Members of the Church of England’s Anti-racism Taskforce expressed shock and disappointment that a key recommendation would not be implemented. The Bishop of London, speaking for the Archbishops Council, said the church could not afford diocesan racial justice officers.
The Questions document provided for General Synod members before the start of their online meeting, on Friday, includes a question from Debra Walker, a lay representative of Liverpool diocese, to the President of the Archbishops’ Council: “What progress has been made to release funding for the appointment of Racial Justice Officers around the Dioceses as directed in the report ‘From Lament to Action’?”
In the document, a reply from the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, as President of the Council, says: “The Archbishops’ Council has concluded that it cannot support this recommendation in this formulation at this time, given the need to reduce costs in diocesan and national administration.
“The Council understands the rationale for this recommendation and will do more work on how best to support racial justice across the country through a network of officers who would be suited to different contexts. The Council will look at whether and how this might be supported in a different way as part of looking at funding priorities for the next triennium.”
The Rev Arun Arora and the Rev Sonia Barron, co-chairs of the anti-racism taskforce that produced the report, said they were “deeply shocked and disappointed” at the move.
Arora said it “boils down to a matter of priorities” and would “inevitably lead to conclusions as to how much or how little this matters to decision-makers in the church”.
Barron urged the church to reconsider, saying: “If not now, when?”
Elizabeth Henry, who resigned as the C of E’s race adviser last year, said the decision was “a slap in the face”. She said: “To say it’s too costly is a gross insult. It’s to say racial justice is too expensive when it is a foundation of our faith. This decision is a disgrace.
“We have to stop waiting for the church to allow us racial justice. I pray black and brown people will vote with our feet.”