaster. Niall Gooch notes:

Explicitly associating one ethnic group with systematic wickedness is deeply wrong and a recipe for unrest and antagonism. It is particularly grim coming from Christians, who ought to be in the business of promoting racial harmony, not crank theories about how all the problems of society are the fault of a certain group.

Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, director of campaign group Don’t Divide Us, notes how widespread this problem is:

The church has been busy embedding critical race theory in virtually all of the bodies it runs. Its Diocesan Board of Education has produced CRT-infused teaching materials and guidance for schools. Complete with images of BLM-style raised fists, this guidance encourages schools to teach kids about ‘white privilege’, amplify ‘black voices’ and celebrate ‘black history’.

It gets worse. At the General Synod’s bi-annual conference last month, the church adopted a ‘racial justice’ motion. This passed with an overwhelming majority, with 364 members voting in favour and two abstaining. As a result, every parish in England has been told to create ‘race action plans’, which is code for yet more racial quotas and CRT training.

Jawad Iqbal points out that the Church is digging itself into a hole on this question, from which there is no way out.

Why should anyone else give money to the church’s scheme for washing itself clean of its role in the slave trade? It is a pipe dream to think that the church authorities could justify contributing more funds at a time when so many parishes are struggling. The difficulties are compounded by reports that more than a year after the original £100 million fund was set up, it is still not operational.

Is anyone surprised? Moral grandstanding over slavery is all well and good but channelling financial compensation is no easy task. It requires transparency, accountability and independence.

And of course for those who endorse the approach of the report, this will never be enough. The need to atone for the appalling evils of the slave trade will, according to historian David ‘take generations.’ So apparently this financial proposal is just the beginning of something that will continue well beyond our lifetime.

Three years ago, this was anticipated as creating nothing but problems:

The Rev Marcus Walker, rector at Great St Bartholomew in the City of London, said: “I can’t help thinking they are stoking up trouble where none need necessarily be found [by] hunting for controversy. Shouldn’t they be focusing their minds on how to keep the Church of England alive right now?”

And Stephen Glover expresses the anger that many feel about how this has been handled.

Slavery was an abominable evil, and one could certainly lose sleep contemplating man’s inhumanity to man, while marvelling that the Anglican Church of 300 years ago should have briefly been the beneficiary of such a wicked business. But this reflection was not what kept me awake.

I thought of the failing, cash-strapped Church of England, which has closed more than 400 churches in the past decade because it couldn’t afford to keep them open. As I tossed and turned, I also thought of impoverished vicars, expected to survive on an average salary of around £30,000 a year, admittedly plus free accommodation — although these days that’s far more likely to be a utilitarian box than a gracious rectory. I remembered the many poor people who, despite counting their pennies, give generously to the Church in the collection every week because that is what is asked of them.

And now it transpires that our weakened national Church, which can’t or won’t pay its priests a decent wage, and which has closed ­hundreds of churches, hopes miraculously to lay its hands on £1 billion to atone for the sins of people who lived three centuries ago. Sins, moreover, that were visited on victims who are long dead and can no longer be helped in this world.

In amongst all this, there is an irony and a tragedy.

The irony is that the Commissioners have, for many years, been concerned about issues of justice and ethics in their investment policy. Their decisions on investment (along with other funds in the Church of England) are constrained by the stipulations of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, of which I was a member for a time. As a result, they have become world-leading thinkers and practitioners on ethical investment, and exercise an influence in the world of investment far beyond the size of their fund.

But it seems that all counts for nothing, and is in real danger of being swept away by this ideological imposition.

And the tragedy is that the Church has all the resources it needs to address issues of race and injustice, yet the report sweeps those aside and even denigrates them. Those resources are found in the pages of Scripture, in the theology of creation that all are made in the image of God, and in particular in the New Testament and its astonishing, counter culture, and quite deliberate depiction of the people of God in Jesus as a diverse, multi-ethnic, and egalitarian community, most clearly expressed in the Book of Revelation:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev 7.9–10)

The only way the Church of England is going to dig itself out of this race and slavery hole is by recovering its confidence in this vision. At the moment, all the signs are its leadership have a long way to go before that happens.

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129 thoughts on “Should the Church generate a £1 billion fund for slavery reparations?”

  1. Excellent article, as the article says the Church of England was at the forefront of pushing for abolition of slavery anyway so no it should not be funding any reparations. Instead it should be funding Church of England Parish ministry which is rather more in need of funds than the growing African and Caribbean churches and we should not apologise for Christianity being brought to those areas either

    • Indeed, excellent article and very helpful. This political/liberal agenda is sadly affecting the church in ways that are contrary to Scripture. Our faithful sisters and brothers in Africa and Asia are being sidelined (regarding truth) yet again. Lord, have mercy!

    • Correct, though parish ministry is largely in need of funds because it is weakly compromising with the culture and watering down the gospel which is its raison d’etre.

        • So you are actually saying that these things are mutually exclusive?
          That error of logic rules out your perspective from the start.
          Give one reason why both may not be true.

          • The Church of England still doesn’t even allow same sex marriage in its churches and still most churches needed funds for roof repairs even when prayers for same sex couples in church were not authorised like now. There are simply not enough conservative evangelicals in England to fund and maintain and provide sufficient congregation for the nearly
            20 000 C of E churches and refusing to marry divorced couples and refusing any service for same sex couples would just make it even harder for local Parish churches to raise funds from the local community and get donations

          • Doesn’t ”even”?
            What on earth do you mean, ”even”? Christianity has been going 2000 years and this has been an unheard of thing till yesterday, not a standard feature.
            Your inaccuracy is high.

        • Geoff

          The establishment not only supported slavery, but were invested in it to the tune of 34,000 human lives

          It was much much worse than the modern abuses against gay people. William Wilberforce was not ABC or director of the HTB network. He was just a Christian MP, like Ben Bradshaw

          • That must be the most bizarre parallel I have ever seen! An evangelical steeped in Scripture compared with someone campaigning for the Church to turn away from the teaching of Jesus…!

