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Much still to do on racial justice, says report

22 January 2022

Synod paper reviews progress made on Taskforce proposals

Graham Lacdao

Episcopal welcome: Bishops applaud the newly consecrated suffragans (from left) the Rt Revd Lynne Cullens (Barking Area, Chelmsford diocese); the Rt Revd Saju Muthalaly (Loughborough, Leicester diocese); and the Rt Revd Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy (Willesden Area, London diocese), in St Paul’s Cathedral, on Tuesday

Episcopal welcome: Bishops applaud the newly consecrated suffragans (from left) the Rt Revd Lynne Cullens (Barking Are...

MIXED progress has been made on implementation of the recommendations of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce, according to a new report that highlights “significant obstacles”, including a lack of money and the fact that a significant number of the recommendations are outside the remit of the National Church Institutions (NCIs).

A multi-million pound draft bid for central church funding, currently being developed further, has been submitted in order to help address the first of these challenges.

The report, prepared by the Archbishops’ adviser for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns, Dr Sanjee Perera, and the director of Faith and Public Life, Canon Malcolm Brown, was published among the papers for General Synod on Friday.

Last year, the taskforce made 47 recommendations in its report From Lament to Action (News, 23 April 2021). Noting that few of the 161 recommendations made in 25 earlier church reports on racial justice had been acted upon, it warned: “Decades of inaction carry consequences, and this inaction must be owned by the whole Church. A failure to act now will be seen as another indication, potentially a last straw for many, that the Church is not serious about racial sin.”

Several of the 47 recommendations are already being implemented. It was announced last week that at least ten clergy of UK Minority-Ethnic/Global-Majority Heritage (UKME/GMH) will be present at meetings of the House of Bishops in the next few months (News, 21 January). A national Racial Justice Directorate, with three full-time members of staff, is to be established within the Faith and Public Life team.

“Excellent progress” has been made by the Church’s education team, the report says, including work to help schools develop curriculums that promote equity and racial justice. Good progress has also been made on recommendations to do with training and mentoring, it says, with many Theological Education Institutions (TEIs) investing “significant time, resources and efforts”.

But the report also notes “a significant barrier to implementing the more ambitious recommendations”: the fact that the taskforce “did not have the remit or capacity to evaluate the limits of the NCI’s current staffing and resource capacity.”

The report warns that there are “significant obstacles” to meeting some of the taskforce’s recommendations for “more fundamental and radical changes in the life and structures of the Church . . . particularly because it requires a substantially larger budget than is available in the NCIs, and partly due to the fact that a significant number of the recommendations are outside the remit and sphere of influence of the NCIs” (Comment, 21 May 2021). Several recommendations are “procedurally complex to deliver in the required time scale”.

Among the taskforce’s recommendations was that, by September 2021, shortlists for senior appointments — bishops, deans, residentiary canons, and archdeacons — should include at least one appointable UKME/GMH candidate. While this is “currently under discussion”, the report says that it is “unlikely that the Crown Nominations Commission will commit to one candidate in each list, instead going on a case-by-case basis to ensure candidates meet the essential criteria before their inclusion on a shortlist”.

The same recommendation was made for shortlists for senior NCI appointments and for shortlists for senior leadership teams in dioceses. Concerning the NCIs, the report remarks that the requirement is “not currently planned within our HR strategy”, and refers to “the risk of including ‘token’ candidates who are not truly appointable. This can lead to frustration among these candidates, and runs the risk of alienation from those on the panel.”

Another recommendation was that 30 per cent of the membership of the Strategic Leadership Development Programme (News, 7 October 2016) be UKME/GMH. The report says that this is unlikely to happen before 2023.

The report notes an improvement on diversity within the Church’s senior leadership. Including the two due to be consecrated this month, there are now eight UKME bishops, and 13 senior clergy overall. It also highlights work under way in the NCIs to “systematise good diversity practice in senior recruitment”, including having “challenge groups” at key stages.

With regard to the recommendation that UKME/GMH people make up at least 15 per cent of all church governance structures, including PCCs, the progress report states that the NCIs “cannot impose policies and processes in dioceses; it can only encourage good practice, share strategic resources, and encourage dioceses to to take this forward supporting transformative change.”

A recurrent theme in the report is on the autonomy of the various bodies referred to in the taskforce’s recommendations and the progress towards subsidiarity. The section on TEIs mentions that it is “important to avoid returning to the top-down culture which the National Ministry Team has worked assiduously in these last years to rectify”.

Members of the taskforce noted last year that they were “acutely aware” of pressures on church finances, and had been “reassured that it was not part of our remit to find the money” (Comment, 16 July 2021). This followed the announcement that the Archbishops’ Council had rejected the recommendation to fund full-time racial-justice officers in each diocese — news that was met with criticism at the General Synod (News, 16 July 2021).

The proposal is “still under consideration”, the progress report says. But it raises “difficult questions about the opportunity cost when competing priorities have a claim to finite central funding”.

The multi-million-pound bid to the triennium funding working group has been written by Dr Perera, seeking funding to be distributed across multiple bodies. The working group that will consider it includes members from the House of Bishops, Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners and recommends how national funds, including the Church Commissioners’ profits, will be spent over a three-year period.

The bid includes a request for several million to help dioceses implement racial-justice work. The report says that this would allow dioceses to fund racial-justice officers, provided that they can show “investment, theory of change, and a significant commitment to racial-justice endeavours”.

Other elements of the bid include hundreds of thousands of pounds for the National Ministry Team (formerly Ministry Division), and for schools work. Other potential sources of funding for the work are also being explored.

Initiatives included in the application include support for school leaders to develop curriculums that promote equity and racial justice; mandatory anti-racism training for all diocesan staff, clergy, Readers and church officers; work on diversifying the curriculum of TEIs; and a series of racial-justice-themed national youth events.

The report notes that the National Ministry Team and Common Awards Team is working with TEIs to ensure that resources are used in liturgies and prayers which “reflect the breadth and diversity of the Anglican Communion”. But it notes: “Much of the liturgical interventions and lectionary revisions of these recommendations do not always translate easily into some specific Anglican traditions and demographics and the TEIs allied to these traditions. It is important that our institutional strategy does not exclude these traditions.”

The Church’s work on racial justice is being undertaken “because, not in spite, of our Christian conviction”, it says. It notes that “the ways we approach theologies of racial justice are contested in the Church”, and acknowledges the existence of “concerns among some Christians about the salience of critical race theory and whether it is consistent with a theological rationale for racial justice or inimical to Christian convictions”.

One recommendation accepted immediately last year was the establishment of the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission , given the task of driving long-term systemic change. This body began its work in October last year (News, 7 October 2021). It will meet monthly and report to the Archbishops every six months until 2023.

The existing body for the Church’s work on race and ethnicity is the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC). From Lament to Action recommended its replacement with “a body which acts as a standing committee of the Archbishops’ Council, whose chair is co-opted on to the Council by the Archbishops”. The Archbishops’ Council decided not to abolish it, and instead to “review its terms of reference”. The chair, the Dean of Manchester, the Very Revd Rogers Govender, will attend the Archbishops’ Council.

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