A FORMER High Commissioner for Barbados to the United Kingdom, the Revd Guy Hewitt — a leading campaigner for the Windrush generation to be recognised as British citizens — is to be the first Racial Justice Director of the Church of England, it was announced on Tuesday.
Mr Hewitt will take up the post in November, and will lead the C of E’s Racial Justice Unit, which will function within the Archbishops’ Council.
The creation of the unit was one of the recommendations of the report by the Archbishops’ Anti-racism Taskforce, From Lament to Action, published last year (News, 23 April 2021).
The unit will have a brief to “work alongside the Archbishops’ Commission for Racial Justice to ensure the taskforce recommendations and the work of the Commission are implemented”, a statement from Church House, Westminster, said.
During his time as High Commissioner for Barbados, a post he held from 2014 to 2018, Mr Hewitt drew attention to a “new wave of hostility” towards those who had emigrated from the West Indies to Britain after the Second World War in response to a “call from Great Britain to her then colonies for workers to emigrate here to address the labour shortages” (Comment, 13 April 2018).
They had not yet been recognised as British citizens, he said, despite the fact that some had been resident in the UK since childhood. Thus they faced “the possibility of deportation to Barbados and other Commonwealth countries that are no longer their home”.
In April 2018, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, having initially refused to meet Caribbean leaders to discuss the matter, performed a U-turn and said that no one would be deported (News, 20 April 2018). Responding to the decision, Mr Hewitt said: “What we were in this for was to get justice for the Windrush generation. For me it’s not about recriminations or even who is at fault: it is about continuing to work forward to find a solution” (Podcast, 27 April 2018).
Mr Hewitt was born in London to Barbadian and Indian parents, and trained for ordination in the diocese of Southwark. He was ordained deacon in 2004 and was priested in Barbados in 2005.
He is currently Associate Vicar of All Saints’, Fulham, in south-west London, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, as well as an advisory board member of the Windrush Scandal Research Project based there.
The announcement of his appointment said that he has “a background in social policy and development, working internationally on issues of marginalisation, economic enfranchisement, racial justice, youth empowerment, and gender equality”.
Mr Hewitt said on Tuesday that he looked forward to “what I plan to be a participatory and inclusive process of restoration.
“The Commission on Racial Justice is an important step towards the Church becoming truly one in Christ Jesus. The indelible link between our faith and public life is reinforced at confirmation with our vow to defend the weak, and to seek peace and justice.”
The secretary-general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, to whom Mr Hewitt will report, said: “This is a vital post, helping the Church address the challenges of racial justice, and helping the Church speak into this agenda nationally.
“Guy brings a wide experience of leadership from the public and third sectors in England and in Barbados. He will build a unit to support both the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission and the Committee on Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) in addressing this important issue.”
Lord Boateng, who was appointed last year to chair the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission (News, 16 July 2021), said: “The appointment by the Church of England of a long-awaited Racial Justice Director is to be warmly welcomed.
“The Revd Guy Hewitt brings a wealth of experience to the task at both parish and international levels. The unit he will lead must now be adequately staffed and resourced to deliver on the change promised.”
The Archbishops’ Adviser for Minority-Ethnic Anglican Concerns, Dr Sanjee Perera, announced this month that she had resigned from her post (News, 11 August). She said that she wanted the new racial justice director to take up their post without “tripping over an existing staff member” with whom they would share “overlapping functions”.