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Submitted by Imai Thomas Welch
6th article in a series

What is “BIPOC”? BIPOC is an acronym for “Black, Indigenous, and other Peoples of Colour”. It’s an umbrella term for all non-White peoples. Even if there are many different communities within the BIPOC umbrella, we share many of the same challenges and concerns about things like racism and diversity. In this series, I’m going to provide some information and trivia about BIPOC peoples. 

As we’ve talked about in past articles, Black people have been in the Anglican Church for centuries. They have built up the Church and continue to build up the Church. They have also suffered and continue to suffer racism in the Church. 

One of the ugliest forms of anti-Black racism that has ever existed is slavery. The Anglican Church, like many organisations, was divided over the issue of slavery. Many Anglicans were deeply opposed to slavery, while many other Anglicans benefited from slavery and defended it. So, a question about slavery: 

Did the Anglican Church own slaves? 

Yes, both directly and indirectly. 

We know the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (the Church of England’s missionary arm) owned the Codrington Plantations in Barbados, enslaving and even branding thousands of Black people. The Society continued to enslave people at Codrington until slavery ended in the British Empire in 1838. The Society also received the equivalent of millions of dollars in compensation for the “loss” of their slaves. 

We also know that at the time slaves were freed in the British Empire in 1838, a number of Anglican clergy received compensation for slaves they owned on Caribbean plantations. This compensation also amounted to the equivalent of millions of dollars. There is also evidence the Church of England knowingly invested in at least one company involved in slave trading. 

In the Episcopal Church in the United States, numerous clergy and bishops, and even parishes, directly owned slaves in both the northern and southern states.