Bishop Philip: ‘We must redouble efforts to welcome all’
The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, has called on everybody living within the diocese to redouble their efforts to provide a welcome for all people, regardless of ethnicity.
And the diocese’s minority ethnic champion, Patrick Gilbert, has said it is essential that welcome is across our schools, places of work, and the wider community, in addition to the churches themselves.
Their comments come against a backdrop of anti-racism protests in the UK and the US, following the death of George Floyd in police custody. One officer was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
On Friday, the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC), released a statement addressed to the archbishops, the House of Bishops and the National Church Institutions.
The statement said: “As members of CMEAC we express our outrage at the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA. We stand in solidarity with all those protesting the racist experiences, police brutality and injustices experienced by Blacks and Ethnic Minorities in the USA and pledge with them, to continue this fight for equality, inclusion and injustice. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all who suffer discrimination and exclusion and offer our prayerful and prophetic support for the Black Lives Matter movement all over the world, including our own country.
“This is an important defining moment in our present time, in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic when so many around the world have lost their lives and are suffering the effects of the virus. The brutal killing of George Floyd has added to the pain which is also historic for BAME people. We are aware of course, that many people of colour have lost their lives in our country through racist acts in the recent past. We need to address racism in our own institution too.
“At the February Session of General Synod Archbishop Justin acknowledged that the Church of England is institutionally racist. As a Synod we pledged to do something about the exclusion of BAME laity and clergy at all levels of the institutional Church. As a national Church we have a responsibility to create a community of faith that celebrates equality, inclusion and justice for all people. This is a gospel imperative and we dare not pretend otherwise. We hope that the current challenge is seen as a defining moment when we can act to transform the life of the Church of England by actively working to end racist behaviour and actions in the institution.”
CMEAC, which is a committee of the Archbishops’ Council and accountable to General Synod, has recommended three actions the church should undertake ‘as a start’. They are:
- Recognise the under-representation of BAME laity and clergy in the CofE at all levels of the institution and engage in ongoing dialogue with CMEAC and other relevant bodies and individuals.
- To address the systemic discrimination that exists in the CofE in terms of senior leadership and commit to addressing this with immediate effect.
- To establish a Race Equality Panel to monitor inclusion and representation at all levels
Bishop Philip said: “Recent events in the USA have left me deeply moved. John Donne, the great priest/poet, famously said: ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.’ Those words have rarely felt so apt.
“We cannot, therefore, say that because Cornwall has a relatively small BAME population that these are matters that are indifferent to us. Indeed, it’s in such communities that racism can be more, and not less, of a problem.
“So I call on us all to redouble our efforts to welcome all, whatever their ethnicities, as those made in the image of God – and as those who are of infinite value as a result.”
Patrick Gilbert said: “Growing up in Cornwall, I experienced much racism and recent events are a grim reminder of the pain and destruction that it brings.
“As the church we have a responsibility to demonstrate the amazing love extended to us unconditionally through our wonderful saviour. It is this same love that fills us with the hope that even racism can and will be overcome.
‘Do this together’
“Yet we must do this together, even if it doesn’t feel relevant to us. With well over 10,000 people from BAME backgrounds now living here in Cornwall, it is essential that we extend our warm welcome and hospitality to all those different from ourselves, not only in our churches, but in our schools, places of work, and the wider community.”