British Baptists head to Jamaica with slave trade apology

A delegation representing British Baptists is travelling to Jamaica this Thursday to apologise to Jamaican Baptists for the transatlantic slave trade.

During their stay, the delegation will have the opportunity to meet Jamaican Baptists and worship in their churches as well as seeing some of the locations which are inextricably bound up with their history.

The Rev Jonathan Edwards, Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) General Secretary, said, “The decision to offer an apology for the transatlantic slave trade was an historic moment for the Baptist Union Council.

"In the statement that was agreed at that meeting it was clearly stated that this was just the start of a journey. Taking the apology to Jamaica in person seemed to many people a vital step on the journey and it is my privilege to participate in it.

"I very much look forward to meeting our brothers and sisters in the Jamaican Baptist Union and hope that we will learn a great deal more about one another through the week that we share together.”

Plans are in place for the UK team to share in two worship experiences on Sunday, at which time space will be given for the apology to be made and a plaque to be handed over.

The Rev Dr Alistair Brown, General Director of BMS World Mission, is part of the delegation.

“BMS worked in Jamaica among slaves and stood with them against slavery. But Baptists in Britain were slower than we should have been to take a decisive stand, and I’m very sorry about that," he said. "It matters now to stand shoulder to shoulder with Caribbean sisters and brothers, acknowledging failures and rejoicing in Christian fellowship.”

The trip follows the commemoration of the bicentenary last year of the passing of the act to abolish the slave trade in the British Parliament in 1807.

Some disappointment was expressed that British Baptists had not offered an apology for the slave trade during the Baptist World Alliance annual gathering in Ghana, which led to a number of letters in the Baptist Times.

A major discussion at the November session of the Baptist Union Council followed. It became a profound experience for Council members and resulted in a unanimously agreed resolution offering an ‘apology to God and to our brothers and sisters for all that has created and still perpetuates the hurt which originated from the horror of slavery’.

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