Church of England Urged to Make Changes as Report Reveals 40 Years of Inaction on Racism

The Church of England has not acted on previously reported issues of racism in the church, according to a report published Thursday by its Anti-Racism Taskforce.

The task force was established last year after Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the General Synod that there was "no doubt" the Church of England remained "deeply institutionally racist."

The report focused on action. It noted that formal discussions about racism have been taking place in the church since the mid-1980s, including 20 reports and 160 recommendations, but "action had fallen short."

The report said: "The Taskforce recognizes the apologies and lament witnessed in the Church over racial sin, but repentance requires more than apology."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks during a service to mark Armistice Day and the centenary of the burial of the unknown warrior at Westminster Abbey on November 11, 2020, in London, England. Jeremy Selwyn-WPA Pool/Getty Images

The recommendations published Thursday included a plan to increase representation of ethnic minority people to at least 15% at all levels of governance by 2030, to reflect the proportion of ethnic minority worshippers. The report also said full-time racial justice officers should be employed in every diocese.

The vast majority of senior staff in the church are white British. Just five out of 111 bishops are from ethnic minorities, and the church has only nine deans, archdeacons and senior staff from minorities.

"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," [the report] said.

The taskforce also called for action to address the church's legacy in the slave trade, including an assessment of monuments and buildings that unconditionally celebrate those linked to slavery.

Earlier this week, a BBC report claimed that staff members complaining of racism in the church have been paid off to "buy their silence."

Elizabeth Henry, the church's former race relations adviser, told the BBC's Panorama news program that some of those who complained and received compensation had to sign non-disclosure agreements. Henry said she retired last year from her role after feeling frustrated at the "lack of progress with issues of racism."

Welby said this week that confidentiality agreements should not be used to prohibit people from speaking publicly.