It pains me to say this, but I have to agree with the conclusions reached by an internal inquiry conducted by the Church of England. The Church is institutionally racist, which is to say mired in what will soon be added to the list of deadly sins.
According to the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce: “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.”
True to its word, the taskforce proposed 47 concrete steps towards ending a “rut of inaction” and ushering in a rut of action instead. The taskforce’s findings are consonant with Archbishop Welby’s 2020 pronouncement that the Church is still “deeply institutionally racist”.
Some of the 47 steps mirror the initiatives that have proved staggeringly successful in the lay world: appointment of full-time racial justice officers, compiling annual reports on recruitment and mandatory training to embed anti-racism instincts.
Hear, hear! Every Anglican church in the land must have on its staff a diversity deacon, empowered to overrule the vicar on, well, anything he feels the vicar must be overruled on. That goes without saying.
However, I’d still propose to extend this welcome initiative into matters doctrinal and liturgical. To begin with, the list of seven cardinal sins should be expanded to include an eighth: racism. In general, the list ought to be seen as open-ended: new deadly sins, such as misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia, should also be added as required, but perhaps not all at once.
The Penitential Rite must also be slightly amended to begin as: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in racist thought, word, and deed…”
In the good tradition of Anglican liberalism, Lambeth Palace should eschew dictatorial practices and empower the ministers to express their innermost personal convictions. Thus, if a vicar demands that his/her/its congregation worship Jesus Christ as a black woman, he/she/it should be free to do so.
But perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree. More than 160 recommendations along these lines have been made to the taskforce, and I’m sure my amateurish efforts must have been superseded already.
So perhaps I’d better focus on the core of the problem and preempt all those naysayers who will doubtless insist that the C of E isn’t institutionally racist. To shut them up once and for all, I’d like to submit some incontrovertible evidence.
If we define institutional racism as discrimination against or in favour of an employee solely on account of his/her/its race, irrespective of any other qualifications, then I submit the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell as my Exhibit A.
In 2020 His Grace (irredeemably white) replaced in his current post, second most senior in the Church, John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu (impeccably black). Since anyone would be hard-pressed to identify Archbishop Stephen’s qualifications to be a priest, never mind a prelate, it had to be his pigmentation that acted as an institutional hoist.
If His Grace is as committed to eradicating racism as he professes, he must tender his resignation and apply for a job as diversity officer. Mugabi Sentamu should then reclaim his diocese or, if reluctant to do so, put forth a candidate of proper racial credentials.
Here we dig our teeth into the meat of the argument. As progressive people, we accept that racism is anything anyone says it is. Yet pedantic sticklers may feel that this criterion is insufficiently precise. They insist on some objective measure of institutional racism.
Thank God one such exists: Proportional Ethnographic Representation, PER for short. By applying PER to an institution’s staff, we can determine if a particular race is over- or underrepresented in relation to its share in the ethnographic makeup of the nation at large.
Any sizeable deviation from the statistical requirement spells institutional racism. It’s as simple – and as fool-proof! – as that.
Hence we programme the total number of C of E bishops (42) into the PER tool and then add the number of black bishops (5). Hence 12 per cent of the bishops are black, meaning that the total proportion of blacks in the population must be similar.
But – and I can’t even begin to describe my shock – it turns out blacks make up only three per cent of the UK’s population. There you go then, the Taskforce’s findings stand vindicated. The Church of England is institutionally racist because whites are grossly underrepresented in its episcopate. QED.