A paper for discussion, to be adopted as the basis of the Diocese in Europe’s strategy in this area of work.
An invitation to share in belonging together through racial justice. Reflections and Recommendations from the Diocesan Working Group (WG)
The death of the African-American citizen George Floyd at the hands of police officers on 25th May in Minneapolis - in the midst of an already volatile climate caused by the COVID-19 crisis - gave rise to waves of protest across the United States under the movement of Black Lives Matter. Archbishops and bishops of the Church of England who rallied to support the movement have said that it is time to “own up to” and “repent” of white privilege, within the Church as in other parts of society (see article by Hattie Williams, Church Times, dt. 12th June 2020). In other parts of the Western world solidarity protests followed. Earlier sporadic outbreaks of protest and a ground swell of discontent against widespread racial injustice in societies and their institutions suddenly peaked in intensity and persistence, regrettably also in violence. The media highlighted the theme. The issue of racial injustice could no longer be side-lined; it demanded that it be confronted, the more so as there have been other such incidents which have followed close on the heel of George Floyd in the US, the UK and in Europe.
Any violent expressions causing harm to life and property cannot be condoned. Violence cannot be met with violence. Just as unequivocally it needs to be stated that: Every human life matters equally. One must recognise the fact that the fundamental human rights of the African-American community have been systematically trodden underfoot since they have lived in that part of the world which today lays claim to being a model democracy. Their cry for justice has been picked up by minority ethnic groups of colour also in Europe – in solidarity and out of their own experience of discrimination. A newer feature of this protest is found in the visible and vocal support of many ’white’ compatriots. How long have they too been blind in one eye to latent racism in their communities, a blindness which almost as a matter of course impinges on the
human dignity and rights of those of other or mixed ethnic origins? Churches too have heard the clarion call.
In the words of The Rt Revd Robert Innes, Bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe, ‘there remains far more to do to encourage minority ethnic ministry and representation’. In response, the Bishops in the Diocese in Europe commissioned a working group to bring together shared wisdom and provide a policy document that can help us and perhaps the wider Church of England to engage with the question of racial justice as a matter of urgency.
Members of the Working Group (WG)
The Revd Smitha Prasadam – Chaplain of St Alban’s Copenhagen
Ms Ozichi Baron, Brussels (from 15.10.2020)
The Revd Augustine Nwaekwe – Chaplain of Ostend, Bruges and Knokke
The Ven Dr Leslie Nathaniel – Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe and the East (Chair)
Regarding the composition of the Working Group, it is just a coincidence that the people in the group are located where they are. They are keenly aware of the struggles and needs across the Diocese in Europe as a whole and have themselves experienced struggle and humiliation.
Key points about this policy paper
The WG will not be using the acronym BAME but will be spelling out Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic repeatedly in order that it enter the vernacular. Where this is not so, we are currently using the term People of Colour, meaning a self understanding of people who have experienced racism. Like the terms Black or White, the term People of Colour does not mean different shades of colour here, rather it represents exclusion or marginalisation due to racism.
This policy paper is prepared for study and engagement within the Diocese in Europe and may be a useful paper for the wider Church of England to engage with. This may have resonance for other partner churches elsewhere.
The WG met on five occasions and presented to the Bishops Staff Meeting on 01.10.2020 a first draft for the attention of the Bishops and the senior staff of the Diocese. All of them have engaged carefully with the first draft.
On 06.10.2020 it was sent with the strong recommendation of the Bishops to all chaplaincies for
discussion and study along with the following questions:
1. What does it mean to you to be a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion of which the vast majority of its members are people of colour?
2. Please identify how and where systemic or institutional racism persists – support your answer with examples from your own experience?
3. In addition to the recommendations in this draft policy document, what other specific strategies would you like to suggest to enrich the document?
The WG is delighted at the range of responses it has already received either by email or through telephone conversations. This draft has incorporated the responses received, as appropriate.
At the outset, it should be noted that this paper shares reflections to enable and equip the Diocese in Europe to engage with racial justice. We are aware that other areas of discrimination, such as gender justice, disability, and sexuality, also demand addressing. But our current task is to focus on Racial Justice, to bring it more into the centre of the church’s attention and concern.
