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The report ‘From Lament to Action’ which was written by the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce was released today. It proposes a suite of actions designed to bring about real cultural change in the Church of England in the area of race equality. The full report can be found here.

The report says that “failure to act” on these changes now could be the “last straw” for people of UK Minority Ethnic (UKME) or Global Majority Heritage (GMH) backgrounds with “devastating effects” on the future of the Church.

The taskforce consisted of nine members, including Revd Dr Anderson Jeremiah, a priest in the Diocese of Blackburn and lecturer at Lancaster University. More can be found about the Taskforce here.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written a response to the report which you can find here and have committed to implementing a number of the suggested actions immediately. Namely:

  • Work with General Synod to encourage them to co-opt ten ethnic minority candidates, of which five will be clergy and five lay people, to serve as members of the General Synod for the 2021- 2026 Quinquennium. As co-optees, they would serve with full participation and voting rights.
  • Invite ethnic minority clergy observers to attend House of Bishops as participant observers for three-year periods until such time as there are six bishops from ethnic minorities able to sit as members of the House. The process should mirror that used for election of women as participant observers in 2013.
  • Establish a Racial Justice Commission, which the Archbishops have written to invite the Reverend Dr Joel Edwards to chair. Further details on its composition and work will be made available when finalised. This group will direct their attention to the working practices of the Church of England with regard to racial justice, and will hold the two Archbishops to account for our leadership in this regard.
  • Work with Archbishops Council to create a Racial Justice Directorate within the National Church Institutions of the Church of England, for a five-year period, to implement the recommendations of the Taskforce and the Commission.
  • Work with Archbishops Council to replace the Committee for Minority Ethnic Concerns (CMEAC) with a new standing committee of the Archbishops’ Council to oversee the work of the Racial Justice Directorate.

Further to the actions laid out by the report, the Taskforce has listed seven areas for the focus of a three-year-long Commission:

  • Theology
  • Slavery (including Monuments)
  • History & Memory
  • Culture & Liturgy
  • Participation
  • Complaints Handling
  • Patronage of churches.

A fuller understanding of what is meant by each of these can be found in the report.

The Rt Revd Bishop Julian, Bishop of Blackburn said:

“The Anti-Racism Taskforce’s report, ‘From Lament to Action’ is clear that the Church has historically failed and continues to fail in its responsibility to allow all whom God has called to Christian ministry to serve Him according to their gifts. This is something to lament and repent of, but I am glad that the Task Force has brought this to the fore and that clear actions have been suggested for the Church at a national and local level. The Bishops of Blackburn Diocese welcome this report and will meet to consider how we can do better in Lancashire in light of it.  

The Taskforce’s report focuses not on identity politics but on our identities in Christ. From this starting point it is clear that the institutional and immediate racism which has happened in the Church is a sin; a sin from which we must repent and resolve never to repeat. We are committed to working towards a Church which better reflects the Global Body of Christ and models to society that we cannot truly live life in all its fullness until all are allowed to flourish.”

Bishop Julian’s Advisor on UKME matters and member of the Bishop’s Leadership Team, as well as Vicar of United Benefice of St Stephens with St. James Church, Blackburn, Revd Sarah Siddique Gill said:

“The Anti-Racism Taskforce report is encouraging, as it realises that the Church of England’s identity is not rooted in its colonial history. Rather, its history is rooted in the suffering Messiah Jesus Christ, who has called the Church to exercise justice and reflect Jesus’ ways of dealing with people of different racial backgrounds.

It took a long time for the institutional Church to acknowledge its sin of not following the teachings of Jesus, who does not show any partiality. It is my hope that the ‘From Lament to Action’ report will bring an end to disparity in the proclamation of the Word of Jesus. I hope also that the Church will move from patronising other races to relating to them as equal partners in the Mission of God.”