Church repents for slave trade

Published March 1, 2007

The Church of England, in acknowledging its involvement in the slave trade, will take part in an act of repentance by thousands of Anglicans, including its spiritual head, planned for March 24.

Marchers from across Britain are expected to meet in London for a procession led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, the Ugandan-born John Sentamu, organizers said. The march marks 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.

A giant cross will be carried and African drummers will beat a lament for those marching through the British capital. They will pause for reflection at several places before an open air service in London’s Kennington Park. Marchers will be invited to sign a petition calling on the government to take more action to end modern-day slavery in the world.

The Anglican decision to commemorate the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act with an act of “repentance and confession” was taken by the Church of England’s synod in 2006. There, it apologized to the descendants of those held as slaves for the church’s involvement in the trade.

The synod had been told that the church owned a Barbados plantation through its missionary arm, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Foreign Parts, where slaves had been branded with a mark of ownership.

The Church of England’s precise involvement in the trade is still being researched and a church spokesperson told Ecumenical News International that a grant of £50,000 ($115,800 Cdn.) had been received from the National Lottery to undertake a research project for which academics are being recruited.


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