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Path to racial justice is not about identity politics, C of E conference is told

13 October 2023

Church of England

The Church of England’s Racial Justice Director, the Revd Guy Hewitt

The Church of England’s Racial Justice Director, the Revd Guy Hewitt

PROGRESS has been made towards achieving racial justice in the Church of England, but there is still a long way to go, the Archbishop of York has said.

Archbishop Cottrell delivered a video message to the two-day “Being Built Together” conference, organised by the C of E’s Racial Justice Unit, which began in Swanwick, Derbyshire, on Thursday. More than 130 clerics and lay ministers from Global Majority Heritage backgrounds have been in attendance.

“The Church is on a Spirit-inspired journey towards living out racial justice fully, as a witness of God’s love,” the Archbishop said. “As a Church, we have been remiss in the past. However, this event will share the progress made so far, reflect on our collective hope for the future, and, I hope, inspire us to continue to work towards a Church that fully represents all God’s people.”

Archbishop Cottrell said that the title of the conference was inspired by 1 Peter 2.5, in which St Peter “emphasises the importance of unity in our spiritual journey, urging us to construct a collective sanctuary”.

He expressed gratitude to the conference delegates for “your tireless work, your perseverance, sometimes under very challenging circumstances. Your dedication and commitment make a profound missional impact wherever you are, and help us to be the Church that God is calling us to be. I assure you that we will work together in this journey towards racial justice.”

The vision of a Church that “fully embraces diversity and equity” was part of a wider vision for the 2020s, “that the Church of England will be younger and more diverse”, he said.

He continued: “We find ourselves on a profound path in our endeavours to build a Church that fosters equal participation. And, by God’s grace, we are closer to achieving that than ever before. And, yet, we must acknowledge that there is still a considerable distance to cover.”

In opening remarks on the first day of the conference, the Church of England’s Racial Justice Director, the Revd Guy Hewitt, said that the Church’s commitment to racial justice was driven primarily not by “demographic trends, or to be socially responsible in the pursuit of equality, diversity, and inclusion, both of which are commendable goals. But, rather, we choose to stand against the evil and pernicious sin of racism.

“Our racial-justice mandate does not flow from any identity politics, but from our identity in Christ in terms of reflecting that imago Dei; by being truly reunited in him as brothers and sisters in Christ. . .

“This is the first of what we hope to be a number of gatherings, as we try to become bolder, stronger, more active in terms of walking with each other on this way, this journey forward. There is a saying that ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ I am thankful that we are together on this journey.”

Other speakers at the conference included Canon Chigor Chike and the Revd Sonia Barron, both members of the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission (News, 8 October 2021).

Canon Chike told the conference that delegates were united in combating the “lie” and “false narrative” of racism.

Ms Barron said: “My prayer is that we will leave here and set up smaller groups in dioceses to support each other and encourage one another.”

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