THE Archbishops’ anti-racism taskforce has promised to end “30 years of well-intentioned talk” and “decades of inaction” on racism in both the Church and society, with a timetable for urgent change.
The taskforce is due to publish its first report on 22 April: Stephen Lawrence Day. In an update on Saturday, the taskforce said that immediate action was needed to address the sin of racism in five key areas of church life: participation (including appointments); education; training and mentoring; young people; and governance and structures.
Its report next month would include a plan of action setting out who would be responsible, monitored, and made accountable for change in each of these areas, it explained. “These actions will be accompanied by a timetable recognising the urgency of the task and that the time for talking and lament has now given way for a time for action.
“As a taskforce we are united in our view that any failure by the Church to act both intentionally and urgently will lead to an existential crisis brought about by over 30 years of well-intentioned talk accompanied by decades of inaction.”
Since its creation by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York last year (News, 16 October 2020), the taskforce had reviewed more than 20 reports relating to racial justice which had been presented to and approved by the General Synod since the publication of Faith in the City in 1985. Although it identified more than 160 recommendations, it reported: “We also recognised that many of the actions approved and adopted by the Church had not been acted upon or followed through.”
Last year, the Synod voted to approve a motion on the legacy of the Windrush generation, which also resolved “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” (News, 11 February 2020).
Three months later, anti-racism protests erupted around the world after the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in police custody in the United States (News, 1 June 2020). A review of memorials commemorating people involved in the slave trade was announced (News 19 June 2020).
Another of the taskforce’s key objectives was to advise the Archbishops on the composition and remit of the planned Racial Justice Commission, including terms of reference and membership. This Commission would focus on a further six areas which “required more detailed consideration and work” than the taskforce could cover alone. These are: theology; slavery (including monuments); history and memory; culture and liturgy; participation; and patronage.
The final report would suggest that each of these workstreams would be chaired by individuals who would also sit as members of the Commission. These six members would work with a chairperson, two deputy chairs, and a taskforce member “to ensure continuity”. Several potential members had been identified by the taskforce.
It writes: “Our work is not a battle in a culture war but rather a call to arms against the evil and pernicious sin of racism. . .
“Where racism is found, it must be challenged. Whether masked in our behaviours, whispered in our pews, institutionalised in our systems, or paraded on our streets, the Church as the body of Christ is called to oppose those actions which cause others to be treated as less than fully human.”