The Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce has today (Thursday 22 April) 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.

The Revd Sonia Barron, Director of Ordinands and Vocations in the diocese was co-chair on the Anti-Racism Taskforce, alongside Revd Arun Arora, a Vicar in the Diocese of Durham.

The Taskforce consisted of a nine-strong group which was set up in autumn 2020 with a double remit:

  • to review previous reports relating to racial justice over 36 years and whether their recommendations have been implemented
  • to prepare the ground for the establishment a longer-term Commission on Racial Justice, suggest terms of reference and remit for its work.

The Taskforce has considered 25 reports from the mid-80s onwards with a total of more than 160 recommendations.

A spokesperson for the Taskforce said: “Since then, the Church of England has considered motion after motion, debate after debate, yet we still find ourselves in the position where – throughout our life as a church – the flourishing of UK Minority Ethnic (UKME) or Global Majority Heritage (GMH) Anglicans is hard to discern.”

The report highlights the lack of people from UK minority ethnic backgrounds in senior leadership in the Church. The figures below show the current breakdown.

  • There are only 5 out of 111 bishops from a UKME/GMH background.
  • There are a further nine people of UKME/GMH backgrounds among deans, archdeacons, and senior staff in the National Church Institutions.
  • There are no UKME/GMH Diocesan Secretaries [the most senior staff role in each diocese] or Principals of Theological Educational Institutions at all.

In their statement Archbishops' Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell wrote (there is a link to the full statement below):

"Racism is a sin. Of this, we have no doubt. Anything which diminishes the value and beauty of each individual person, made in the image of God, is sinful. There is no place for it in the world, 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.

"We welcome this report from the Anti-Racism Taskforce, which we commissioned last year to help us understand what progress we might have made towards tackling racism in the Church of England. 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."

The proposals in the report 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, to provide “valid, publishable reasons” for failure to include UKME candidates on shortlists.
  • The General Synod co-opting 10 UKME candidates (five clergy and five laity) for its next five-year term, which begins this year.
  • The House of Bishops inviting UKME clergy to become participant observers until there are at least six UKME bishops in the House.
  • 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 to begin tackling the current imbalance in the Church’s leadership by building up potential supply.
  • The appointment of full-time Racial Justice Officers (RJOs) in every diocese - for a five-year term, funded centrally, alongside a new Racial Justice Directorate, within the National Church Institutions, to oversee implementation of the recommendations of the Taskforce and the Commission.

Use this link to read the press release from the national Church of England.

The report can be read here: The Report of the Archbishops' Anti-Racism Taskforce 

Use this link to read The Archbishops' statement

Use this link to read the news item which announced Sonia Barron's appointment as Co-Chair of the Taskforce 

This item was published on Thursday 22nd April 2021