This policy paper does not set out to give a complete overview on the subject or the history of discrimination and the struggle against it. In its present form, it is a call / an invitation to share in belonging together through racial justice. There is no doubt that the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has meant that issues around racial discrimination could no longer be side-lined. Furthermore, it was evident that matters of racial justice had been held at bay for far too long and needed to be addressed with urgency. However, this paper is not simply jumping onto the bandwagon of the BLM movement. Some have pointed out that the paper has not done justice to history. For example, it fails to mention William Wilberforce’s or Olaudah Equiano ́s successful campaign to abolish slavery or the British role in opposing apartheid in South Africa etc. The WG is clear that these examples, rather than taking the wind out of the sails of the current paper, lend strength to its case. This is exactly the heritage it calls upon, namely the unequivocal stand against racial discrimination. The banning of the slave trade and the successful fight against apartheid quite clearly have not laid to
rest the evils of race discrimination once and for all. The struggle needs to go on in so many areas of public life, including that of the church.
In terms of episcopal appointments, there is wide consensus that the gifts and potential of the Black, Asian, Ethnic and Minority people need to be recognized. We are aware that in the former Bishop of Rochester and the former Archbishop of York there have been two important examples of people of colour who have been in senior episcopal leadership. However, there are currently no diocesan bishops from the Black, Asian, Ethnic and Minority communities. The reasons for this in today ́s contextual reality within the Church of England just cannot be explained away under the heading other cultures function differently to ours or that the way they do things is better (for them). Such an argument would, for the people of colour, speak against integration, the possibility of learning from each other and being a uniting community. Furthermore, it is important to note that of the 73 suffragan bishops in post in the Church of England, there are only 5 from the Black, Asian, Ethnic and Minority communities, including the Suffragan Bishop in Europe. The WG furthermore notes that there is one suffragan bishop-designate awaiting consecration and there are 4 vacancies. In light of the initiatives to overcome racial discrimination, it will be important to observe and comment on how these vacant suffragan bishop’s posts are filled.
Some responses seemed to suggest that the synodical tradition in England is not easy to be fully understood and grappled with by people of colour. This argument is not sustainable, since such a synodical tradition is not new to the churches of the Anglican Communion. For example, the Church of South India with its synodical tradition was formed in 1947, compared to the Synod of the Church of England that was instituted in 1970. This paper is not about trying to make people
of colour operate like white people, rather it is about expressing joyous and joint ownership, also in areas of leadership.
Therefore, the question that the WG asks at the outset is: “Can we in the Church of England as a whole, in all honesty, demonstrate that WE NEED AND BELONG TO EACH OTHER?” The WG is not convinced that this is the case, given the lack of visibility in key roles of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.
The setting up of the Archbishop of Canterbury ́s Racism Action Commission is a much-needed response and the direct result of the current outcry against racial discrimination. It is geared to implement key structural and cultural changes within the Church of England on race.
Speaking to the General Synod during a debate on the Empire Windrush Legacy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said there was ‘no doubt’ that the Church of England is still ‘deeply institutionally racist’. Furthermore, the Archbishop said he was “personally sorry and ashamed. I’m ashamed of our history and I’m ashamed of our failure ... I’m ashamed of my lack of urgent voice to the church” (see Article by Adam Becket, Church Times, dt. 11th February 2020).
This policy framework “Breathing Life” is a response from the Diocese in Europe and an invitation to engage with the embedded concept of belonging and need. It calls for a powerful compulsion to act. This is a belonging that is God ́s initiative rather than ours. It is our faith that provides us the entry into this community (see Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams).
It is our hope that this policy document will breathe life in chaplaincies across Europe and within the Church of England as a whole. May we by God’s grace firmly uphold the cause of the Gospel truth that each brother and sister of whatever colour or provenance is equal in God’s sight. With no reference to other current usage, we reclaim the biblical covenant of being made and restored in God ́s image to work towards the vision of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela's Rainbow People of God, that the world may believe.
Is there a definition of Racism?
The Convention of the United Nations defines the term "racial discrimination" as: any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life (International Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms
Of Racial Discrimination entry into force 4 January 1969).
How does Racism manifest itself?
