The Church of England has spent much of 2021 grappling with how it handles race relations. In the wake of one Anglican ordinand claiming in February that 'The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism' the Church has had to contend with revelations about the use of Non Disclosure Agreements in silencing allegations of racism and the fall out from its report From Lament to Action which called for non-white clergy quotas.
Now though, one Anglican bishop has taken things a step further by writing to MPs to attack the recent findings of the government's commission on race and ethnic disparity, which criticised the misuse of the term 'institutional racism' and found little evidence that it existed in Britain.
A letter sent last week by The Right Reverend Roger Morris, Area Bishop of Colchester to all Members of Parliament in the Diocese of Chelmsford has been passed to Steerpike. In his self-flagellating missive, Morris begins by lamenting the Church's 'ongoing failure' to 'recognise where racism exists in our structures, systems, culture and behaviour'.
He explains that he is 'writing to convey the dismay and hurt that many within our Diocese feel' about the 'very divisive' report by spending 'much time pointing to issues among the poor white population... this approach to the work of the Commission plays one group of people off against the other, and is something no responsible Government should ever do or condone.'
Morris, who is himself white, lambasts 'the quite superficial understanding of racism that runs through the report' and the 'very unsophisticated' way in which racism is seen 'in terms of specific, deliberate acts of discrimination' – something no doubt of interest to the report's black chair Dr Tony Sewell. Sewell's credibility is criticised by Morris on the grounds that he 'was already known to have been sceptical' about institutional racism – something which has only served to further strengthen 'our doubt regarding the genuineness of this inquiry.'
The bishop ends by praising 'the Black Lives Matter protests [which] opened the eyes of many people and institutions to the racism that exists in our society and brought real momentum to the work of ridding us of it' before decrying how the 'the work of the Commission has set things back' and concluding 'as our elected representatives, we urge you to request that HM Government withdraws this report immediately.'
Ooft. Steerpike is told that this letter has not gone too well with all those who have received it, with one parliamentary source noting drily: 'Amazing to think the CofE was once called the Tory Party at prayer.'