The General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, has voted to apologise for racism experienced by black and minority ethnic people in the Church of England since the arrival of the Windrush generation.
Members unanimously backed a motion to ‘lament’ and apologise for conscious and unconscious racism encountered by ‘countless’ black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Anglicans arriving in Britain from 1948 and in subsequent years, when seeking to find a home in the Church of England.
The General Synod expressed ‘gratitude to God’ for the ‘indispensable’ contribution to the mission, ministry, prayer and worship of the Church of England made by people of BAME descent.
Introducing the motion Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby, from Southwark Diocese highlighted the experiences of the family of his parishioner, Doreen Browne.
Her mother, father and sibling were barred in 1961
from entering St Peter’s Church in Walworth, south London, ‘due to the plain
fact of the colour of their black skin’, he told the Synod.
“They eventually found a home in a nearby parish church – but we know that many cradle Anglicans from the Caribbean did not, and simply left the Church of England: that is a scandal of our own,” he said.
“Doreen’s family suffered a horrible, humiliating racism which still affects Doreen’s relationship with the Church even today.”
He added: “Any apology that we, the Church, can give, must lead to urgent change in our Church; concrete change. And this is not just about the Church’s past.”
Members voted to redouble efforts to combat racism and to work towards greater participation of BAME Anglicans in all areas of Church life.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, speaking in response to Fr Moughtin-Mumby’s speech, said he was ‘sorry’ and ‘ashamed’.
He told the Synod that there was ‘no doubt’ that
the Church of England was still ‘deeply institutionally racist’.
Welby said: “We did not do justice in the past, we do not do justice now, and unless we are radical and decisive in this area in the future, we will still be having this conversation in 20 years’ time and still doing injustice – the few of us that remain, deservedly.
“We have damaged the Church, we have damaged the image of God and most of all, we have damaged those we victimised, unconsciously very often.”
In a break with tradition, the General Synod paused for a moment of silence and were led afterwards in prayer by the Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, in response to the speeches by Father Moughtin-Mumby and the Archbishop.
Bishop Christine said: “We pray for all who have suffered from the evil of racism and discrimination, we pray for those who were deported this morning and, for ourselves, we offer our profound sadness at our sinfulness and we ask for forgiveness.”
The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, told the Synod he had experienced a warm welcome from churches across the world in contrast to the reception experienced by the Windrush generation.
“All at sea culturally, they turned to the one place they thought they would be welcomed and offered hospitality, only to find they were shunned,” he said.
“So, to those who say, how can we apologise for the actions of a previous generation – I say, this is not just about previous generations – the impact continues today.”