There are a wide range of examples that may fall short of legal infringement of human rights yet
are no less racially discriminating. Many would fall under the term ‘racial profiling’ – a euphemism for discrimination. Some examples:
A taxi driver may drive past, ignoring a customer of colour; one may look discouragingly at the Sinti-Roma community. In Germany, racism would be associated with the Holocaust; in South Africa with the history of Apartheid; in the USA with slavery; in the UK with Colonialism etc. In our church context it is seen in the glaring under-representation and exclusion in decision making at both local church committee and higher synodical levels.
It is also seen in the demeanour, disregard and disrespect as well as the lack of sensitivity based on skin colour that often devalue meetings and honest conversations. One can point to a lack of greater intentionality in addressing issues concerning discrimination on the basis of race on the one hand; and on the other hand to the ‘inclusion’ of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people as token and exotic (a kind of well-meaning racism).
What is lacking is whole-hearted welcome to leadership and decision making. What is needed is space and value for the contributions and perspectives of People of Colour. Are we ready to see the potential in the other and prepared to share responsibility? Are we able to recognise the potential in the other and delegate responsibility? Are we equally ready to sacrifice our own place at the table in order to welcome another?
Rationale of Belonging
We are moving from “once not being a people to now being a people” (1 Peter 2.10); from exclusion to inclusion. This is central to belonging. People of colour need to experience belonging.
Quoting Rowan Williams:
“Those who were once strays, migrants, exiles, foreigners, are now insiders. They now belong. They are neither a collection of random individuals nor a group of barely tolerated marginal oddities. They are citizens of a proper civic community. In other words belonging to God’s people is being neither Jew nor Gentile. It is a 3rd reality beyond the rival identities of different sorts of insider – the insideness of the Jew confident of God’s choice of Israel and the confidence of the Roman citizen”
(see Meeting God in Paul, Rowan Williams).
Biblical Imperative – Embracing a people ́s theology (reflections ongoing)
The logic of the cross is the hope that violence and injustice will be overcome. If we as Christians wish to embrace the challenges of the cross, we are compelled to also see such challenges through the eyes of those discriminated against. There is merit in using George Floyd ́s dying words “I can’t breathe” for God breathes life into creation; we hear the last breath of God’s Son on the cross, and moreover the resurrected Christ breathes peace on his disciples. We should
put this within the framework of an activity which breathes new life into the old – or breathes new life altogether.
The Black Movement for racial justice in the 1960s showed the relevance of a people ́s theology. The music known as spirituals continues to touch the hearts and minds of people across the world. A person of colour listening to the songs “He is King of Kings, He is Lord of Lords; Jesus Christ, The First and Last” or “We Shall Overcome” would immediately understand this call to freedom; a freedom in Christ and liberation from any shackles. No preacher nor theologian is
The following suggested Bible verses provide the framework within which we can locate any
work on racial justice; from which all other justice will naturally flow.
Galatians 3.28 – “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave and free, there is no longer male and
female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” This is a seminal verse, which can resonate with
fresh meaning in our current context. Paul would like us to understand belonging in a different
way. A belonging which makes origins, status and the like inconsequential. All meet at the same
level in Christ Jesus.
Deuteronomy 16.20 – “Justice and only justice shall you pursue”. From the Torah itself we hear
time and again God ́s call for justice for all. Speaking out means that silence is not an option; it is
the extended arm of racism. Exodus is liberation; Incarnation is God in our midst; the Holy Spirit
is empowerment for transformation. Good theology compels racial justice as God ́s creative call.
Matthew 5.6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be
filled.” The Beatitudes call into question our whole way of life. Looked at differently, racial justice
could be our: “Be: Attitude”. How do we show our hunger and thirst for righteousness? After all,
what is righteousness, but justice?
A close look at the current state of the Church of England reveals that:
The distinctly Anglican vision of transforming unjust structures as articulated in the five marks of mission has not been given the much-needed attention it deserves in terms of overcoming racial discrimination. These 5 marks of mission help us to hold together our calling to proclaim the good news and social responsibility. The church needs to be together and live out both its theology and its practice.
The British Parliament is today more diverse and better represented than the Church of England governing bodies. There are about 65 MPs from the Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic communities and 2 of the 4 most senior offices of State are held by people of colour. This is unfortunately not the make-up of the European Institutions, notably the European Parliament.
There is no Diocesan Bishop from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community.
In the 42 dioceses there is only 1 Cathedral Dean and only 3,9 per cent of the 7700 clergy are from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people (see ministry statistics published in 2019).
