Is the Church of England racist?

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In May, after seven years in office, Dr. Elizabeth Henry held her position as a national advisor on Anglican minority ethnic concerns. Dr. Henry has paired the kind of wisdom with fearlessness that I and other anti-racism activists hope we will grow into someday. She commands respect and speaks with a passionate conviction that is contagious.

Telling the truth to power is a term she tells me she doesn't like, but it describes exactly what makes her good. In her farewell words on the last day of her position in the Church of England, however, she wrote that she would leave with mixed feelings.

She had had the "great honor of traveling with sisters and brothers who dedicated their extraordinary gifts to improving the life of the Church and society as a whole." In her years as a national advisor to the Church Committee for Anglican Ethnic Minorities (CMEAC), she had some great moments. She tells me of her pride in participating in the installation of Bishop of Dover, Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, at Canterbury Cathedral in November, and at the "Windrush at 70" National Thanksgiving Service at Westminster Abbey in June 2018.

When she left her position in the Church, Dr. Henry, however, "frustrated and worried," she said.

“I believe that in principle, but not in practice, there is a willingness to fight racism, increase representation and really work to increase the sense of belonging to ethnic minorities in church and society in the UK. and so the progress is unfortunately painfully slow. "

If anyone had been able to make a radical difference in the Church of England's racial problem, Dr. Henry – a former CEO of Race on the Agenda (ROTA) – was the one. Although there have been some notable successes in their day, the Church of England lags far behind other national institutions when it comes to representing and practicing racial equality.

This is not a convenient place to be in history at this special moment. After George Floyd's death in Minneapolis in May, companies, organizations and institutions in various sectors and around the world had to re-investigate racial injustice and the predominance of whites in their midst after the global tragedy triggered by the United States tragedy.

This will not be the first time that the Church of England has reviewed its track record in the race. It has been 14 years since the General Synod decided to apologize for the Church's contribution to maintaining the transatlantic slave trade. This month, a new analysis of a University College London database found that nearly 100 clergy benefited from the trade in selling and treating black people as property in the most barbaric way (News, June 26).

It is no surprise that the Church has been involved in racist practices in the past. It was many of the nation's great institutions, and the sins of colonialism that Britain has propagated for centuries mean that its history has been intertwined with these injustices for centuries.

The question is, however, why white supremacy has permeated the church to this day. By white domination I mean the omnipresent, but often unconscious, idea that white is better or better that comes to every congregation in the country through monochrome church leadership: the complicated interweaving of Christianity with English that still echoes in our colonial past.

HOW Rev. Azariah France-Williams – an Anglican priest – writes in his new book Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England: “If the status attributed to whiteness is not examined, the white historical church becomes both aware Continue working unconsciously Limit the voice, action and influence of your non-white members. . . Critical whiteness studies are an instrument to open the sealed can of white male dominance that is expressed in the synod, in theological colleges, and in churches. "

Perhaps this deep and pervasive fundamental problem of white domination has led to the paralysis in which the Church finds itself. Nevertheless, church officials know that something needs to be done about race. It seems that the question of whether the Church has a racial problem is not up for debate.

At the General Synod in February, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the church was "still deeply institutional racist" and was ashamed of its history. Synod members supported a motion to apologize for church racism since the arrival of the windrush generation and voted to stamp out conscious or unconscious racism in its midst (News, February 14; General Synod Digest, 21. February).

PAFormer National Advisor on Anglican Minority Affairs, Dr. Elizabeth Henry

Of course, there have been many excuses for the Church's records in the past: its complicity with slavery and empire, and prejudice against the windrush generation. There have been many senior Church of England officials who have identified the Church's appalling track record of racial justice. But the excuses are always accompanied by a feeling of déjà vu. We have been here before. So what happens now?

Many people realize that there has been much talk, but now is the time to go beyond talking and doing something. Becky Clark, director of the Archbishop's Council for Cathedrals and Churches, said in a statement in response to the Black Lives Matter movement: "We recognize that dialogue alone is not enough and must have real results" (News, June 19). .

The Church, too, must take action to advance progress on racial justice. But why does the church still seem to be in dialogue and not in the act of doing it?

