The General Synod of the Church of England apologised last year for its role in the slave trade. The church, through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, once owned the Codrington Plantation in Barbados, where slaves had the word “society” branded on their backs with a red-hot iron.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said: “The body of Christ is not just a body that exists at any one time, it exists across history and we therefore share the shame and the sinfulness of our predecessors and part of what we can do, with them and for them in the body of Christ, is pray for acknowledgement of the failure that is part of us not just of some distant ‘them’.”
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are to lead a procession through London today to mark the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade. They will join a group who have walked 250 miles from Hull (where abolitionist MP William Wilberforce held his Parliamentary seat) in yokes and chains. They will be “freed” by the Archbishop of the West Indies.