The rejection of racism is for the CofE a "commandment of the gospel"

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The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell

Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell says the Church must oppose racism "in all its forms".

His comments came in an address to a General Synod meeting over the weekend, days after the release of an important report by the Archbishop's Anti-Racism Task Force that challenged decades of inaction against racism despite successive reports and recommendations over the years.

The 47 recommendations in the report include the appointment of full-time racial justice officials of the diocese, as well as short lists for the appointment of high-ranking clergy, including at least one ethnic minority candidate.

In his address to the Synod, Archbishop Cottrell said he had been on a "long journey of learning" as a "privileged white man".

He affirmed that "racism is a sin" and said that it "must be faced with a call to repentance and the healing, reconciling promise of the gospel".

"When George Floyd was murdered last year, his last words were, I can't breathe," he said.

"Those words reverberated around the world and summed up the experience of so many people that they did not have the space to be themselves, to be second-class citizens in someone else's world.

"This is the opposite of belonging and the new humanity that we have in Christ and that the Christian faith proclaims.

"It is therefore a Gospel commandment for the Church of Jesus Christ to oppose racism in all its forms, to prophetically claim racial justice and to challenge the white hegemony that so often still controls the narratives of the world."

The task force's report was released three days after a BBC Panorama documentary was broadcast with black and ethnic clergymen exposing shocking reports of racism and accusing the church of using nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) against them when they complained.

After the program aired, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told Times Radio that he was "appalled" by the use of NDAs.

Archbishop Cottrell responded to Panorama allegations, saying they were "sobering and shameful for the Church of England".

"With Archbishop Justin, I would like to highlight our immediate reaction to the program, namely that confidentiality agreements should only be used in the most exceptional circumstances and then only to protect the victim, not the reputation of the institution," he told Synod.

"We're sorry this hasn't always been the case."

The archbishop said he could not "defend" our record "on racism and could not promise" everything will be fine "unless the church takes urgent action.

"I say that there is racism in the church that needs to be addressed. But no longer with words. We have to do something. We have to become the change we yearn for," he said.

He continued: "The Church of England owes some of our sisters and brothers in Christ a much greater apology than these and for much greater mistakes.

"But most of all, we owe it to the nation we serve and the God we love that we are committed to change at this turning point – the week that George Floyd's killer was tried.

"I am really sorry for my own mistakes. But I want to remind you that one of our strategic goals mentioned is to be a diverse Church. I am determined to make this happen. Because it is a gospel. Because It is the theological vision of our belonging to one another in Christ that drives our mission because we all need to breathe.

"And as we face this question of racial justice, this is itself a movement of the Spirit that breathes God's life of unity and glorious, God-given diversity into the Church of God."

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