          • Ian

            But as you yourself have pointed out, the establishment religious figures were all for supporting the slave trade. You only see yourself on Wilberforces side because he “won” and his views became the modern conservative views. But he wasnt conservative at the time. He was a revisionist, called all sorts of names by the establishment as are campaigners for LGBT rights now.

            But from my point of view, its the religious establishment that are currently calling people away from the teaching of Jesus and the so called “revisionists” who are truly following Christ. We disagree, I know!

  2. Trust the dear old Church of England to shoot itself in the foot yet again. Your article gives the entire historical background to our involvement with slavery and this needs to be read by all those in decision-making positions within the Church. As Psephizo so rightly says, it was William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect who got the abolition ball rolling – Anglicans all of them!
    However, to get to the nitty-gritty, as T1 says, the Church Commissioners’ money should be going to parish ministry, so that Black people, along with everyone else, get the pastoral care they need and deserve. I fear that this gaffe will cost the dioceses a lot of money in terms of congregational giving. Who is going to put their hands in their pocket to finance this sort of thing?

    • As Psephizo so rightly says, it was William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect who got the abolition ball rolling – Anglicans all of them!

      Ian didn’t actually say that and it isn’t true. The London Anglicans you name did much to promote Abolition among Westminster’s power-brokers, and this was one arm of abolitionism. The other arm was nonconformism. Your average abolitionist across England was a nonconformist, often a Methodist because John Wesley was openly against slavery. And it was nonconformists who preached to the British Empire’s slaves. Anglicans didn’t. The slaves loved the story of the Exodus, not surprisingly.

      • John Wesleys last letter ever was to William Wilberforce encouraging him in his fight against slavery.

        One generations “loony leftie” is the nexts conservative hero

          • Living in a country where most Christians are obsessed with Donald Trump (who I think is the most corrupt politician at the national level), I think its best for Christians not to have any hero other than Jesus and to treat everyone else as equals

          • Peter, you need to stop imposing whatever your perceptions are about Christian in the US (and they don’t really match at all with what I see in my UK Christian friends) on what is happening in the UK.

            It is not the same.

          • Ian

            That wasn’t my point.

            My point was its better for Christians not to have heroes other than Jesus

          • Anton

            But say you take David as your hero. A great man. A great King, but he sent someone to what he hoped was their death so he could rape their wife.

            Its best just to focus on Him who had no sin else sin becomes heroic

          • Of course. Jesus is the ultimate hero. He performed the ultimate act of heroism seen in war films: he gave his life for his followers. He gave up the joy of marital life with a woman. He hung out with his troops instead of dining in the Officers’ Mess. He is what everbody needs and he is all that they need. Do not suppose that I am saying anything else. But it helps our faith to see what the Holy Spirit can do in others.

  3. It is a thoughtful and thought provoking article: the question of slavery and and reparations has been vigorously discussed here a few years ago.
    As the established church, the state itself will have benefited directly and indirectly. How to apportion? How to trace.
    Didn’t the Guardian benefit at its inception.
    But the overall impression which remains is that the CoE in its present form, in all its manergerial professionalism, it a busted flush. As such it brings the name of Christ into dishonour.
    As for the CoE spreading the gospel to other peoples, that it true, but equally true they are the nations and churches the CoE jettison today, who retain and spread the gospel, while the CoE is on the helter-skelter of self- preserving apostasy. And if T1 is a prime representaive, sees no reason to spread, sow plant and water the gospel ( not knowing what it is) on its home turf.

  4. Can’t the CoE sack people for breach of its doctrines? I want to see these people having to find a job doing something useful.

  5. According to my count, “Jesus” appears just once in the report (citing the Archbishop of Canterbury), and “Christ” once (in the same citation). The question arises: is the Oversight Group intending this be a Christian report? If the Church fails to take its primary cue from what has been achieved and secured by this Person, then the Church—I submit—is powerless against the evil of racism.

    • Interestingly, quite a number of the group were not Christians. There were supposed to advise on investment strategy, but I am well informed that even that comment is incoherent.

  6. Thank you….

    This was raised at our Homegroup last evening with a measure of exasperation… After 60+ years as a practising Anglican and ordained in 1977 I still can’t really explain or understand the role, power or place the Church Commissioners have….. which is the dog and which the wagging tail?

    I’m finding it increasingly difficult to justify (even excluding LLF) the direction of the CofE to anyone , including “supporters”. That’s grievous to me. To risk using a previous phrase… Quo Vadis?

  7. Would not the money and effort be better directed at tackling the evils of modern day slavery in this country, and elsewhere?

  8. Thank you for this – it’s a relief to read it. I had just come from a lively conversation with an ordinand, in which we both expressed huge reservations about the way the CofE is managing this. It is not possible to compensate for slavery that happened so long ago. Even secular journalists in daily newspapers are immensely frustrated with the way this is being treated eg Madeline Grant in the Telegraph. Slavery is very complex, and very widespread over millions of people in many other countries as well as ours, over millennia. Maybe we should remember more often that it was black slavers themselves who sold black slaves to white slavers. ‘We’ were not the only people making money out of slavery. The CofE really must stop allowing itself to be sent on a guilt-trip every time somebody decides we have done wrong. What we can do, and should, is firstly to look honestly at any accusation and figure out what is truth and what is not. Then we need some wisdom to further work out what we need to do. In this case – yes, slavery is and was a massive wrong. But it’s surely far more positive to spend that £1billion on helping to combat modern slavery. For goodness’ sake, let’s take a critical look at bandwagons before jumping on them.

    • Yes, and we should also remember that those who owned the slaves also oppressed the factory-working ancestors of most of us.

      We know what this is really about – Greed for other people’s money, and a wish to wreck Western Civilisation.

  9. Thank you for this piece – ‘what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed’.

    Two further tiny points.

    First, the report was produced by a Group chaired by the Bishop of Croydon. Presumably the Bishop agrees with its main recommendations. That is, this report represents the views of at least one member of the church hierarchy.

