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General Synod digest: Act to end racism, C of E told

21 February 2020

Madeleine Davies, Hattie Williams, Adam Becket, and Tim Wyatt report from the General Synod in London

geoff crawford/church times

The Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby (Southwark) speaks on his private member’s motion, on Tuesday

The Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby (Southwark) speaks on his private member’s motion, on Tuesday

A MOTION lamenting racism in the Church of England was carried nem. con. in a vote by Houses at the General Synod, on Tuesday evening.

Moving his private member’s mo­tion on the Windrush legacy, the Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby (Southwark) said that his journey had taken him from “what now feels like a pretty polite” motion, marking the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, “to feeling what Dr King described as ‘the fierce urgency of now’.”

He was proposing the motion as “a matter of simple Christian solid­arity with a group of people who have fallen victim to the injustice of discrimination at the hands of our Government and our Church”. He also spoke of his Jamaican-British heritage and his ministry in black-majority congregations in south London.

“We need to learn to stand up for people who are different from us, people who are more vulnerable than we are.” He told the Synod that it was “exhausting, it can feel humili­ating, to have to justify your own seat at the table.”

Being “heavy-handedly” arrested by the UK Border Agency was “the lived reality of people in my parish”. He said: “These issues touch the soul of our Church and the soul of our nation.” That morning, people who had lived in the UK for decades had been deported to Jamaica.

He also told the story of Doreen Browne, present in the gallery, whose parents and siblings had been “literally barred” from entering St Peter’s, Walworth — his own church — in 1961. It would be a right thing to apologise for this racism, and any apology “must lead to urgent change in our Church”, he said. “When we consistently see that black and minority-ethnic people are un­der­­represented in lay and ordained leadership roles, we must name this as institutional racism.”

geoff crawford/church timesCanon Rosemarie Mallett (Southwark)

The Archbishop of Canterbury “ditched” his prepared speech. “Per­­sonally, I am sorry and ashamed. “I’m ashamed of our history, and I’m ashamed of our failure,” he said.

“We are still deeply institutionally racist. I get loads of lists to approve. I get long lists and short lists and lists of panels for interviews. We’ve just about got past the point in the last two or three years where they are not all male. But they very, very seldom have minority-ethnic people on them, either the applications or in lay or clergy posts for senior clergy posts. And I’ve been trying to play nice and I send them back with a more or less polite note that I’m not absolutely sure that this is quite what we want. We cannot go on playing nice, really, can we? . . .

“I will bring this back to Synod in due course, but I think we need some basic rules, like an appoint­ment panel doesn’t work if it has no minority-ethnic representation or other discriminated against minor­ities. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work on the CNC; it doesn’t work at any level at all in our Church. It doesn’t work when long lists are simply one colour. It does not work.”

Canon Rosemarie Mallett (South­wark) spoke as a mem­ber of the Windrush generation. “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired about this situation.” Despite the appoint­ment of BAME clergy to senior posts, she knew all too many clergy who still faced unconscious bias. “Many BAME people are still feeling battered and bruised by a system that has good intentions, but lacks intentionality.” She had left the Church at 18 because of institutional racism, but had come back to make a difference: “I am not personally look­­ing for an apology, if that apol­ogy didn’t come with a plan of action to change the situation.”

The Revd Dr Jason Roach (London) said that a member of the Church of England had told him of being delighted that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s child had light skin. This was unconscious bias, he said. He supported the Revd Brunel James’s amendments concerning the impact of racism on the Church.

geoff crawford/church timesThe Dean of Manchester, the Very Revd Rogers Govender

Annika Matthews (C of E Youth Council) said that she had encountered the ques­tion “Where are you from?” or “Where are you really from?” at almost every new church. She was fortunate in being a second-generation immig­rant. Unconscious-bias training was very important. The Church must use its voice to “fight for justice”.

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, moved his amendment, to add “and apologises for” to the motion. Apology was about genuine repentance. The lack of BAME clergy in Leicester was beginning to change: 40 per cent of the people exploring a vocation to the priesthood were now BAME.

The amendment was carried.

The Revd Brunel James (Leeds) moved two amendments. They called for the Archbishops’ Council to commission research on the im­­pact of the loss of potential Afro-Caribbean church members in church closures and missed voca­tions. The second asked for an inde­pendent reviewer who would report to the Synod with recommendations.

In Birmingham in the 1990s, he had experienced the “scandal” of the Church’s failure to welcome Angli­cans from the Caribbean. “White churches have been slow to embrace black mem­bers and paid the price in decline,” he said. “Let’s take appro­priate ac­­tion now and make a small invest­ment which could pay great divid­ends in future ministry.”

Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, said that the request in Mr Brunel’s first amendment was “testing”, but that did not mean it should not be done.

David Ashton (Leeds) suggested that the Church should forget a notice paper detailing the approxim­ate £155,000 cost and back the James amendments. They were carried.

The Dean of Manchester, the Very Revd Rogers Govender (North­ern Deans) said that, less than five years ago, he had intervened when two senior members of his cathedral Chapter “fiddled the figures” in an election for church­warden to favour a white candidate over a black can­didate. “The term used repeatedly during that period was ‘We don’t want them,’ referring to brown and black people in my cathedral.”

geoff crawford/church timesAnnika Matthews (CEYC)

Recently, he had been told by a bishop-friend that he would not be appointed to an episcopal vacancy because there weren’t many BAME people in that diocese. “If that’s the attitude amongst my liberal col­leagues, God help the Church of England.” How could the Church have worked so hard to appoint women bishops but not been able to push forward ethnic-minority bishops, despite the work of CMEAC for more then 30 years?

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke of the people, such as Mr Anderson, a churchwarden from Jamaica, who taught him about racism; but he had had to go “mainly out­side the Church” to learn about these matters in “a more structural way”. More than 30 years later, “many of these issues are still with us and very much live.” As chair of the Turning up the Volume steering group, he was aware of progress in vocations, but there was “still much to be done”.

The Revd Mark Murthen (Lon­don) said: that lay leadership in the BAME community was “an area where we are really lacking”, from PCCs to deanery synods. It did not feel that work on this was filtering through to people on the ground.

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Canterbury), said that the recent deportations sent “the clear statement that you do not belong. And our silence in that is a symptom of what we also believe.” Those who had set sail on the Mayflower were called pioneers, pilgrims, but those “now fleeing for their lives and seeking to be integ­rated in a safe country” were called asylum-seekers and refugees.

geoff crawford/church timesThe Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow

“We need to change the language we are using and ask ourselves ‘What do we see? Do we just see a black face?’ . . .

“It never oc­­curred to me . . . that when Canterbury said yes to me they were just ticking a box . . . but it is interesting that that has been said: ‘Oh, she ticks the box.’ I know that of none of my fellow white female clergy that would have been said, that they were ticking the box.”

She concluded: “If it is excellence and vision that you are looking for then minority-ethnic people will always be at the table.”

Michael Stallybrass (York) said: “I feel ashamed today that we have a government which is propagating what they describe as a hostile environment wherein people have been lost sight of. How can we as a Church remain silent?”

The Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick (Southern Suffra­gans), recalled receiving a “stag­ger­ing” welcome at Codring­ton Col­lege, Bar­bados, which made it “doubly sham­ing that over here we failed to do that”.

The motion, as amended, was carried by 295 nem. con.

That this Synod, commemorating in 2018 the martyrdom of the Revd Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., noting with joy the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush liner in the United Kingdom in June 1948 bring­ing nearly 500 Commonwealth citi­zens, mainly from the Caribbean, to mainland UK; and the eventual ar­­rival of approximately half a million people from the West Indies, who were called to Britain as British subjects to help rebuild the post-war United Kingdom:

(a) lament, on behalf of Christ’s Church, and apologises for, the con­scious and unconscious racism ex­­peri­enced by countless Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Angli­cans in 1948 and subsequent years, when seeking to find a spiritual home in their local Church of England parish churches, the memory of which is still painful to committed An­­glicans who, in spite of this racism from clergy and others, have re­­mained faithful to the Church of England and their Anglican heritage;

(b) request the Archbishops’ Coun­cil to commission research to assess the impact of this on the Church of England in terms of church members lost, churches declining into closure, and vocations to ordained and li­­censed lay ministries missed, and to report back to this Synod and the wider Church

(c) express gratitude to God for the indispensable contribution to the mis­­sion, ministry, prayer and wor­ship of Christ’s Church in this
nation made by people of BAME descent in the Church of England;

(d) acknowledge and give joyful thanks for the wider contribution of the ‘Windrush generation’ and their descendants to UK life and culture in every field of human activity, includ­ing service across the Armed Forces and other services during and after the Second World War; and

(e) resolve to continue, with great effort and urgency, to stamp out all forms of conscious or unconscious racism, and to commit the Church of England to increase the participation and representation of lay and ordained BAME Anglicans through­out Church life; to the greater glory of the God in whose image every human being is made; and

(f) request the Archbishop’s Council to appoint an independent person external to the Church to assess the current situation as regards race and ethnicity in the Church, in order to present a report to this Synod with recommendations for actions to achieve reconciliation and authentic belonging so that we can move towards truly being a Church for all people.

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