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Bishop of St Albans apologises to black candidate over title post

26 June 2020

Augustine Tanner-Ihm

Augustine Tanner-Ihm

THE Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has apologised to a black ordination candidate who was rejected for a title post in the diocese because of the demographic of the parish.

Augustine Tanner-Ihm applied in February for a curacy in the diocese, and received a letter in reply from the diocesan director of ordinands, which said: “We are not confident that there is a sufficient ‘match’ between you and the particular requirements of the post. Firstly, the demographic of the parish is monochrome white working class, where you might feel uncomfortable. . .” (News, 12 June).

The diocese of St Albans said last week: “A letter sent to Augustine Tanner-Ihm on 12th February 2020 regarding his suitability for a curate’s post caused him distress.

“The sender of the letter learnt of the distress this letter had caused on 14th February after it had been shared on Twitter by a third party. He made an unqualified apology by email to Mr Tanner-Ihm the same day.

“The sender of the letter commented: ‘I quickly recognised and regretted my poor choice of words and I am very sorry indeed that what I said was hurtful to Mr Tanner-Ihm. It was careless, thoughtless and hasty and I still regret my choice of words.’”

The diocese went on to say that Dr Smith had written to apologise to Mr Tanner-Ihm, and had expressed his and the diocese’s commitment “to the increase and flourishing of BAME candidates for ministry and more widely the inclusion of BAME people in the churches, chaplaincies and schools here”.

The diocese continued: “The sender of the letter to Mr Tanner-Ihm was one of the clergy who took the Unconscious Bias training in 2018 and he is committed to further training and reflection in this area. He will seek further training when this is available after lockdown.”

Mr Tanner-Ihm has spoken of his struggle to find a title post (Podcast, 12 June), and of racial inequality in the Church of England and in the United States (Comment, 19 June).

He said last week that he had still not been offered a title post, and was therefore seeking employment outside the Church. As an American, he is on a student visa, “which makes things much more difficult”, he said.

Mr Tanner-Ihm wrote on Twitter last Friday: “It would have been kind to send this to me before a press release.”

He said last Friday: “I believe St Albans is a diocese that truly desire to fulfil their mission with showing God’s love to every man, woman, and child in Hertfordshire. I just truly hope they would not just say sorry but repent. Which means to turn 180 degrees and begin to actively use the story of Zacchaeus as a catalyst for change.”

Mr Tanner-Ihm was declared the winner of the second Theology Slam final on Tuesday evening.

Read more on the story in our Letters this week

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