    Secondly although the Commissioners say only that they ‘warmly welcome’ the report, the press release produced by the Group (presumably signed off by the Chair) stated the Commissioners ‘accept it in full’. Which is true?

      • Stale news now, but for future reference, the Church Times (8 March 2024, p. 3) reported that:

        Recommendation number 8 was as follows (and this has been widely misreported as mentioning only other funders – in fact it suggests more money from the Commissioners):

        Accepting Recommendation 8 would therefore require the Commissioners not only to convene other potential donors, but to aspire to give more of their own money to the Fund, and to aspire to change their investment policies.

        The Church Times reported that Mr Mostyn said that the Commissioners ‘share’ the ambition to grow the fund, but their financial commitment remained at £100m, though he did not rule out the future allocation of funds. The Church Times did not report him addressing the fundamental question of whether or not the Commissioners accept the recommendation that they aspire to change their investment policies.

        I suspect Mr Mostyn’s carefully chosen words mean that the Commissioners intend to ignore Recommendation 8, or kick it into the very long grass.

        The Church Times had no mention of the Recommendation 32, that the Church of England (sic) should apologise for, in my words, displacing African traditional religion with Christianity.

        • Interesting – my blog post had the quotations removed, presumably because I put them between marks.

          So here we go again:
          Stale news now, but for future reference, the Church Times (8 March 2024, p. 3) reported that:
          QUOTE STARTS The chief executive of the Church Commissioners, Gareth Mostyn, confirmed that the recommendations had been accepted. QUOTE ENDS

          Recommendation number 8 was as follows (and this has been widely misreported as mentioning only other funders – in fact it suggests more money from the Commissioners):
          QUOTE STARTS . . . we recommend viewing this fund as part of a wider systems change. The aspiration should be for this initial commitment to form the nucleus of a larger investment initiative with target assets of over £1bn. This sum would come from: co-investors brought in through the convening and
          influencing power of the Commissioners; a larger allocation from the Commissioners themselves; and a revision of the investment policies of the main endowment to incorporate principles embodied in the fund. QUOTE ENDS

          Accepting Recommendation 8 would therefore require the Commissioners not only to convene other potential donors, but to aspire to give more of their own money to the Fund, and to aspire to change their investment policies.

          The Church Times reported that Mr Mostyn said that the Commissioners ‘share’ the ambition to grow the fund, but their financial commitment remained at £100m, though he did not rule out the future allocation of funds. The Church Times did not report him addressing the fundamental question of whether or not the Commissioners accept the recommendation that they aspire to change their investment policies.

          I suspect Mr Mostyn’s carefully chosen words mean that the Commissioners intend to ignore Recommendation 8, or kick it into the very long grass.

          The Church Times had no mention of the Recommendation 32, that the Church of England (sic) should apologise for, in my words, displacing African traditional religion with Christianity.

          • For the record, the Archbishop of Canterbury firmly stated on Times Breakfast Radio on 21 March [1] that the Church Commissioners have not accepted the £1bn figure, and said he thought it unlikely they would (whilst emphasising the nature of the Commissioners as an independent charity). He emphasises that the £100m was a ‘tiny, tiny proportion’ of the Commissioners’ funds, much less than is being given to parishes over the next ten years, and emphasised that the sum was not about reparation. His answer assumed that the £100m would be spread over ten years.
            [1] (5min 28 seconds in)

        • Again for the record, the Archbishop of York, writing in the Sunday Times of 10 March, commented as follows (presumably speaking on behalf of the Church Commissioners with their pre-agreement).


          On Recommendation 8, he expressed a vague hope that ‘others might join us and catch hold of this vision’, but did not commit to actually making this happen. He carefully avoided increasing the already-committed sum of £100m, and made no comment about changing the Commissioner’s investment policies.

          Without confronting the issue head on, he distanced himself from Recommendation 32 (apologising for, in my words, displacing African traditional religion with Christianity).

  10. What percentage of 1billion will a CEO of the Slavery Reparations Charity get as salary?
    I want to apply. I want the remuneration fixed before it gets watered down.

  11. Slightly tangential to this article but nonetheless mentioned at the beginning, could someone explain why a fully independent safeguarding option is thought by experts to be a bad idea?

    • Essentially because it removes responsibility and accountability from the Church for safeguarding – apart from referring ‘concerns’ – and places it with separate bodies outside the organisation. There are alternative models, e.g., removing the local bishop’s absolute power through a centralised, ‘arms length’ body within the Church which is responsible for all investigations and decisions.

      • Dear Chris Bishop: On this subject (!) Jack has oogd professional reasons to know exactly what he is talking about, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.

    • Sorry to be cynical, but the main purpose of “safeguarding”, at least at senior levels, has become to protect the church from lawsuits, not to protect children and vulnerable adults from predators and other abusers.

      Every time there’s a whiff of independence the church is (rightly in my view) criticized for failing to act and refusing to listen or investigate complaints. That flies in the face of what ” safeguarding” is really about.

      • Hence the need to remove it from dioceses control and create a national, arm’s length body, with executive independence but still within the Church of England. A body that can handle all referrals, consult with and pass them on where necessary to the investigative bodies (police and social services) and then makes decision about outcomes in respect of disciplinary action against individuals. And it doesn’t need the oversight of a bishop but a lay person with skill and experience in the field. One doesn’t need to remove safeguarding lock, stock and barrel from the Church by creating two new separate bureaucracies. In effect, this reads like the Church “washing its hands” of safeguarding and simply out sourcing it.

        • Thanks HJ. That is much clearer. I think whatever system is in place needs to make Bishops personally accountable and liable to prosecution if found to to negligent.

        • Happy Jack

          I’d prefer a fully independent body, but failing that I don’t understand why they can’t just have one diocesis investigating another diocesis. That would avoid too much meddling by Lambeth Palace and also avoid the farcical situation where the diocesis puts out a press release promising an independent investigation into one of its churches – if you are investigating yourself then its not independent. That’s what the cofe seems incapable of understanding

          • A nationally managed “arms length” body within the Church of England, with control away from local churches and dioceses, would achieve the same purpose.

