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Racial-justice report finds progress, if much still to accomplish, in all the dioceses

02 July 2024

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

The Very Revd Rogers Govender, who chairs the CMEAC, addresses the Synod in London in February

The Very Revd Rogers Govender, who chairs the CMEAC, addresses the Synod in London in February

THE “heresy” of racial injustice is steadily being addressed in individual ways in each of the 42 dioceses in the Church of England, a new progress report suggests.

The report, published by the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) on Tuesday, dedicates a chapter to each diocese, detailing progress on racial justice and targets for further work.

This evaluation is set against the recommendations of the report From Lament to Action published by the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce (News, 23 April 2021). It identified five priority areas: participation, governance, training, education, and young people.

Dioceses were asked three broad questions: how had these recommendations been implemented; what specific structures, strategies, and processes had been implemented in 2022/23; and what examples could they give of good practice and case studies.

As well as analysing written answers and documents, the CMEAC recorded 51 Zoom conversations.

The report says: “A few dioceses were found to have been responding to diversity for some time, perhaps labelling it as Intercultural, Interfaith, Diversity or Inclusion. Some became involved in the work as a response to the death of George Floyd [News, 5 June 2020].”

For most, however, the focus on racial justice began in response to From Lament to Action. “A minority had just started to address this area. In each case, dioceses were given an opportunity to describe their present position, the next steps, and, where relevant, their past journey.”

In terms of recommendations, many dioceses reported “listening” to GMH and UKME leaders; connecting with racial-justice charities and black-majority churches; working with communities to explore links with the transatlantic slave trade; combating modern slavery; learning from church schools; and improving training and recruitment processes.

Common practices in the dioceses included projects on contested heritage and diocesan links to the transatlantic slave trade; regular podcasts, interfaith events, Lent courses, and other resources on racial justice; and the telling of life stories, for example, to commemorate Windrush 75.

At the start of each chapter, the demographic of each diocese is summarised in percentages. Several dioceses, such as Leicester, Manchester, and Sheffield, also provide more specific figures for GMH/UKME congregants, confirmations, lay leaders, and vocations. In some cases, these are set against numerical targets for the next five years.

In a foreword to the report, the Very Revd Rogers Govender, who chairs the CMEAC, writes: “Racism is a heresy and a sin, and as Christians we have a responsibility to eradicate racism and exclusion in all its forms in the Church as well as our wider society. . . There is still so much to accomplish, not least in raising awareness, education, and prophetic actions.”

He said on Tuesday that most dioceses had already began the work of racial justice before the Anti-Racism Taskforce released its report. “I am encouraged by the examples of prayer, faith, and action detailed in this report. Each diocese is unique, and all are on a journey towards justice, inclusion, and equality for all people.”

The deputy racial-justice director for the Church of England, the Revd Dr Sharon Prentis, said: “We cannot afford to neglect this work — we are a Church of the whole nation, and this must include people from all parts of society, including UK minoritised ethnic and Global Majority Heritage (UKME & GMH) communities.”

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