Archbishop Justin Welby has said that the Church of England must set its “house in order” and “acknowledge our own historic errors and failings” with regards to its handling of race relations.
In a recent video address, Welby said he had been “struck by the events of the last few days” and had been "listening to those who have been talking about it from within their own experience of injustice as people of colour in this country."
On the topic of racial injustice, the Archbishop continued:
"It's horrifying and yet I'm aware to that the Church has its own failings. And I come back to the fact that in the New Testament Jesus says be angry about injustice, repent of injustice - that means go the other way, take action against injustice. How that action is taken will vary from time to time and place to place. It must never involve the creation of more injustice, by seeking to damage other people."
He added: "But I feel within me, again today, that great call of Jesus that we are as a church to be those who set our own house in order and who acknowledge our own historic errors and failings."
Welby said he wished to acknowledge that he comes "from privilege and a place of power as a white person in this country," before imploring all of us to "take action" on the issue immediately.
Earlier this year, Welby lamented that the Church of England was "still deeply institutionally racist" and said he was "ashamed" of the denomination's historic racial oppression. "I'm ashamed of our history and I'm ashamed of our failure," he said. "There is no doubt when we look at our own Church that we are still deeply institutionally racist. I said it to the College of Bishops a couple of years ago and it's [still] true."
Protests have exploded across the United Kingdom following the death of an African-American man, George Floyd, who died while being detained by US police officers. The officer who restrained Floyd, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. In the UK, a campaign to remove the statues of historical figures deemed to be racist or involved in the slave trade is generating momentum.
Yesterday, demonstrators converged in Oxford to campaign for the removal of a statue depicting the former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes. The statue of Rhodes, a British mining magnate who is widely regarded as being a white supremacist, sits in pride of place at the entrance to Oriel College. In a bid to have him removed, twenty-six Oxford city councillors have signed a letter insisting that the statue is "incompatible" with the city's "commitment to anti-racism."
Yesterday, local authorities removed a statue of slave-owner Robert Milligan from outside the Museum of the Docklands in East London.