  12. This piece has prompted a glance around what the ABoC has been recorded saying about this matter and although it has to be tempered with caution, as the full recording was edited, I’m agast at how unthinking and polictically unbalanced and one dimensional it is and how it parotted a view expressed and unchallenged, presented on BBC radio 4 WATO, a view came across (I didn’t hear it all) as lacking a Christian voice. The idea that it was a multi-generational injustice, grievance requiring a multi-generational response, recompense, was prominently foregrounded by Welby and the invited radio 4 commentator.

  13. BBC Radio 4, the World at One, either yesterday or Wednesday 6th.
    I was driving at the time, didn’t hear the start but the close, conclusion of the piece. It was probably near the end of the programme, so 1:30 pm or later.

  14. Thank you, Ian!
    An excellent article that will be of great help if the request to draw up a “race action plan” lands on my own PCC’s table. I don’t wish to add to such an excellent summary of why this report is so profoundly flawed, other than to observe two things: 1) it is yet another proof of how deeply the Church of England’s higher administrative and ministry echelons have been infected by the profoundly anti-Christian presuppositions of identity politics; 2) it is yet another addition to the many developments inexorably driving clergy and other ministers (such as myself, a Reader/Licensed Lay Minister) in the direction indicated by Graeme Anderson’s excellent article in (22nd February 2024), “Quiet Quitting in the Church of England” — a direction that leads ministers, called to serve the flock and preach the gospel on the ground, to cease looking on their bishops as shepherds, but to see them as workplace managers; and, I add, managers who are not good at identifying gospel-driven priorities.

  15. The story of Zaccheus gives biblical precedence for this and at least it is, for once, cofe leaders admitting fault and actively repenting (but not personally). However I don’t think 1 billion is nearly enough.

    Put together one major fraud suit and one major TV news defamation case here in the US and you get to roughly 1 billion pounds. Slavery seems much much worse than that

    • “In the US….” Im not sure that lawsuits in the US have any connection with the rest of the world.

      How’s the slavery reparation going there…. Or for the Native American? ? Will the continent be given back to them?

      • Ian

        I doubt it.

        In my state, even the Democrats are not very tolerant of the native Americans.

        We just had a case of a native American child being beaten to unconsciousness in a school bathroom in Oklahoma. No ambulance was called and the police told the mother not to press charges else the child themselves would be charged for “starting it” (which wasnt true). The child died the next day. The police are saying the death is unconnected. Its hard not to see racism in this treatment of the child and their mother, although the focus has been on the fact the child was also non binary

        • That’s deeply sad. God’s blessings as you live for Jesus.

          I’m far from believing the UK is a paradigm of virtue and I despair at some things that happen here.

          I can’t get my head around (admittedly as the media presents it) the level of violence in the USA that seems to pass for “self defence” at best or just “if it moves shoot it”

          • At least the USA has freedom of speech. The UK has fallen to the lie of ‘hate speech’. As for the gun laws, they are widely regarded in the USA as protection against over-mighty government: something we might wish to have in the UK as the State continues to grow larger and more totalitarian.

          • God forbid that we should import the US culture of gun death. The original intent was to be able to raise a militia; the current interpretation of that is a million miles away.

          • Ian: You evidently regard the UK as being superior to the USA for refusing its citizens the right to bear arms. We had that right once, and every prohibition of freedom must be justified. What’s your justification?

            When our State becomes totalitarian then complacency will evaporate, but by then it is too late.

            I recommend the book “The good guys wear black” by Steve Collins, about the Met’s armed police response unit a couple of decades ago. He accepts the point that if you outlaw guns then only outlaws carry guns, and is in favour of an armed citizenry. The Met’s unit actually train the SAS, because the unit is in armed action weekly but the SAS once or twice per lifetime.

          • Anton

            Its not just that we have the right to bear arms in TBE US. Because of gun lobbyists its becoming harder and harder to prosecute murders and we have endless cases of people killing their own family members because they thought it was an intruder.

            On gun crime and healthcare the UK is much superior to the US

    • Zaccheus is so very far from a Biblical precedent for centuries old restitution with untraceable, dead petitioners. Z’s response was an immediate one to his own salvation and conviction of his own personal sin.

    • Peter – I respectfully suggest that your parallel with Zaccheus is utter rubbish, since whatever the faults of current C. of E. leaders, they all find slavery absolutely abhorrent. None of them have ever owned slaves themselves and they have all been absolutely condemnatory of those who have. Correct me if I’m wrong (i.e. if there is any C. of E. leader who owns slaves, or who is less than condemnatory of those who do), but I don’t think so.

      Zaccheus wanted to atone for sins that he had committed. Holding people responsible for the sins of their ancestors is something absolutely contrary to Christianity, so if this is in any way the motivation for a one billion pound fund, then those suggesting it really ought to be told to go and boil their heads and should be excommunicated forthwith. We shouldn’t have anything to do with such reasoning or with people who hold to such reasoning – such people are poison pure and simple.

      At the same time, there may be a case for such a fund – provided it is clear that nobody is holding people to account for the sins of their ancestors – since that would be morally disgusting. What has been the economic effect of slavery? Is it still felt in the present day? If so, is there anything that can be done to alleviate this and – crucially – would money help and, if so, how? It would make no sense to bung a large sum of money in the direction of some dictator who would probably trouser it.

      I’d also say that people with inherited wealth who discover that it came from the slave trade (and such people do exist) should probably try to divest themselves of it as quickly as possible – but the problem is doing this in a constructive way so that there is some benefit from the money.

      I think the old maxim is true: money is like manure. If you spread it around, it can do some good, but if you pile it up, then it stinks.

