RACISM is a “blight” affecting all churches in the UK, the presidents of Churches Together in England (CTE) said this week. “We challenge this unreservedly, recognising the constant experiences of racism, including micro aggression, which black people face.”
Signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, and leaders of the Free Churches, the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Pentecostal churches, the statement was issued after a period of listening to the voices of black people in the UK, after the killing in the United States of George Floyd (News, 5 June). This listening was “deeply moving”, and showed how much action, as well as “profound change of heart”, was needed, the statement said.
The statement urged all churches to scrutinise themselves and then make a commitment to challenging racial injustice and building trust with black communities. “We believe that churches have a significant role to play in combating racial injustice. If we are to be effective in doing so, we must look at ourselves.
“We are painfully aware of the racism that blights the life of our churches. We are intent upon a process of identifying racial injustice within our churches — current and historic — repenting of it and taking action to effect real change. This includes the potential for discriminatory behaviour in the way that we make church appointments, which we know can happen at the conscious or unconscious level.”
They announced that they would also organise conversations between young black people and the police service to try and improve relationships, and urged churches to do the same locally.
“We encourage all churches throughout England to do all they can to build trust and improve accountability between black communities, the police, civic bodies and wider community groups. In particular, we call upon groupings of Church Leaders throughout the nation to reach out to their black colleagues in church leadership who are currently absent from their membership, making more inclusive ecumenical leadership.
“Our desire is that these groups will create spaces for those in authority to listen, as we have, to the powerful testimony of young black women and men as a step towards greater social cohesion.”
The Church of England has announced that it will set up a racism action commission, which will find and dismantle institutional barriers to racial justice, equality, and inclusion (News, 3 July). The CTE presidents’ statement said that work was also under way in the Methodist, United Reformed, Baptist, and Roman Catholic Churches, and that challenging racism was already a priority for the Orthodox and Pentecostal Churches.