Wednesday, 21 April 2021

The Church of English Racists

Church of England congregation.
BBC Panorama programme 'Is the Church Racist?' | The Church of England

An insight into one of the reasons the Church of England has suffered such a massive decline in membership and attendance was revealed in a BBC Panorama program a few days ago. The CofE is deeply and institutionally racist, at least in the lower tiers of management. Viewers were given example after example of racial abuse and discrimination and of managerial indifference to it. For example, as Dr Elizabeth Henry, the CofE's former race relations adviser related:
A really shocking incident was a young black man who received a picture of a banana [with] his head superimposed on it and underneath is said 'Bananaman'. That is a deeply offensive and a deeply racist image.

He took it to HR and did file a grievance [but] the decision was that it was not racist.

[He] left and was given a very small compensation, however he was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
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The Church did make a platitudinous comment which could have been written by someone on work experience:
The allegations - whether involving individuals or the wider structures or culture of the Church - are deeply worrying and there is no place for racism or discrimination within the Church...
The Archbishop of York said:
The stories we've heard are shocking and there is no doubt that the Church has failed our UK Minority Ethnic brothers and sisters...

I hope that we are at least now approaching the challenge of tackling racism in a more intentional way and that that this will lead to much greater participation at every level of the Church’s life in order that we might become the change that we long to see everywhere.
With the perception that the Church of England is for the white population in multi-cultural Britain, and with the white population itself becoming more and more accepting of the black minorities they live alongside, it is hardly surprising that the church is unable to recruit from the minority population or retain the support of the white majority, so continues to decline in importance and relevance.

This is the same old problem for religions that arrogate to themselves the right to determine and dictate the morals and ethics of societies and assign the origins of those, and their right to do so, to an omniscient deity - the giver of morals. This serves only to fossilise cultural development and so act as a break on the natural evolution of society over time, setting up an increasing tension between the conservative and the progressive elements within society, until the tension becomes so great that the religion is forced to abandon its outmoded dogmas and adopt the prevailing standards, or become increasingly irrelevant as champions of repression.

There then follows a period of creative re-interpretation of formerly sacred and unchangeable doctrines, but in doing so, it ceases to be the religion it once was and loses its grip on society. Society ends up dragging it kicking and screaming into modern times, abandoning the old certainties as it does so.

An echo of this can be seen in the Archbishop of York's muddled and theologically ad hoc response:
The heart of the Christian faith is that in Christ there is a new humanity. The old barriers of separation and exclusion no longer count. This is the faith that was born on Easter Day 2000 years ago, a faith that drew in excluded people and I want us to recover that vision of this new humanity where barriers of separation are broken down.
Views of the supposed teaching of Jesus that are simply not supported by the biblical accounts. But even if they were, it has taken the CofE 2000 years to realise it, apparently, after a period just a couple of hundred years ago
when it supported the slave trade and until the mid-20th century, saw the non-white people of the world as in need of civilisation and rule by 'superior' white people with their 'one true faith' and 'superior' understanding of right and wrong, yet it still harks back to the days when a blood sacrifice was believed to be needed because we are somehow born sinful and unworthy and in need of redemption and salvation - and this is magically achieved by a blood sacrifice, rituals and magic spells, supervised and dispensed by a priesthood endowed with magical powers!

The CofE faces a similar problem to the Catholic church as it struggles to reconcile its own outmoded, Medieval conservatism that is being increasingly rejected in modern, evolving societies as Humanist ethics become predominant and they become more liberal, inclusive and tollerant.

If it adopts the liberalism of the growing majority, it alienates the remaining die-hards in its ranks - in the case of the Catholic Church, acceptance of the LGBTQ community, women priests and family planning; in the case of the Anglican church, multiculturalism and racial equality - it will alienate those few remaining members of the CofE for whom the church is a white church for white folks and one of the last bastions of social segregation and white supremacy. A throwback to the days when the CofE's role in the world was to 'civilise' the lesser races and soften them up for colonisation and exploitation.

Significantly, it wasn't until it reached this low ebb in its fortunes where it has become a minority cult even within the family of religions in a UK where a large majority of the people are now openly atheist, agnostic or not affiliated to any one faith, and needed to appeal to people other than the white, indigenous population, that the Anglican Church realised it had a major problem with racism.

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