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Leader comment: Insights into the lives of Global Majority Heritage clergy

by
21 October 2022

AS A rule, we take little notice of surveys of fewer than 1000 individuals. Even at that size, large trends can be falsely deduced from the views of very small subsections of the whole, especially when weighting is applied. Thus, a study based on interviews with 18 people would normally be beneath our attention. In the case of “If It Wasn’t for God”: A report on the wellbeing of Global Majority Heritage clergy in the Church of England, however, the small size of the study constitutes a crucial part of its significance. The researchers behind the study had to cope not only with the under-representation of Global Majority Heritage (GMH) clergy in the Living Ministry cohorts, but also with worrying reasons for their lack of participation. All the clergy can find better things to do than fill in forms and agree to interviews, but the researchers report that many GMH clergy approached were busier than most, under a compulsion to overwork to prove that they were of equal worth to white clergy. This was especially true of the women. In addition, or perhaps as a result, several in the target sample were experiencing issues of physical or mental health which the researchers link with continuing tensions around race. It is, of course, most of the clergy tend to want to accommodate themselves to their congregations’ expectations, and few congregations would welcome a cleric who did not. But GMH clergy have a more obvious difference to overcome. The strain of this can tell.

It remains necessary for the Church of England to focus attention on race. This issue has the clear potential to be detrimental to GMH clergy, at least until the day when differences are celebrated as warmly as similarities. Yet silence on racism has for too long masked subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination, and this must be exposed. The only way in which an overt anti-racism programme can be sustained is by ensuring that it is not seen as a problem that the GMH clergy have to solve. There are, of course, reasons that most racial-justice officers are GMH, but this is not necessary. Since the problem of racism resides most significantly in the white population, it is here that the work must be done.

A word about labels. We dislike them at least as much the next person, particularly compounded acronyms; but we strive to use the terms favoured by the groups themselves, while attempting to bring some consistency to our reporting (not least to facilitate archive searches). The study mentioned here prefers Global Majority Heritage to UK Minority Ethnic (UKME), which is itself a recent adoption in place of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME). All have their merits — some might regret the loss of UK in the more recent designation, for example — but are seldom used, if ever, by Black or Asian people to describe themselves, and thus are destined to fade away. That is our hope.

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