Suffolk bishop says racism in the church must be 'exposed and called out'
- Credit: LUCY TAYLOR
Suffolk's most senior Church of England clergyman says racism in the church "must be exposed and called out" following a national report on the problems.
The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, welcomed the Archbishops' Anti-Racism Taskforce Report, which said little had changed in the church in 40 years.
The taskforce has made 47 proposals to tackle institutional racism and improve diversity in an attempt to end a "rut of inaction" spanning decades.
These include the requirement that shortlists for senior clergy should include at least one appointable minority ethnic candidate by September, with an expectation this occurs for all other jobs in the church.
It is also calling for annual reporting on recruitment so bodies must provide "action or explain", mandatory training in all dioceses to embed anti-racism practice and for full-time racial justice officers to be employed in every diocese for a five-year term.
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It wants to see a plan drawn up to increase representation of minority ethnic people to at least 15% at all levels of governance by 2030 - reflecting the proportion of minority ethnic worshippers.
Responding to the report, Bishop Martin said: “Racism in the church must be exposed and called out, and so I welcome the report published by the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce, I do so recognising how deeply it challenges me, but I hear the plea of the report that we have been talking about racism in the Church of England for over 40 years, and little has changed.
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“The report focusses on concrete actions looking at participation, education and the governance structures of the Church as an institution; the Archbishops have identified five recommendations to implement immediately which will help the Church to implement further recommendations.
“This report is published on the anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, serving as a poignant reminder of the devastating impact of institutional racism and how more progress needs to be made in the Church and wider society.
“The Church is poorer and less equipped for its mission without the full gifts of all its people being present in its leadership and all levels of its life together. Acting on these recommendations must be a priority.”
The report, called From Lament to Action, was commissioned by the Church of England’s House of Bishops.
Currently, there are just five minority ethnic bishops and nine deans, archdeacons, and senior staff.
The report authors write: "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."