There are few institutions that have as many affiliated bodies dedicated to racial justice and representation as the Church of England. and yet the progress of the church remains painfully slow. CMEAC has worked tirelessly for 30 years to increase the representation of Black, Asian, and Ethnic Ethnic (BAME) Anglicans at all levels of the Church. In the meantime, the Anglican Minority-Ethnic Network (AMEN) was established in 2016, dealing with similar issues of diversity and representation within the Church of England, with a particular focus on leadership. Although this group "has the blessings of CMEAC", it is neither formal nor part of the Church of England.

Few people can answer the question why – despite many activities in the area of ​​diversity within the Church – there are only a few visible steps to better representation. Like Dr. Henry noted that it may be a "readiness in principle but not in practice" within the Church and its top leadership.

When respected academic professor Gus John resigned from CMEAC before the last general election after Archbishop Welby Rabbi Epbiim Ephraim Mirvis publicly criticized in the Times of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labor Party, he identified one of the possible reasons for the advisory body to be ineffective over the decades.

In his resignation letter, he wrote: “A major obstacle to CMEAC's ability to bring about change is to insist on leadership within the Church to act as usual and to apply Gilead's balm to the pain and suffering of people due to racism pour instead of taking responsibility to anchor it deeply in the crusted culture and structure of the Church. "

In a damned charge against the church's track record of racism, he continued: "Perhaps a kind soul Justin Welby could advise that those who occupy stained-glass houses should perhaps be a little more careful when sharing stones with others Throw. ”

Despite the existence of bodies such as CMEAC and AMEN, the Church recognizes that its track record of diversity and inclusion is unfortunate. Since the resignation of the former Archbishop of York, Dr. Sentamu, there hasn't been a single BAME diocesan bishop in the Church of England in the past month. There are only a handful of suffragan or area bishops: the Bishop of Bradwell, Dr. John Perumbalath; the Bishop of Dover, Rt. Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin; the suffragan bishop in Europe, the pastor David Hamid; the Bishop of Loughborough, Dr. Guli Francis-Dehqani; and the Bishop of Woolwich, Dr. Karowei Dorgu. There are no diocesan secretaries and principals from Anglican theological colleges with black and ethnic backgrounds.

After Mr. Floyd's death and subsequent protests against Black Lives Matter, senior Church of England clergymen made bold public statements online and on social media to help those at the forefront of the race for racial justice.

Dr. Sanjee Perera, who has just completed a research study into how the Church of England races, has posted a message on Twitter: “In the past few months, I have heard more about the Church of England about racism than I have in the past ten years. That may be a naive optimism, but I'm so encouraged to hear Justin Welby speak out against the dominance of the whites. "

It remains to be seen whether Mr Floyd's death will prove to be a Kairos moment for the Church. But in the meantime, some are watching and waiting for what's next. The Reverend Dr. Chike Chigor, Chairman of AMEN, said to me: "I think it's wonderful that people have spoken. The question is, what will they do about it? This is the time for concrete action. I would prefer if they do something before they say anything. Let's see actions before we hear more words. "

It was time for the Church of England to put her money where her mouth was. The time for dialogue was over and the time for real action was now. In its analysis, the Church of England lags behind racial and diversity issues compared to secular organizations because it wrongly believes that there is an increased sense of morality in the Church: there is this misconception that the Church will do so the right thing.

It is clear that there are other non-church institutions that are far ahead on this issue. Dr. Chigor believes that the Church has been protected from legal requirements that force institutions to implement anti-discrimination practices. “The church has given the government room to make its own decisions. This is one of the reasons why we fell behind. "

He believes that in addition to learning from the examples of secular organizations to make progress in the Church, the processes of calling, training, and appointment need to be completely revised.

Bishops are the key, he believes. He suggests that the bishops' staff teams should have at least one ethnic minority employee. When it comes to appointments, interview panels should have at least one member of an ethnic minority. In the meantime, every diocese should ask whether it reflects the population.

All of this should be part of a comprehensive review of the Church's institutional racism, which should include recommendations on the concrete steps that could be taken: “We should aim for greater diversity and then work backwards to see how we achieve it can. "

Dr. Chigor refers to the 2014 report on racial discrimination in the NHS, Snowy White Peaks, which showed that BAME employees were underrepresented at a high level. He says this is the kind of work that would need to be done to assess the current picture within the Church of England and create a meaningful action plan.

The parallel is close: prior to the report, the NHS had also had several moments in its history dealing with racial discrimination. Snowy White Peaks came ten years after the Race Equality Action Plan (2004) and found that despite good intentions, not much had changed.