        • PC1 – yes – so there probably good grounds for ‘reparations’ – just not the grounds that Peter Jermey was suggesting. Bringing a ‘Zaccheus’ parallel into this is morally repugnant. The problem (of course) is how to ensure that money given under the umbrella of ‘reparations’ is beneficial. My own parents came from working backgrounds where there wasn’t very much money at all – the thing that placed them firmly in the comfortable middle classes was their school education and then – importantly – the university education they received in the 1950’s. The problem is that it is easy to see that unless one is very careful, money given in ‘reparations’ will be wasted and fail to have the intended effect. (That isn’t an argument against it – it simply means that generating a pot of 1 billion pounds won’t do any good unless great care is taken over the way it is distributed).

      • Jock

        None of the cofe leaders are paying personally though. Its church money (offering plus other wealth).

        I’ve never understood this fear of being seen as being sinful for things in the past. I’ve been horrified by the transatlantic slave trade since I saw diagrams of how the slaves were packed into the ships when I was about 10 years old. My thoughts are not “I hope nobody blames me”! I don’t understand that, though I see it a lot – we have legislation in most ‘red’ states heavily restricting how slavery is taught.

        • Peter – nothing to do with fear. People tend not to appreciate lies, slander and character assassination; Christians find it abhorrent, but you clearly don’t. I wonder if you would take the same attitude if somebody murdered your grandmother – and then you were held guilty. Long after you had cleared your name, you would still find those who had pinned such slander on you utterly repellent, because slander *is* abhorrent.

      • Ian

        I once got told by an evangelical I wasn’t a Christian because I had said I didn’t believe that, as descendents of Adam, we inherited Adams sin.

        Most of the people attending cofe churches have zero ancestors involved in the slave trade. This isn’t about absolving Anglicans of sin. Its about the church repenting of sin

        I think some of this is the UK constantly being infected by US culture. Its a different equation here because racism is much more prevalent and because most of our Black population are here because their ancestors were taken here as slaves. Black people in the US still feel the impact of slavery and segregation. I don’t know that its totally not the case in the UK, but it is certainly to a much lesser degree.

        • Peter Jermey – you do seem to go out of your way to find strange churches and talk to the strangest of people in them. The ‘evangelical’ whom you encountered was a head case and hadn’t a clue what sin actually is – just as you don’t seem to when you talk about ‘*the church* repenting of sin’ (rather than individuals repenting).

          I’m all in favour of redistribution of wealth, the ‘from each according to his means to each according to his needs’ principle. In this context, I’m also in favour of putting money (if it is useful) to helping those who are still disadvantaged from the effects of slavery.

          However, each of us has enough sin in our own lives that we don’t really need liars, slanderers, character assassins imputing additional sins for which we are not guilty – which seems to be the basis of your comments on this thread (bringing Zaccheus into it, talking about ‘*the church*’ (some collective abstract entity) ‘repenting of sin’, etc ….

        • Peter, The Church repented of slavery 200 years ago. The C of E was at the forefront of abolitionism, and Britain invested vast sums of money in shutting down the global slave trade.

          Why doesn’t that count as ‘repentance’?

          • Ian

            Well it stopped being involved because it became illegal. That’s not the same thing as repentance.

          • It didn’t stop being involved because it became illegal. The church were not passively observing it becoming illegal; rather, many Christians were active in *making* it become illegal in the first place.

        • ‘I once got told by an evangelical I wasn’t a Christian….’

          I get told by various people all the time that I am not a Christian. So what? Lots of people have odd ideas.

          • Ian

            Oh I thought original sin was a pretty standard Roman Catholic and Calvinist belief? I understand you don’t believe it, but that doesn’t make it not Christian and not widespread

          • @ Peter Jeremy

            In point of fact, the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches don’t believe we inherit Adams sin. However, both believe individuals experience the consequences of Adam’s fall.

        • re “most of the people attending cofe churches have zero ancestors involved in the slave trade,” I suggest this is likely incorrect. Most people attending cofe churches, and most other people in the UK, have about 1000 ancestors who were alive 250 years ago. (Think back: 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, etc etc and you will get to 1000 give-or-take 200.) Of those 1000 ancestors, the law of averages suggests that 20 or 30 of them were involved in the slave trade.

          But the people attending cofe churches have no more inherited guilt, and no less inherited guilt, than anyone else in the UK.

          • It’s not that simple, Jamie. Go back 3 generations and you will almost certainly have 2^3= 2*2*2=8 great-grandparents, unless cousin marriage has taken place which is rare in England. But go back 30 generations to about the time of the Norman conquest, and I guarantee that you will not have 2^30 different ancestors if you trace your descent back to everybody 30 generations ago. The number 2^30 is about a billion and England’s population was only 1/500th of that. The explanation is marriages of people who are distantly related and unaware of the fact, dramatically reducing the number.

            What about someone who has one black *Caribbean* parent and one white parent? Should he or she benefit or pay into any hypothetical recompense fund?

          • Although given my ancestors were dodging workhouses in the 19th century (with mixed success) you’ll have to forgive me for being sceptical that there was a pot of money in the family earned from slavery.

          • Jamie

            In the UK relatively few people were involved in TBE slave trade.

            For me, like most other British people, my ancestors were all agricultural labourers prior to the Victorian period. That’s how I can be certain that they didn’t have anything to do with it!

          • Anton

            I think the money would be best spent ensuring that there isn’t racism in the current cofe and campaigning against it in wider society.

          • Peter

            In the USA there has been a black President and in England we have an ethnic Indian Prime Minister and a largely black Home Secretary who was preceded by two coloured women. Racial equality at the level of the individual is enshrined in law. The idea that there is serious racism is pernicious nonsense designed by the malign to fool the gullible. As for the USA, don’t take my word for it but read Thomas Sowell, the smartest man in America today.

            Have you ever been to China?

        • In any case, it is axiomatic that lots of people are not Christians. Why would they be?

          There is, moreover, a crazy merging of diplomacy and accuracy abroad. The ”thinking” is: It is undiplomatic to analyse that person A is not a Christian, ergo person A is a Christian. I am sure you can spot the flaw as easily as anyone else.

