29 April 2021, The Tablet

Church of England lays out plan to tackle racism

INCLUSIVITY: Report calls for increased participation by candidates of colour

Church of England lays out plan to tackle racism

Bishop of Chelmsford Guli Francis-Dehqani
YouTube screenshot

Shortlists for top posts in the Church of England should include at least one minority ethnic candidate as part of a raft of measures to address the “alarming” lack of senior clergy of colour, according to a report out last week.

The report, From Lament to Action, published by the Archbishops’ anti-racism task force, added that people responsible for senior appointments should undergo anti-racism recruitment training, and that 30 per cent of nominees for the Church’s leadership training programme should come from ethnic minorities.

The report brought together 47 recommendations that had not been acted upon from decades of previous reports on how the Church could address racism within its ranks. The recommendations, or “actions”, focused on areas of education, training and mentoring, investing in minority ethnic young people and reforming governance structures, as well as increasing the participation in the Church by clergy of colour.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who together commissioned the report, said: “Racism is a sin ... and we are determined to make sure there is no room for it in the Church.

“But it is here. We have seen, time and time again, people being bullied, overlooked, undermined and excluded from the life of the Church, from the family of God. It breaks our hearts, and we are truly sorry.”

The prelates committed to adopting five of the recommendations immediately, which included asking the General Synod to add in ten ethnic minority candidates with full voting rights, inviting ethnic minority clergy to observe House of Bishops meetings until there are six minority clergy members and establishing a racial justice commission to hold the Church and the archbishops to account on racial justice.

Dr Joel Edwards, former director of the Evangelical Alliance, is to chair the commission.

Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani of Chelmsford, the only diocesan bishop of colour, asked by The Tablet whether the report went far enough, replied: “If [the report] doesn’t yet go far enough, it certainly offers us a significant opportunity to take a very large step forward.” She added: “If this is going to be successful, it’s not about a witch-hunt, it’s about working to change culture, and that means allowing open and honest conversations.”

Meanwhile, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published some 119 recommendations as to how the UK Jewish community could improve its record on racial inclusivity. One recommendation was that synagogues “should encourage more Jews in their communities who identify as Black, of colour, or Sephardi, Mizrahi or Yemenite to consider semicha” (ordination).

Board of Deputies president, Marie van der Zyl, said in her foreword: “There is still much work to be done before we become an unequivocally anti-racist environment, that equally embraces all Jews of all ethnicities.”

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