Sam Atkins / Church TimesA largely monochrome general synod welcomes the outgoing Archbishop of York, Dr. Sentamu, in February

Dr. Chigor is confident that deliberate changes can occur quickly. He interviews those who might cite the complicated and bureaucratic nature of the church as the reason for their inaction towards the race. “Compare the Church's lack of progress in racial diversity to the speed with which so many women were appointed to senior positions a few years ago. This shows that the bishops can act if they really want to. "

According to Dr. Chigor, Church of England colleges should also work harder to have more diverse teams of employees. Theological education is an area where advances in racial justice, diversity and inclusion will have an impact that will make a difference for future generations.

Some theological universities are trying to make progress in this area. One ordination candidate in the Diocese of Manchester, who trains at Ridley Hall, Benjamin Brady, told me that the senior team at Ridley Hall was keen to listen to and learn from all BAME students, and proactively tried to raise racial awareness in the next academic area to include curriculum of the year and for years to come.

Mr. Brady said that he had never experienced racism in his Church of England career and had received support from high-ranking clergymen. However, he realized that there was a major problem that needed to be addressed to eradicate systemic racism within church structures. "First and foremost, BAME people need to be heard," he said. "Like many others like me, I'm exposed to racism. That must be heard and tried to be understood. Once voices have spoken and people have listened, changes can be made.

“When it comes to training laypersons and ordained ministers, racial awareness must have priority. in courses, literature and education so that Church leaders become aware of different minorities and cultures and try to learn and have a good understanding of what people experience due to these special circumstances. "

It is still a long way. Another ordination candidate, Augustine Tanner-Ihl, made headlines last month when he shared a curatorial rejection letter he had received amidst public professions by Church of England officials through Black Lives Matter (News, June 12; June 26; June)). He was told: “We are not sure whether there is sufficient agreement between you and the special requirements of this item. The community's population is the monochrome white working class, which you may feel uncomfortable with. "

While there can be several reasons why a person may not get a curia, the fact that a C of E official could give a racist "match" as a reason for not giving someone space in 2020 is exceptional.

Mr. Tanner-Ihm, a Chicago native who recently graduated from Cranmer Hall in Durham, said: “The majority of people in the Church of England are ordinary people. That is the church. Where it becomes racism are the people in management who have mastered unconscious prejudices through the process (selection). It wasn't just an isolated case for me. "

He believes that the Church is still a network of old boys, disadvantaged in those who are not "privately educated men of cis gender".

I ask him if he thought we were at a turning point after Mr. Floyd's death and the Church's apparent willingness to move forward on race issues. "I don't believe anyone. based on their words until they have actions, ”he said. “Belief without action is irrelevant; That is why actions must be preceded by words. "

He believes that in order to make real progress, the Church needs not only will and intent, but also money. “What you value most is in your checkbook. So when it comes to racial diversity and inclusion in the Church of England, I would ask, "What's the budget?"

"When it comes to promoting young people, enlarging churches, protecting them – there is always a budget for that." All of these things are really important. If you believe in this vision of Pentecost and the passage in Revelation that brings together every tribe and language, then effort is required. A church that is separate is not a true testimony of Christ Jesus. "

Despite the racial inequality in the Church of England, there remain committed people – black and white – who are committed to restoring balance. A member of the high-ranking clergy, most often described as an ally on issues of racial justice within the Church, is the incoming Archbishop of York, Rt. Rev. Stephen Cottrell. In his speech at the General Synod last February, he pointed out "a change of heart and a new direction in our determination to fight racism in all its forms and to make it clear that all people are created in the image of God".

The Church of England's transition from "institutional racist" to "anti-racist" is not just a question of political correctness. Belief in the Imago Dei is central to the Christian faith and must lead to equality and dignity for everyone, regardless of their background. If this is central to the Church, this belief must be reflected in every area of ​​their ministry, from theology to appointments of high-ranking clergymen.

The Church of England has not yet hired a new National Advisor on Anglican minority affairs to succeed Henry. I asked her what skills do you think would be needed by anyone who next took over the baton. "Courage, commitment, resilience – and the strength it takes to tell the truth about power," she said.

Chine McDonald is an author, speaker and broadcaster. Your book God is not a white man and other revelations (Hodder Faith) are due to be published next summer.

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