Thinking Anglicans

Is the Church Racist?

The BBC asked the question “Is the Church [of England] Racist?” in its Panorama programme on BBC One last night. The programme can be watched on the BBC iPlayer (but probably only from within the UK), where there is this summary.

Panorama investigates allegations of racism in the Church of England. A year after the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, admitted that the Church was still ‘deeply institutionally racist’, and that he was ‘ashamed’ of its record, reporter Clive Myrie meets vicars, curates and theological trainees to understand the scale of the problem. He hears stories of racist abuse and claims of a culture that creates a hostile environment for Christians of colour. Some say they have been told to ‘turn the other cheek’ when they have raised complaints, others say they have suffered in silence for fear of further discrimination or losing their jobs.

The Church of England has issued this press release: BBC Panorama programme ‘Is the Church Racist?’

Media reports include these; some may be behind a paywall.

BBC News Clergy speak out over ‘racism in Church of England’
BBC News Justin Welby tells Church of England to stop using NDAs amid racism claims
Church Times Clerics fear to take racism complaints further in C of E, BBC’s Panorama reports
The Guardian Church of England clergy ‘paid off to keep quiet about racism’
The Telegraph Racially abused church staff ‘forced to sign gagging orders to buy their silence’
Metro Picture of banana sent to black worker ‘wasn’t racist’, church rules

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Shamus
Shamus
2 months ago

I think the programme would have been more effective if there had been a bit more detail in the examples given, eg what exactly is a “church officer”? “It was reported to HR Dept”. If clergy, who is the HR Dept, as I’m not aware of one? The case would have been even more powerful with greater accuracy in understanding the structures of the CofE.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Shamus
1 month ago

I agree, Shamus. Having only just watched the programme on catch-up, I was irritated by the frequently incorrect terminology used, e.g. ‘junior vicar’, Bible college, etc. Perhaps the producers thought that this would make it more accessible to non-members of the CofE, or perhaps it was just pure ignorance and wilful failure to check. I know that this is trivial compared to the shameful treatment reported, but it doesn’t help in getting the message across to those (including me) who need to hear it.

Shamus
Shamus
2 months ago

I should have added that the “Church” is not just clergy of course, but all the people. Racism in congregations might be the biggest issue?

Kate
Kate
2 months ago

Sex abuse. Spiritual abuse. Racism. NDAs used to keep victims silent.Discrimination against LGBTI people. Churches closed. Scandal after scandal.

Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Reply to  Kate
2 months ago

The number of people who no longer feel ‘safe’ in The Church of England – including those of us who have faithfully stuck it out for decades – is growing, and the church now has a major problem with safeguarding re vulnerable adults, both clergy and laity. ‘Not fit for purpose’ is a very polite gloss in the circumstances. It’s looking as if the Archbishops and the House of Bishops are rearranging deckchairs when the ship’s already half underwater.

Last edited 2 months ago by Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Dominic Barrington
Dominic Barrington
2 months ago

As if all of this was not awful, one point that sends a note of chill into my soul is to see the church using NDAs, whether in this context of any other. Naively, it had never struck me that the church would even consider doing such a thing. Given the words of Jesus in Luke 12:3, that’s beyond dispiriting. But all of this is beyond dispiriting…

Larry Wright
Larry Wright
2 months ago

No comments is
A comment in itself.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
2 months ago

Do bears poop in the woods? Fabulous television when Clive Myrie dumped on the table all the reports about racism, including many the Archbishop of York had contributed to, on the table in front of him. Thank God for investigative journalism.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Fr. Dean Henley
2 months ago

Do you mean the present Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, had contributed to; or past Archbishops of York? It’s hard to tell when the title is used instead of the name.

It was good TV, though. The Church loves producing reports but too often does nothing with them.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
2 months ago

I personally know someone who was required to sign an NDA only six weeks ago.

Adrian
Adrian
2 months ago

I wonder how the intersection of identities for victims of racism differs to the experience of discrimination or alienation due to the intersection of identities for those of us who are not victims of racism? Alienation from the Church, whether it be theological college, cathedral or diocese, is normal for many, and can be related to class (including patterns of speech, dress and action, not having attended public schools/ Iwerne camps), gender, sexual orientation, disability (including neurodiversity such as ADHD and Aspergers), pregnancy and maternity, culture (including north/south/ periphery), ethnicity and nationality, age (with discrimination against the young and the… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
2 months ago

This narrative stands alone and must be taken seriously and individually. It will have aspects unique to itself. Having said that clearly, it can also be considered within a wider context. There are parallels between how victims of racism experienced the institution, and how victims of abuse, disability exclusion, and homophobia experience engagement with our structures. Across the board, our culture and systems contribute to the problems. We need honest conversations about these common features and it will be uncomfortable for everyone. it was why we called the initiative to refer the Church safeguarding failures to the Charity Commission “… Read more »

RosalindR
RosalindR
Reply to  Martin Sewell
2 months ago

Agree with Martin’s comment. It is important to let the racism experienced in so many forms in the church be heard without adding our own spin. But also important to note “There are parallels between how victims of racism experienced the institution, and how victims of abuse, disability exclusion, and homophobia experience engagement with our structures” To this list can be add continued discrimination against women, both ordained and lay, which continues and, like so many of the other discriminations on the list, is also unheard, and taken seriously.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago

‘TIME and again the Church of England has “abysmally failed” to address racism within its institution, instead labelling complainants as “troublemakers” and “buying silence” through non-disclosure agreements’

Who will be made accountable?

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
2 months ago

It was a disturbing, but not surprising alas, programme.   I’d like to hear more from UK ME women clergy about their range of experiences. They minister in a church which says, officially, to refuse to receive their ministry on the basis of their race is wrong – in fact, sinful.  And that’s right.    But they minister in the same church which says that those who are ‘unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests’ provided those objections are ‘on grounds of theological conviction’ (to quote the 5 Guiding Principles), is fine. So, how does that complicated… Read more »

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
2 months ago

The number of reports on the table was an amazing television moment esp as the ABY had worked on many of them. I would have been interested to know what, out of any of them, had been implemented as was claimed. If you pile up all the racism reports, sexuality reports, gender reports, abuse reports what exactly has been achieved? The church is institutionally racist, sexist, homophobic, promotes a culture of secrecy which allows abuses of many kind to flourish and which talks a lot and does little to really address any of it in a root and branch fashion.… Read more »

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