The Queen Anne’s Bounty was a fund established in 1704 to help support impoverished clergy in England. It invested heavily in the South Sea Company. The company held a monopoly on transporting enslaved people from Africa to Spanish-controlled ports in the Americas. According to the Church of England, between 1714 and 1739 the company transported 34,000 people on at least 96 voyages. The call for restitution has been a long-term one. That the Church of England is only responding now says a few things which I don’t have the space here to raise.

But I submit that the manner in which the church goes about this does not in any way amount to restitution. This is not how restitution is done, at least as explained in the holy book the church uses, and by the African custom. It’s Africa that’s wronged. Once Africa isn’t brought into this no restitution takes place. It’s donation to Black communities in the United Kingdom the Church of England is doing and I explain. First, that the church is spending £100m in Black communities in the UK means it’s only keen to do what is politically correct. It’s taking the path of least resistance; of course no English man will criticise any spending in England. That’s not restitution.

Also, by the teaching of the church, restitution follows repentance. However, what the church is doing now comes after the schism precipitated by the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s happening after the reaction of people even on university campuses against former slave traders whose statutes were toppled. The church appears to be doing this because of public opinion against its involvement, not because it’s repentant. This is given away in the other actions it’s taking. That’s not restitution. Now, I don’t make unfounded allegations when I interrogate an issue. I always pick what actually happens and debate it. So I pick each of the issues that have been in the public space about what the church is doing.

The church initially sets aside £100m. An independent group says this is insufficient when placed side by side with the wealth the church has, as well as “the moral sin and crime of African chattel enslavement.” The group says the amount to be spent should be raised to £1bn. The church’s response is that it won’t. Take note that the church has £10bn stacked up for itself. But descendants of the people from whose misery it made part of the money are not deserving of tenth of the amount. The church cares more about its material comfort than making up for this calamity it perpetrated on the human beings for which it has a “go ye” commission.

The ships and traders who made money for the church came to Africa and left miseries behind, depopulating the continent, taking the productive generation out for profit. However, when the church wants to restitute, Africa isn’t mentioned, no consultations with Africa are done, and nothing is sent to the continent. The church takes from Africa but it is in Europe it is returning it. Does that sound like restitution to the clergy in the Church of England? I doubt. But society has become such that those who doubt aren’t bold enough to speak up. It’s a manifestation in many churches everywhere; concern is more for the comfort of the church, it’s less about the people – the reason the church exists.

The Church of England is asking others to contribute to the funds it’s expending in Black communities.  One of those who made the £1bn recommendation said the church “can do this, others should join in.” I submit that the church is passing its responsibility to others. It’s sharing its guilt around. The church benefitted from the Queen Anne’s Bounty but it wanted those who didn’t share in it to make restitution. It’s turning this into a contributory fund, not what it soberly takes out of its treasury and gives back to those from whom it took savagely. Is this the kind of restitution the holy book that the church uses recommends? Is this acceptable to Africa that’s the victim?

Though the Church of England isn’t calling what it’s doing exactly by that name, restitution is provided for in the holy book it uses: “If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft. If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—he must pay back double”, and many more of such.  Parts of the same holy book cover other situations in which a stolen property is restored, plus one-fifth of the value. Here, of note in Leviticus 6:2-5 is that the restitution is to be made to the owner of the property (not to the government or any other third party). The Church of England invites a third party to restitute for it. It’s giving what it took to a third party i.e. English cities in England, not Africa. That’s not restitution. In the Old Testament, another pattern in restitution is stated thus: “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”

Has the church complied with the general guidelines stated in the holy book it uses? It accepts responsibility for only 25 years (1714 and 1739) out of hundreds of years during which the transatlantic slave trade happened. The church held a monopoly but now says it made money from the sale of just 34,000 Africans even as British historian James Walvin says the British shipped more than three million Africans to the plantations. With £100m it wants to spend, does the church meet “double”, “fourfold” or restore “the stolen property”, “plus one-fifth of the value” to “the owner” as the holy book it uses states? The manner the church singlehandedly goes about this indicates it’s not bothered about Africa. It’s not interested in doing to the letter what the holy book it uses instructs. For the church, this is “take it or leave it” situation. Recently, I undertook an extensive tour of Badagry, Lagos State, Nigeria, one of the places where Africans were finally taken out to the Americas. I was shocked on seeing the instruments used, how humans were treated with savagery and the church approved it. This origin of the victims is what the church leaves out of what it considers as restitution.

How restitution is done according to African custom is what I should turn to next. This is important because restitution isn’t about how the church feels it should be done but how the victims believe it should be done. Restitution that is properly done is one that is satisfactory to the victims, and there’s a way Africans handle such. It speaks to sense that proper restitution which takes place centuries after the event requires negotiation and amicable resolutions between the victim and the church. I’m sure the clergy in the Church of England would agree with me that once the victim says it’s pleased, divinity also accepts restitution as done. Nonetheless, I leave details of African custom regarding restitution aside.

The church wanted to spend the amount it chose, not what those who did the assessment said was appropriate. It’s calling others to join it as though those others do not have their own individual restitution to make with their faith and Africa. The church has turned this into a community effort, asking for contributions even though the holy book the church uses makes it clear that it is each entity to its burden. The manner the church goes about this shows it’s donating to a segment within the Black communities in the UK. The church isn’t restituting to the people of Africa, and in Africa. What it’s doing neither meets the standard in its holy book nor the custom of the people who suffer the consequences of what it took unjustly.