There is a worrying and visible lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation in all synodical bodies.
A feature of chaplaincy councils and diocesan decision-making boards and committees is the underrepresentation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people.
Underrepresentation is further painfully evident in senior leadership. The WG is aware that the Diocese in Europe is blessed with a Bishop and an Archdeacon from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community. However, there is a lack of representation of People of Colour as Cathedral Deans, Area Deans, Canons, Chaplains and Licensed Readers.
The potential of people of colour is not recognised and a plethora of unfounded reasons are given regarding suitability, which is in direct contrast to public institutions.
Covid-19 has affected people of colour on the frontline disproportionately. This makes visible the commitment of people of colour to a cause and their willingness to even pay the ultimate price, which is not given appropriate recognitionOur intention is an appeal for all to flourish together; that it is good to learn and grow alongside Christians from the worldwide Anglican Communion; that the dynamics of Inclusion Exclusion be overcome; that it is about equal opportunity by creating an environment for each one of us to be open to discover the gifts and potential in the “the other.” Anything less is but the disfigured face of Christ.
What is also being addressed?
There is fear regarding the location and significance of statuary in church and cathedral precincts, yet in reality what is being questioned is a one-dimensional telling of history.
It is Christ crucified that is to be preached. This is the generation when people of colour have themselves recognised that they have much to share at all levels. They have recognised that they do have the ability to “take up their mat and walk.” They have recognised that one can learn from the past, but that the past cannot and should not be allowed to dominate the future for both people of colour and majority populations.
Addressing racial injustice and discrimination - Recommendations
Provide an irresistible invitation to engage, which is seen as an opportunity and challenge that cannot be rejected.
Create opportunities in the diocese to include the contributions of Christians from all over the world who could number up to 70% in parishes and chaplaincies. This group of people may have been deliberately or inadvertently made to feel less than equal. This is often based on assumptions about (in)ability to raise money, to network and to play due part in church operations.
Enable greater representation of people of colour in Chaplaincy Councils.
Explore and implement leadership opportunities for people of colour.
Delegate responsibility where possible and encourage shared responsibility.
Recognise privileges based on skin colour alone which offers an inherent advantage to some.
Skin colour should no longer determine who does or does not do certain jobs in the church. (Examine critically who is/isn’t engaged in a variety of church jobs including reading, interceding, cleaning, coffee-making, chairing meetings etc)
Speak out if you witness or experience racial discrimination. Silence is collusion.
Raise awareness of the pain of racial discrimination. Unconscious Bias Training is a helpful instrument.
Empower Chaplains to take action which is both affirmative and/or remedial so they themselves do not collude with unjust practices.
Empower Chaplaincies to create space for honest conversations.
Empower Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic members to play a fuller part in the life and witness of the church by additional training or support as necessary.
Be aware that “accent discrimination” can pose as a socially acceptable form of discrimination but can be a subtle form of racial discrimination.
Make Inclusive Justice a component part of the selection process and training syllabus for people in ministry. Do not overlook people of colour in discernment. The WG is heartened by the number of ordinands of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in the Diocese in Europe. This needs to be built on as the ripple effect will be altogether transformative.
Expand horizons by telling the whole story of colonial heritage through the eyes of the colonised.
Celebrate our diversity and all that is good while repenting of all that continues to cause pain, division and oppression through the use of creative liturgies and symbolic action to move everyone on.
Challenge and reject membership of political parties with a racist agenda.
‘Collate bible studies on racial/inclusive justice for wider circulation.
In terms of a come over, support and expand our horizons policy organise a Symposium that includes voices across the communion, such as, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry and younger theologians, women and men.
In terms of the plaques, statues, stained-glass windows and historic buildings, raise awareness that the answer is not tearing things down, rather it is about reflecting on history with fresh eyes, not allowing history to dominate, but to be able to use history to reconcile and transform. One example that we were alerted to, was a stained-glass window depicting the crucifixion scene. The unrepentant person was, it would appear, depicted as a person of colour. It is the conviction of the WG that a small plaque to explain this point is needed. The plaque would encourage people while reflecting on the beauty and theology of the stained- glass window, to note this disturbing point. This is all about education, since how we look at history will determine how we act and behave today.
Establish the permanence of the Bishops Working Group for Racial Justice as the Diocesan Working Group for Racial Justice