The Church of England has rejected a call to appoint racial justice officers in every diocese in the country, a decision described as shocking and disgraceful by campaigners for diversity and inclusivity.
The proposal for dedicated officials was a key recommendation in a report, From Lament to Action, published in April after years of inaction over institutional racism. But the C of E has said the proposal is too costly.
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.”
In a written answer to a question submitted to the General Synod, meeting online this weekend, the Archbishops’ Council, one of the C of E’s main executive bodies, said the “need to reduce costs in diocesan and national administration” meant it could not support the recommendation.
However, it would “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”.
Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York, said: “We do not dispute that change is needed across the church if we are to eradicate racism and become a fully welcoming church which practices justice.”
But he said the need to cut costs meant that “at the moment full-time officers in every diocese cannot be afforded”.
A new C of E racial justice commission, reporting to the archbishops of Canterbury and York, is to be chaired by the former Labour cabinet minister Paul Boateng. The commission will deliver progress reports every six months on the church’s efforts in rooting out systemic racism.
Lord Boateng said: “Racism is a gaping wound in the body of Christ’s church. Our mandate as a commission is not only to bind but to heal.”