          This is part of a wider trend. For example – Everyone is welcome at the communion table (is often the message) – thoroughly different from the idea of Paul that we should examine our conscience first, and secondly that the consequences of not doing so could be large.

  16. Given the church’s antisemitism which dates back to the death of Jesus Christ, which was blamed on the Jews, despite the Romans having killed the greatest Jew who ever lived, surely the Jews deserve ALL the money now in the hands of the Church Commissioners if this report is to be taken seriously?
    I am just using Jewish hyperbole to make a point, before anyone rushes to respond angrily. However, there is a serious point that a report on Jewish-Christian relations titled “God’s Unfailing Word” has been entirely neglected by the Church of England (you can find the report on the C of E website at ) probably because it concerns Jews and, as David Baddiel has pointed out, “Jews Don’t Count”.
    Personally I think that it is impossible to make proper reparations to people who are now dead by people who had nothing to do with the actions of their forefathers. On this basis, a great-grandchild of a murder victim could claim reparations from the great-grandchild of the murderer – what utter nonsense!
    A far better use of a spare £1 billion would be to pay parish priests properly and recruit so many priests that every parish has at least one priest of its own. Of course, this would require a miracle, but I thought that we Christians believe in a miracle-working God – or is that another doctrine that the Church of England has abandoned under the Welby regime?

    • It’s a tricky issue. There were about seven schools established in England for German Jewish children in the 1930s whose parents saw how the wind was blowing. If in 1946 one of these children went back as a young adult man and found his parents’ apartment intact but occupied by Germans, is he not entitled to it?

        • I agree, Cressida, but in the context of slavery reparations it is then necessary to argue for and decide on criteria.

          There was a scandal a couple of decades ago about money stored by German Jews, who later got gassed, in Swiss banks. Some of their families survived and went to the bank and asked for the money. They were refused because they could not provide death certificates(!), wills, ID and account numbers.

  17. “Given the church’s antisemitism which dates back to the death of Jesus Christ….”?
    Not so. See Romans 9:1-5.
    Phil Almond

  18. By saying in the report that it was wrong of the C of E to send missionaries to Africa does the report not ignore Jesus’s great commission in Matthew 28?

    Should the archbishop of Canterbury not resign from being head of the Anglican communion and let an African be head?

    • Could you let me know where the Report says that missionaries should not have been sent to Africa? I think I’ve missed it. Thanks. I remember John Sentamu acknowledging his debt to the Church of England for those who went to his part of Africa to share their faith. That gratitude can perfectly well be held together with sorrow at the sometimes damaging attitudes they also had towards the indigenous people and the unintended consequences of their actions. Life is a real mixture – the wheat and tares are in all our lives and churches.

      • The section on Theology and Ethics – paragraph 32.

        The report authors call for the Church of England to apologise for “seeking to destroy diverse African traditional religious belief systems”.

          • Quite.

            If folk want to understand whether and how African spiritual traditions are (or are emphatically not) compatible with Christian faith and the Gospel, you’d think we could just ask the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. I disagree with those guys ferociously about some issues, but this would pretty obviously be their field.

          • Indeed AJB. Early on in hgis time in the CoE Sentsmu bumped into freemasonry and said at a synod that he knew it very well from Africa where they called it witchcraft.

  19. I wonder if slavery 200 years ago seemed remote and amoral to investors back then, until the true nature of the trade became clear.
    I wonder if our shiny interest accounts and shares would look so benign, if, in the near future, A.I. could show who and where abuse was perpetrated in real-time to give bank account holders an extra .1%?
    Surely nothing much has changed. Only, we are ignorant of the connections between our lifestyles and others in an interconnected world.

    • Great point. I would say we have far more information about our involvement in modern slavery and other unjust systems than our C18 forebears did. Then it was perfectly possible to invest in a slave trading venture but never actually meet an enslaved person because they nearly all went directly from west Africa to the plantations. The few Africans who did come to Britain usually became house boys for the wealthy. Rosy accounts of life in the Caribbean could be given with little risk of contradiction and it was only the work of men such as Thomas Clarkson which brought home to people in Britain the horrific realities of the trade. Today we have no excuse: with a few clicks of a mouse we can find out the inhuman realities behind so many of our products from cotton jeans and tee shirts to mobile phones and laptops, and many others. Behind the glossy advertising and the cut-price deals is another much harsher and more complex reality with which we are all complicit.

      • You have roounded out my comment, thanks. If, instead of advertisments next to purchases on amazon, we had live streams of people working in far off countries making electronics, picking cashews, sewing tshirts, what would that do to the narrative? I believe the world system is the beast of Revelation. Even the most wealthy, democratic country is still part of the continuum, is it not? How should we “come out of her (Babylon)…”?

    • The door was opened to the slave trade in the 16th/17th century, not by ignorance, but by a form of moral relativism. Plantation and mine owners were forbidden from enslaving the native population in the Americas. In fact there weren’t allowed to actually enslave anyone. Hence, the ships that went to get slaves in West Africa went loaded with goods like glass beads in order to purchase the slaves. That was the moral loophole: it was wrong to enslave someone, but if they were already enslaved you were under no obligation to free them. There was therefore no problem with buying up slaves enslaved by the kingdoms in West Africa and using them in plantations of the Caribbean and mines of South America. We simply didn’t believe that the our moral order was a universal thing, and so moral questions were in a sense bounded geographically.

      • And AJB, how does your last sentence play out today in the CoE? Moral relativism applied as an absolute, over time, space and place, universally? Except where it morally, pragmatically, inconvenient?

      • Bartolome de las Casas made the case against slavery in the New World already in the Vallodid Debate in 1550-51. The opposition of the Catholic Church to slavery was early and is presented in Edward Feser’s ‘All One in Christ’, the best short rebuttal of ‘critical race theory’ available.
        Welby and Cottrell are always trying to appease Guardian readers, as well as giving ‘Maxine Waters’ whatever she demands (while Anglicanism collapses in Canterbury archdiocese). Both sides are profoundly ignorant of history and a good grasp of applied ethical reasoning. As well as reading Feser, they should have a look at Nigel Biggar’s ‘What’s Wring With Rights’ and ‘Colonialism’.

