Senior Church of England clergy 'not diverse enough'

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Media caption"Give me another rationale as to why we are not there in leadership roles" - Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin

A number of leading Anglicans have complained about the lack of ethnic minority clergy who make it to senior levels in the Church of England.

The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons, blamed institutional racism.

On Tuesday, a new suffragan bishop of Woolwich was named - the first black man to be made a bishop in 20 years.

The Church is hiring a minority ethnic vocations officer to attract more black people into the clergy.

The Reverend Karowei Dorgu's appointment as Woolwich's bishop follows that of the Most Reverend John Sentamu, now Archbishop of York, who was announced as Bishop of Stepney in 1996.

The archbishop is the only bishop from an ethnic minority to lead a Church of England diocese at present.

There are now a total of five black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the senior ranks of the Church of England - archdeacon or above.

Mrs Hudson-Wilkin, who is originally from Jamaica, said the only conclusion she could draw was that the Church has been institutionally racist.

'Visible yet invisible'

"We are visible yet invisible," she said. "I do not believe that the Church recognises that we are there.

"With my hand on my heart, I do not believe that the Church respects and embraces its minority ethnic membership."

Asked if she was describing the component parts of institutional racism, Mrs Hudson-Wilkin replied: "I suspect that I am."

She said: "It's really a heavy burden to say that because that is the Church that I belong to, that is the Church that I love, but if someone else can genuinely give me another rationale as to why we are not there in senior leadership roles within the Church, then I'm prepared to consider it."

Image copyright Diocese of Southwark
Image caption Karowei Dorgu is to be the 13th Bishop of Woolwich

In November, 29 senior black and Asian Anglicans signed a joint letter to the Church Times in which they said it should be "a matter of deep shame for the Church that the entirety of its BAME senior leadership could fit in the back of a London cab".

Signatories included barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC and former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips.

Earlier this year, the Church of England announced that it was hiring a national minority ethnic vocations officer to attract more BAME people into the clergy.

Its figures show the proportion of non-white clergy rose slightly from 3.1% in 2012 to 3.4% in 2015.

The proportion of BAME senior staff - archdeacons and above - rose from 1.2% in 2012 to 2.2% in 2015.

Crown appointments

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend James Langstaff said the figures were "absolutely clear" evidence of institutional racism.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I've said that myself in the past, yes. Other people use other language - they talk about unconscious bias."

Bishop Langstaff said the Church is doing an "awful lot" to address diversity, with programmes to develop people's talent and foster people's vocations, as well as working with the groups who make the appointments.

He said: "These are often Crown appointments rather than Church appointments, but the Crown is advised by commissions and committees and we're working really closely to try and do unconscious bias training with these people in order to tackle these really serious issues".

He said the appointment of the new Bishop of Woolwich was to be rejoiced, adding: "I would hope that we are going to have others following in the next few years."

'Thriving' Pentecostals

Mrs Hudson-Wilkin said the Church of England could learn a lesson from thriving Pentecostal churches, many of whose pastors are black.

"Not only are there black leadership in the Pentecostal churches, but we see that here are lots of young people in those churches.

"Those young people see reflections of themselves. They are able to say 'I belong'.

"They cannot see those reflections of themselves within the Church of England."

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