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UK News

Report from Archbishops' Anti-Racism Taskforce warns failure to act could have 'devastating effects' on the future of the Church

by Chantalle Edmunds

The Archbishops' Anti-Racism Taskforce has published its report 'From Lament to Action,' calling for urgent changes within the Church of England.

The report issues a warning to the Archbishops that a failure to act could be a "last straw" for many people of UK Minority Ethnic (UKME) backgrounds with "devastating effects" on the future of the Church.

It sets out 47 specific action areas across five priority areas: participation, governance, training, education and young people. 

The report starts from the premise that racism is a sin and highlights that the church has been discussing the issue for the last 44 years.

The nine-strong Anti-Racism Taskforce group was set up in autumn 2020 with a double remit: to review previous reports relating to racial justice and whether their recommendations had been implemented and to prepare the ground for the establishment of a longer-term Commission on Racial Justice, along with suggesting remit for its work. 

Co-chair of the Anti-Racism Taskforce, Revd Arun Arora has described the report as a "watershed moment" and added that the report is designed to lead to "real and lasting change."

The recruitment of more bishops and senior members of the church from UK minority ethnic backgrounds (UKME) forms a main part of the report, with suggested quotas.

It also highlights the lack of people from UK minority ethnic backgrounds in senior leadership in the Church, noting that the new Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, will be the only UKME diocesan (senior) bishop in the Church of England. 

"In terms of ethnic diversity amongst diocesan bishops, when the new Bishop of Chelmsford takes up office later this year the Church of England will be back where it was 27 years ago. The total number of UKME/GMH bishops can together be counted on one hand (five out of 111). The number of UKME/GMH deans, archdeacons, and senior staff in the National Church Institutions only adds up to a further nine people," the report notes.

"Disregarding a significant part of the population, and thus denying the gifts they bring for the service of the Church, must not continue," the taskforce warns. 

Recruitment proposals include: An expectation that shortlists for jobs in the Church will include at least one appointable UKME candidate - and for more senior roles, right up to bishops, specific requirements to ensure this happens. New approaches to shortlisting and interviewing which place a duty on the employer to improve participation on an "action or explain" basis rather than relying on "bland encouragements" for under-represented groups to apply. Recruitment bodies including the Crown Nominations Commission, which nominates diocesan bishops, should provide "valid, publishable reasons" for failure to include UKME candidates on shortlists.

Clearly defined quotas are also contained in the report. The report suggests The General Synod co-opts 10 UKME candidates (five clergy and five laity) for its next five-year term, which begins this year.

The House of Bishops should invite UKME clergy to become participant observers until there are at least six UKME bishops in the House. Over a quarter (30%) of new intakes on the Strategic Leadership Development Programme, a scheme to support clergy identified as having potential for taking on wider responsibilities, should come from UKME backgrounds, approximately 20 people from a group of 60. The figure is twice the estimated proportion of those who worship in the Church of England designed to begin tackling the current imbalance in the Church's leadership by building up potential supply.

In addition, full-time Racial Justice Officers (RJOs) should be appointed in every diocese - for a five-year term, funded centrally, alongside a new Racial Justice Directorate to oversee implementation of the recommendations of the report.

In addition, the report suggests a range of work for the new Racial Justice Commission including considering how complaints of discrimination and racism can be handled in the future and how churches should respond to historic monuments and buildings of "contested heritage" such as links to slavery. The report calls for a "healthy revision of memory and history in a way that will provide scope for education and formation," rather than attempting to rewrite history or erase the past.

In response the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York said they welcomed the report: "Having scrutinised reports and recommendations from the last 35 years, the Taskforce have identified many things which must change; things which have been called for before and have not been done. We hope we will be the generation to halt this cycle of inaction. We pray for the wisdom, courage and grace to be leaders who will bring real change. Today, we receive all these recommendations and welcome the Taskforce's challenge. We commit to work with colleagues to implement five of their recommendations, detailed below.

1. Work with General Synod to encourage them to co-opt ten ethnic minority candidates, of which five will be clergy and five lay people, to serve as members of the General Synod for the 2021- 2026 Quinquennium. As co-optees, they would serve with full participation and voting rights.

2. Invite ethnic minority clergy observers to attend House of Bishops as participant observers for three-year periods until such time as there are six bishops from ethnic minorities able to sit as members of the House. The process should mirror that used for election of women as participant observers in 2013.

3. Establish a Racial Justice Commission, which we have written to invite the Reverend Dr Joel Edwards to chair. Further details on its composition and work will be made available when finalised.This group will direct their attention to the working practices of the Church of England with regard to racial justice, and will hold the two of us to account for our leadership in this regard.

4. Work with Archbishops Council to create a Racial Justice Directorate within the National 
Church Institutions of the Church of England, for a five-year period, to implement the recommendations of the Taskforce and the Commission. 

5. Work with Archbishops Council to replace the Committee for Minority Ethnic Concerns 
(CMEAC) with a new standing committee of the Archbishops’ Council to oversee the work of the Racial Justice Directorate.


 

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