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Bishop of Croydon to lead Church Commissioners’ group on how to make amends for slavery profits

24 July 2023

Sam Atkins/Church Times

The Bishop of Croydon, Dr Rosemarie Mallett, addresses the General Synod in York, earlier this month

The Bishop of Croydon, Dr Rosemarie Mallett, addresses the General Synod in York, earlier this month

THE Bishop of Croydon, Dr Rosemarie Mallett, is to chair the Church Commissioners’ advisory group on managing the £100-million “impact investment fund” that is being grown to mitigate long-term consequences of their endowment’s connection with the transatlantic slave trade.

The fund was announced by the Commissioners in January (News, 23 January), in response to its own research (News, 17 June 2022). Profits would be used to provide grants to “address some of the past wrongs” of the Church of England’s links to the slave trade through Queen Anne’s Bounty, the early- 18th-century fund set up to support poor Anglican clergy, it said.

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said at the time that the fund, to be built over almost a decade, would be overseen by a new body, whose membership would be “largely drawn from people from the global South”. As with the Commissioners’ other funds, actual investment decisions would be made by investment managers, he said.

On Monday, the Commissioners announced the members of this oversight group. Their recruitment, it says, was “an open and transparent process”.

Born in Barbados, the chair, Dr Mallett grew up in the UK and received a BA from the University of Sussex in 1981, and later a Ph.D. from the University of Warwick, in 1994. Before being ordained deacon in 2004, she was a research sociologist and academic, specialising in international development and ethno-cultural mental health.

The vice-chair is to be Geetha Tharmaratnam, who is the chief impact investment officer of the WHO Foundation. She has 20 years’ experience in private equity, venture capital, development finance, impact investing, and insurance in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. As Senior Investment Adviser to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, she developed a fund-of-funds to invest in female African investors.

Other members with investment experience include Roy Swan, director of mission investments at The Ford Foundation; Tara Sabre Collier, director of impacting investing and sustainable finance at Chemonics UK; and the author and philanthropy adviser Derek Bardowell, who is chief executive of Ten Years’ Time, which “helps ambitious donors and foundations to repair harm and rebalance power by resourcing racial and economic justice”.

Legal experience comes from the director of Soul Law, Dr Esther Stanford-Xosei, who is also the principal executive director of the Maangamizi Educational Trust and a reparations specialist at the University of Edinburgh, and the barrister Priscellia Robinson, who is a founding member and head of Queens Court Chambers in London.

Membership also includes the social commentator and political activist Patrick Vernon, and two journalists: Alex Renton, author of Blood Legacy and co-founder of the Heirs of Slavery Group, and Jonathan Guthrie, head of Lex, the daily column on global capital in the Financial Times.

The writer and historian Dr Christienna Fryar, and the Professor of Imperial and Global History at King’s College London, Dr Richard Drayton, will contribute their academic experience, alongside the theologians Canon Anderson Jeremiah, a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion at Lancaster University, and Canon Michael Clarke, Principal of Codrington College, Barbados.

The Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, chairs the sub-group of the Commissioners’ board which is focused on this work.

He said on Monday: “I am pleased to welcome the wealth of expertise in this new oversight group which will give advice to the board as we work together to create a better future for all. Transatlantic chattel slavery is an appalling evil, whose consequences still affect society today, and we have a responsibility to respond to our historic links. We take seriously our commitment to do that collaboratively, listening widely, with sensitivity and accountability.”

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