Council for World Mission (CWM) has devised a project to explore the legacies after the trans-Atlantic slave trade. There has been a call for some years now from Black communities of the Caribbean, UK and the US for the legacies of the Transatlantic slave trade to be addressed. It has been recognized by the UN. CWM’s own origins as the London Missionary Society lie in this vital period of colonisation and slavery as we were founded before slavery was abolished. CWM came into being in the 1970s as a way to de-colonise the mission relationships of the member churches, and its vision of partnership emerged as a way to dismantle some of the consequences of colonialism. This project is a further part of our being a post-colonial organisation. We are looking to take historical contemporary perspectives, examining the practice of slavery in those settings and how this has continued to shape the realities of the people of that place. In this way the hearings will enable people to voice hurt and anger, and for CWM to discover afresh what post-colonial mission movements need to address.

The initial Legacies of Slavery project took place in 2017 and 2018. It set out with four chief aims:

  • Assess our own story and complicity with the systems of slavery
  • Understand better the urgency of racial justice and the issues which intersect with it
  • Find ways to advocate reparation with our member churches
  • Discover anti-Imperial models of Christian mission in today’s world.

The process

The project included four hearings based in the UK, Ghana, Jamaica and in the US.

The hearings aimed to hear the story of the legacies after slavery of the place and people, share in historical and social analysis, acts of lament and repentance and recommitment.  Each hearing included people from the locality, including where possible CWM members, but especially community voices and analysts to help us understand the persisting realities of slavery and how we can engage together in dismantling these injustices.

The outcomes

A report was written bringing forth 30 recommendations which the CWM Board received in November 2018. The Board then made these commitments in February 2019:

  • The Board welcomes the Legacies of Slavery Report and encourages Management to develop robust responses for the Board to the recommendations. The Board recognises this is the beginning of work which will gather up many related issues and struggles for racial and restorative justice and urges the work to continue and grow and calls on all the member churches to a similar commitment to racial justice together.
  • In the light of the Legacies report the CWM Board names and confesses the complicities of the LMS and CWM in the sinful ways that mission was done and used to justify colonisation, racism and enslavement.  In relation to the transatlantic slave trade, we make our confession in the Spirit of Christ to African and African descendent people and their ancestors for the harm we have caused in the name of Christ.  The CWM Assembly in 2020 provides an opportunity for this and asks the Management to develop a process which prepares the member churches to share in this important moment together.
  • In the company of Christ, the Board offers itself to the tasks of restorative and racial justice and so seeks a restorative process which includes reparation for the extent to which LMS/CWM resources, materials and policies profited from racism and enslavement.
  • To this end the Board will take the necessary steps to agree a sum which properly recognises the extent of our legacies from slavery and create a financial mechanism through which reparation can be made, taking note of the Report’s recommendations.  The Board calls on member churches who also bear similar legacies of slavery to contribute to this work jointly.

CWM is currently working on these outcomes which include developing concrete proposals for practical and financial acts of repentance and reparation, as well as developing programmes that can enact the 30 recommendations from the report and the further thinking which has developed in conversation with the Board and other partners. At the 2021 Assembly, an act of apology and repentance will be shared which will further commit CWM and our member churches to becoming and being intentionally an anti-racist organisation.

The following resources below are recommended for further reading:

Naming the Contemporary & Historic Legacies of Slavery
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Legacies of Slavery Project Position Paper
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Legacies of Slavery Project Core Group Report
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Silent No Longer: The Roots of Racism in Mission
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    For more information, please contact:
    Rev Dr Peter Cruchley
    Mission Secretary: Mission Developemnt

    Rev Dr Michael Jagessar
    Mission Secretary: Europe