  20. Thanks for opening up this discussion, Ian.

    I’ve just read the Report and was taken aback by how different it is from the impression I got from many of the comments on this blog. I may not agree with it all but it isn’t anywhere near as bad as I was expecting. Imperfect certainly, but wholly worthy of the damning reviews it’s received? I think not.

    Just to add to the discussion: there’s a very helpful lecture and Q and A with Jeremy Black, on The Economics of Slavery at:
    And here he discusses the nature of historical understanding: The section at 3 minutes 40 secs is especially helpful and, I think, relates to the importance of an historical perspective on theological understanding.

    John Barclay, NT Professor at Durham, wrote a good, brief article on the Anti-slavery movement in the UK way back in 2007 in the Expository Times, 119(1), 3-14: “Am I not a Man and a Brother?’ The Bible and the British Anti-Slavery Campaign.” It’s not easy to get hold of but worth reading.

    There’s a fascinating review of a book about the influence of evangelical officers in the Navy in the Nelson era at: which makes it clear how the seriousness of Wilberforce and Co found expression on board ship including through support for the abolition of slavery.
    A couple of comments on the initial blog post.

    I wonder if Niall Gooch is also guilty of the same kind of simplistic historical judgement as he accuses the Report of when he writes, ‘The economic power that underpinned our time as global hegemon was largely the result not of dark deeds or plunder, but of our innovative, free and dynamic economy and political stability.’ Sounds like it was all our own unambiguous work. It was actually a much more complex pattern of causes and antecedents than that. It included the factors he mentions but also many others, such as some ‘dark deeds and plunder’ (e.g. Clive in India), the exploitation of vast numbers of poorly paid workers in Britain, the mistakes of our competitors such as France and a good deal of luck. He’s simplifying economic history. Jeremy Black’s work emphasises the great complexity of historical processes and the unpredictable contingency of events rather than reducing them to a set of simple and limited causes in the way that Gooch does.

    Although many Christian voices were raised against the slave trade and the use of slave labour there were also many Christian voices, including Nelson’s, that supported slavery using biblical arguments. (A great example of how the Bible can be read so differently in different eras.) In Lancaster, for example, the fourth largest slave trading port in England, wealthy local Quaker families were deeply involved in financing slaving ships until well into the nineteenth century. Quakers were not always universally opposed to slavery. Some then joined the Church of England and were memorialised on the walls of churches in the City. (The Lancaster Meeting House has recently recognised this evil.) John Barclay’s article makes a good case for a change of heart among many Christians by about 1800, but it was a change of heart, from being unquestioning and untroubled for the most part by slavery and largely ignorant of its realities. Many of our forebears really did see slavery as unproblematic and the Church went along with this. However, before rushing to judgement on them we all need to be aware that we today almost certainly hold attitudes that future generations will come to see as unchristian or immoral or absurd or prejudiced, or all of these and more. What one generation accepts unquestioningly as valid can quickly look less certain or even plain wrong to a subsequent one. So I think one of the lessons in humility we can all learn from the Church’s sad involvement in the slave trade, however small or large, is that we have to recognise that it is very difficult to see our own culturally conditioned assumptions and we may simply be wrong in our seemingly well founded views on current topics. There’s no culture-free place to speak from.

    But again, thanks for opening this up and provoking a lively debate.

  21. I agree with Ian.

    The original report was bad, this latest report confirms it.

    Reading the reports you’d think Queen Anne’s Bounty was derived from slave trading or that this was a major source of Church income. Both are flatly untrue. Queen Anne’s Bounty came from a tax on clergy income (the First Fruits and Tenths) which Queen Anne said the Crown no longer needed and instead repurposed to supporting the poorest clergy (all this back when Church assets were held by rectors and vicars before the Church Commissioners came along, hence the clergy had “livings” of land and property they rented out which provided them with an income). Those administering the Bounty started to invest to provide more stable income streams, and the primary “investment” other than purchasing land in the UK was the UK national debt. And that is how the Bounty ended up with shares in the South Sea Company – that was how you held British government debt, and handling government debt was by far and away the Company’s primary activity. And once in the 19th century you were able to hold debt directly, you see the Bounty divesting out of the South Sea Company and into government bonds itself.

    It is puzzling that this activity is rhetorically justified as being reparations for slavery, but the report itself tries to say that it isn’t. And in any case, the 35,000 slaves transported by the South Sea Company didn’t go to the Caribbean. They ended up in Spanish America – Colombia, Panama, and Mexico. Nowhere in this report is there any suggestion of doing anything for the actual descendants of the actual slaves we’re talking about.

    It’s hard to avoid the fear that what is being proposed is a grift. Take a lump of money, put the “right people” in charge who are well-connected, and have them dispensing the money to other “right people” in lots of little packages that no one can really see. So we get discussion about “commercially viable solutions” to “address historical wounds”, but no discussion at all about whether there might be particular challenges to small island economies that were originally built to grow and export sugar (and don’t do that anymore) or particular challenges to economic opportunity in cities or understanding why Hackney and Tower Hamlets struggle even when Canary Wharf is on their doorstep.

    And then we get to the theology, which is a travesty. The report authors call for the Church to apologise for “seeking to destroy diverse African traditional belief systems”, ask for research into “spiritual traditions in Africa” to enable “a fresh dialogue between African traditional belief systems and the Gospel” so that people can “discover the varied belief systems and spiritual practices of their forebears and their efficacy”. That a Bishop has put their name to this is shocking.

    • … so the ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ sketch ‘ the devil – is he all bad?’ may have been a joke at the time, but accurately depicts huge swathes of the C. of E. of today.

      • If we’re talking about a body of opinion that doesn’t include me or Ian, is it really “huge swathes of the CofE”?

        • Surely it is about the weight of opinion. Not all opinion carries the same weight. Not all opinion is based on objectively weighing the same body of evidence. Not all evidence is reliable.

