How should the Church respond to race?

May 4, 2021 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

Last week the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce published its report ‘From Lament to Action’ proposing a suite of changes to begin bringing about a change of culture in the life of the Church of England. A draft version of the report came to the Archbishops’ Council, so we knew the main proposals it would include. It is well produced, and offers a sense of urgent call to action, but not all have welcomed its approach, including minority ethnic members of the Church of England. The sense of urgency was reinforced by a Panorama programme last Monday, featuring members of the group who produced the report.

Calvin Robinson contests the assumption that the Church is ‘institutionally racist’:

The BBC’s latest Panorama was called ‘Is the Church racist?’. But the entire programme was produced around the assumption that the question had already been answered: yes, it is. This, of course, isn’t helped by the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury shares this assumption and has stated as much on public record at General Synod.

The problem is, the Church doesn’t really operate as a single institution. Each diocese has an incredible amount of autonomy. Bishops have responsibility for their diocese and the priests within them. So a few awful experiences shared by individuals throughout the documentary does not make the Church a racist institution.

The Church is made up of flawed individuals. We’re all fallen, after all. The issue the Church faces, however, isn’t institutional racism – it’s institutional incompetence. For instance, its complaints procedure isn’t just bad for issues of race, it’s bad in general. Any priest with experience of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) – or any experience with safeguarding concerns – will attest to how outdated and cumbersome the process is. In the Church, you’re presumed guilty until proven innocent, often with no idea who has filed a complaint about you. There is plenty of work to be done on improving things within the Church for all people, not just for ethnic minorities.

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