The Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce has today 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.
It issues a warning to the Archbishops that a failure to act could be a “last straw” for many people of UK Minority Ethnic (UKME) or Global Majority Heritage (GMH) backgrounds with “devastating effects” on the future of the Church.
The report sets out 47 specific actions for different arms of the Church of England to implement across five priority areas: participation, governance, training, education and young people.
Without these changes the Church risks denying and disregarding the gifts of a significant part of the nation, the Taskforce makes clear.
“This is the culture change that is required if the Church is to live up to its mandate of being a body where all the gifts of all its people flourish to the full, for the benefit of the church as a whole, the nation of England and the greater glory of God,” they say.
They add: “Decades of inaction carry consequences and this inaction must be owned by the whole Church.
“A failure to act now will be seen as another indication, potentially a last straw for many, that the Church is not serious about racial sin.”
The nine-strong group 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 report is clear that addressing the underlying issues of systemic racism is a “missional imperative” for the Church.
“Disregarding a significant part of the population, and thus denying the gifts they bring for the service of the Church, must not continue,” the task force warns.
The 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, 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.