          BTW AJB, thanks for the additional information. Is it reliable?

          • Thanks, Geoff for your response. No reference to Don Cupitt was intended and as it happens I have no sympathy with his views. And I wasn’t claiming that slavery and the current debates on sexuality are equivalents; actually I didn’t mention sexuality at all. I was drawing a lesson for myself from the tragic experience of the slave trade – that it’s difficult to be absolutely certain that seemingly obvious views on a topic (e.g. on slavery , in the past women and men having different roles in Church life and ordained ministry) that have been unquestioned for a long time won’t need to be revised in 50, 100 or more years’ time. They might not, but we can’t always be sure in advance. That’s unsettling for all of us (including me) whatever our views because we have to commit ourselves today in good faith, challenge and remain in communion with those we disagree with, and at the same time recognise our limitations. And, self-reflexively, that applies to what I’ve just written!

          • Thanks, Tim.
            I have no idea of your views on ssm/b, but moral relativism is an underpinning theme alongside a subjective reading and interpretation and understanding of scripture, in revisionism in general. AJB whose views have been expounded on this site advocating scriptural/doctrinal revision pulls in the question of geographical relativism, (above) relating to slavery.
            And, the question of worship and local, geographical gods can be reduced, in part, to the relativism of pluralism which is contrary to the exclusive yet inclusive claims of Christianity for all peoples, tongues, tribes, nations.
            In a former job in the NHS a colleague, a son of a tribal chief in the Congo responded to a Local Authority colleague who was embarrassed and apologised for imperial expansion, by saying he wouldn’t have become a converted Christian without it. (The expansion in fact was by Belgium, and he was strongly Roman Catholic!). Delightfully, we had more in common, than I had with unbelieving colleagues.
            The cultural sea we swim in is knowable, as are its roots, influences and influences. As Christians, we are to measured it all, objectively, from our God who has revealed himself and is knowable in His transcendence and immanence, even as He is outside of time.
            The title of this article poses a question. I have not read the report. Most of the comments here seem to seek to answer the question without direct reference to the report.

          • Tim Evans – I’d say that I have sympathy with Geoff’s (mis)reading of what you wrote. Firstly – yes – some Christians really have misunderstood some fundamental things – for example, King David taking many wives which does not correspond to the ideal set out in Genesis 2 and the author of 1,2 Samuel has pointedly communicated to us that many of his difficulties were caused by the resulting strife within his own family caused by this. But the document, taken as a whole, does show some very serious misunderstanding of what ‘penitence’, repentance is all about.

            As I’ve indicated above, I strongly believe in the ‘from each according to his means to each according to his needs’ principle, if there are families whose fortune is based on ill gotten gains, these families should be trying to get rid of the ‘family fortune’ in a way that generally does good and in particular to benefit any victims. Wealth built on slavery is a good example. I also strongly believe that money is like manure – if you spread it around it can do a lot of good; if you pile it up, then it stinks.

            But the report taken as a whole is basically racist. Yes – Black Africans were subject to abuse; there were other victims of the evil Anglo-Saxon empire; what about the way that Iraq got absolutely trashed in the war 20 years ago? Why not some fund that more generally tries to do something about the wrongs perpetrated by the evil Anglo-Saxon empire?

            Most importantly, I always thought that ‘penitence’ was something I was supposed to do about my *own* sins. I have sinned; I should repent of my sins. We should abhor the sins perpetrated by our forefathers, but describing this as ‘penitence’ or ‘repentance’ gives a whole new meaning to the word. Jesus took my sins upon himself and it is through his crucifixion that my sins are forgiven; as far as I am aware, Jesus was the only person qualified to take on himself the sins of others in this way. So there is something extraordinary here about the use of language in this report – as if the people in the current C. of E. leadership are actually qualified to ‘apologise’ for the attitudes and deeds of their ancestors.

            For example – I am somewhat anti-Zionist; I regard the events (again, basically the workings of the evil Anglo-Saxon empire) that made the re-constitution of the state of Israel in the Palestine as an atrocity. Anton, who contributes here frequently, would strongly disagree with me on this. Am I allowed to apologise on his behalf for his views on this matter? I’m sure that he would quite rightly take offence if I did.

            So I don’t really understand at all what they mean by ‘apologise’ and ‘penitence’ (the point that AJ Bell pointed to – paragraphs 32 and 33).

    • AJB – very interesting details here – and virtually none of it in the report from the C of E that I have read. They do mention that the 35,000 slaves went to South America, so there is no connection with the West Indies. Can you please reference where you got this information about Queen Anne’s Bounty, the South Seas Company and National Debt from?

      If what you say is correct, it’s like saying that I, as a UK taxpayer, am funding abortion and arms purchases, which is technically true but not something I have a choice in or for which I am morally liable. Thanks for further information.

  22. Re Tim Evans.
    There seems to be an oblique allusion here to the canard well used by ssm/b proponents which pays no heed to the tracing of Western atheistic cultural sexual morality of the last 5 minutes in history (Cupitt’s Sea of Faith in which we, in seeming denial but knowingly, swim ). Slavery is a false equivalent.

  23. For the record, on 14 March the Church of England posted the following under the heading ‘No apology for spreading the gospel around the world’. (This is at

    “This recommendation addresses complex matters of history and theology and can be interpreted in a variety of ways but we do not believe it calls for the Church of England to apologise for spreading the Christian gospel around the world. However, we need to be transparent that appalling abuses took place in the past, supposedly in God’s name, which have absolutely nothing in common with the gospel of God’s love. For 2,000 years Christians have sought to share the gospel around the world, as Jesus commissioned his disciples to do, and will continue to do so.”

    The original recommendation is quoted in Ian Paul’s post above.

  24. Emphatic no; how long do we have to prostrate / apologies / carry out sackcloth and ashes?

    Charity begins at home etc.

    Give clergy a decent rate of pay, ditto with retired clergy, provide more financially for clergy widows/widowers, fix the issues with church buildings, vicarages, and clergy retirement property.


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