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Church of England yet to set up £100m slavery reparations fund after a year

The Bishop of Salisbury, Stephen Lake, said the new fund will be operational by the end of this year
The Bishop of Salisbury, Stephen Lake, said the new fund will be operational by the end of this year - RUSSELL SACH

The Church of England is yet to set up a promised £100 million slavery reparations fund a year after announcing it was “time to take action to address our shameful past”.

The Church said in January last year that the investments into “communities affected by historic slavery” would be “delivered over the nine years commencing in 2023”.

However the Church is still to announce how the fund will work or set a date for when its first investments will be made.

A 2022 report had found that the Church’s £10 billion endowment had partially benefited from 18th century investments in the transatlantic slave trade.

“We hope that the new fund will be operational by the end of this year,” the Rt Rev Stephen Lake, the Bishop of Salisbury, said in a written reply to a question submitted to the General Synod, the Church’s legislative body.

He added: “We are trying to do our very best here in a situation which is in many ways impossible to ever repair.”

The Church denied it had ever planned to start distributing the funds in 2023 and told The Telegraph it rejected “the suggestion of a delay”.

“This work is too important to rush but it is being delivered with care, as planned, in line with our initial announcement,” a spokesperson said.

The £100 million sum represents just three per cent of the £3.6 billion the Church Commissioners, who manage the endowment, expect to distribute in total over the next nine years.

Lasting positive legacy

“The ambition is that the impact investment fund will grow in perpetuity and establish a lasting positive legacy for a wide range of communities,” Bishop Lake said.

“There is also potential for other institutions to participate, further enabling growth in the size and impact of the fund.”

He added: “We identified this sum knowing no amount of money will ever be enough to repair the horrors of the past.”

An independent oversight group is due to publish recommendations for the fund’s operation on March 4 and a timetable for the fund will then be “finalised”.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said when the fund was announced that it was intended to “address past wrongs by investing in a better future”.

But Esther Stanford-Xosei, a reparations activist who is serving on the oversight group which will make the recommendations, criticised the move at the time because the size of the £100 million fund and where it will be spent will not be solely determined by “the descendants of enslaved people”.

A spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said: “The Church Commissioners’ £100 million programme of impact investment, grant-making, research, and engagement set up in response to the shameful findings of our historic links to African chattel enslavement is on track and progressing well – and on March 4 the independent oversight group will publish its recommendations on how we deliver that programme.”