THE Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has stepped in to condemn the racist and homophobic attacks on the Revd Jarel Robinson-Brown, triggered by a Twitter post last week that was widely interpreted as an attack on Captain Sir Tom Moore.
More than 300 people, 130 of them clergy, signed an open letter in support for Mr Robinson-Brown — who has apologised for posting “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism” (News, 4 February).
Captain Sir Tom, who raised £32 million for the NHS, died last week, aged 100, after contracting Covid-19. The Archbishop of Canterbury described him as “the very best of us” (News, 4 February). The public was invited to clap in his honour on Wednesday evening last week.
Mr Robinson-Brown’s supporters, as well as criticising the racist posts about the former Methodist minister, now an Anglican ordinand, expressed anger at the statement that the diocese of London issued on Thursday, which said that Mr Robinson-Brown’s apology had not undone “the hurt he has caused, not least to Captain Tom’s family” (News, 6 February).
The open letter, sent to Bishop Mullally and copied to the senior clergy in London, described the attacks on Mr Robinson-Brown as a serious safeguarding matter. It said that the diocesan statement “raises questions about the freedom of thought and speech of individual clergy and fails to fully acknowledge the deliberate and hateful way that Jarel’s tweet has been misconstrued and used to attack him in ways that are both racist and homophobic. The tone of your statement risks legitimising such behaviour and does not seriously take into consideration Jarel’s safety and wellbeing.”
Bishop Mullally’s new statement was issued on Sunday afternoon. Although it defends the review of the incident by the Archdeacon of London, “to enable us all to reflect and learn”, it does not reflect the ambivalence of the earlier statement, and appears to respond to the points made in the open letter.
She writes that, after the Tweet was taken down, “My primary concern has been to ensure that he received immediate pastoral support in the face of the most appalling racist and homophobic abuse, aimed at him and at others. I am particularly thankful for the ongoing care that was quickly put in place, through so many different routes.”
She says that she is “deeply concerned” that BAME clergy and ordinands have been affected “by recent events, and by the Diocese’s response”, and concludes: “Any form of online abuse, including racism, homophobia and threatening behaviour, cannot be tolerated.” (Read her full statement below.)
A talk by Mr Robinson-Brown for the SCM Press/Church Times event “How to Rage” is featured in this week’s Church Times. A recording of the event can be purchased here, and Mr Robinson-Brown contribution is featured on this week’s Church Times podcast. His book, Black, Gay, British, Christian, Queer (SCM Press, £17.99) can be pre-ordered here.
Bishop Mullally’s statement in full:
After Jarel Robinson-Brown posted his now-deleted tweet last Wednesday, my primary concern has been to ensure that he received immediate pastoral support in the face of the most appalling racist and homophobic abuse, aimed at him and at others. I am particularly thankful for the ongoing care that was quickly put in place, through so many different routes.
I believe it is right that the original matter is reviewed properly and swiftly by the Archdeacon of London, to enable us all to reflect and learn, and that work is taking place. I also believe, and have made clear to Jarel, that there is no excuse for anyone to be sent the shocking messages he has been receiving. Jarel did of course quickly acknowledge that his tweet was ill-timed and pastorally-insensitive.
I am deeply concerned to hear reports within the Church that United Kingdom Minority Ethnic clergy and ordinands have been affected by recent events, and by the Diocese’s response. I want to ensure that in London, and right across the Church of England, our clergy and those training for ministry feel safe. I look forward to the report of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Task Force launched last year, and the work of the Archbishops’ Commission that will follow, which I know will help to achieve this shared end.
Any form of online abuse, including racism, homophobia and threatening behaviour, cannot be tolerated. I sincerely hope that those perpetuating it will desist and consider the hurt they are causing. We must all work to ensure the digital world becomes a more loving and generous place.
The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally
Bishop of London