In a heartfelt endeavor, the Church of Scotland is preparing to issue an official apology and release a statement acknowledging its historical involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.
On behalf of the church, the Faith Impact Forum has meticulously compiled a comprehensive “Legacies of Slavery Report,” delving into the church’s participation during a significant 131-year period spanning from the Act of Union in 1707 to the abolition of slavery in the West Indies during the 1830s.
The report courageously sheds light on the uncomfortable truth that some ministers and elders of the Church of Scotland inherited wealth derived from relatives who owned slave plantations. Additionally, certain church edifices erected memorials honoring individuals who profited from the pain and suffering of enslaved people during the abhorrent slave trade.
The church organization itself holds custodianship of a financial fund connected to the compensation disbursed to a family economically affected by the abolition of slavery.
With a keen sense of responsibility, the General Assembly, entrusted with the church’s governance, is currently seeking input from the broader fellowship in preparation for delivering a comprehensive statement addressing this pressing issue at a future assembly meeting.
During a recent gathering of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, Rev. Karen Hendry, the convener of the Faith Impact Forum, graciously acknowledged the global nature of their faith community, expressing gratitude for the shared experiences of believers from diverse backgrounds and regions.
Recognizing the immense value of these broad ecumenical connections, Rev. Hendry stated, “They provide us not only with opportunities for mutual support and collaboration but also with the space for introspection, acknowledging and regretting aspects of our church’s past.”
The Legacies of Slavery report serves as a tangible manifestation of this historical reckoning. It serves as a humble acknowledgment of the need to contemplate and offer sincere apologies.
However, this significant step forward requires further diligence and meticulous preparation, prompting the forum to humbly request the assembly’s agreement on this matter.
This report serves as a vital resource, enhancing our understanding of the intricate relationship between chattel slavery and the Church of Scotland, as well as the enduring ramifications of this deplorable practice.
By presenting this report, we affirm our unwavering commitment to actively combat racism within our church community. It is crucial to stress that this report does not assign blame to present-day individuals for the actions of the past. Instead, it underscores that racism is a sin, emphasizing the equal dignity that all humans possess in the eyes of God.
It is our sincere hope that through education and awareness, church members will gain a deeper comprehension of our historical connections to slavery. Rather than removing church memorials commemorating those who benefited from slavery, we aim to repurpose them as tools for informing and educating congregations about our shared history.
Furthermore, the report unreservedly acknowledges that the pernicious influence of chattel slavery, where human beings were unjustly treated as legal property, perpetuated a distorted worldview that deemed black individuals inferior to their white counterparts.
Rev. Sandy Horsburgh, a minister of St Nicholas Buccleuch in Dalkeith, Midlothian, warmly praised the report, emphasizing the lasting impact of racism in our society. He commended the Faith Impact Forum and expressed gratitude to the report’s authors for unveiling hidden truths that demand our attention and understanding. Through this report, we gain a clearer perspective on our cities, our society, our Church, and ultimately ourselves.
As part of the apology process, local churches will be encouraged to explore and uncover the history of slavery in their respective areas. Additionally, church members will unite in celebrating Racial Justice Sunday every February, wholeheartedly committed to combating racism and dismantling racial injustice within our midst.