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How dare CofE leaders imply our pews are filled with racists

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IN a recent article in the Spectator entitled The Church of England’s New Religion, associate editor Douglas Murray wrote about a forthcoming report from the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce.  

He said: ‘Though we haven’t heard much from actual pulpits for more than a year, the church hierarchy has not slumbered. It has been busying itself with the question of anti-racism.  


‘Last year the church set up a “taskforce” whose resulting report (From Lament to Action: Report of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce) is due before the Archbishops’ Council next week. Happily, a copy found its way into my hands first.’  


The Madness of Crowds 
author reveals that this report ‘fantastically warns of racism “whispered in our pews”, as though the Church of England was the KKK at prayer’.  


As the Queen put it on another subject: ‘Recollections may vary.’ But this is a verifiable account of what happened in a Church of England parish in South Yorkshire when a Nigerian curate arrived in the village in 2013: He was welcomed with open arms.  


I was vicar at the time. The young clergyman from the Anglican Diocese of Jos in the Plateau State of central Nigeria, lived with our family in the vicarage for a year.  

Our church in Oughtibridge, just outside Sheffield, had formed a friendship link with Jos Diocese through Anglican Mainstream. After I visited Jos in early 2012, its Bishop, Ben Kwashi, suggested the idea of a curate from his diocese coming to our parish.  

The then Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, whose permission was required for an overseas Anglican minister to come to the Northern Province, was very supportive, as was the local Diocese of Sheffield.   

There was a grumble from the fringe of our church community to the effect that if the Nigerian curate were appointed, people in the village ‘might think we were trying to convert them’.   


Rather than being evidence of racism, it would seem this objection betrayed ignorance of the loving missionary entailments of the Christian faith. But the parish church family were overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  


Church members decorated his room at the vicarage. He was invited into people’s homes as soon as he arrived. Musically gifted, he sang at the Mothers’ Union strawberry tea and went into various schools in and around Sheffield to be interviewed at assemblies and take part in classes.  


Anglicans who read their Bibles will know that the New Testament teaches that every Christian person, whatever their ethnic origin, is an equal member of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  


As the Apostle Paul emphasised in his letter to the Christians in 1st century Galatia: ‘For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: For ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3v26-28 – AV).  


Any local church anywhere in the world that gives a person wanting to worship with them a frosty reception because of his or her ethnic origin is behaving in an ungodly way.  

But if the local CofE church that so enthusiastically welcomed a Nigerian curate is typical (and I would suggest from my 23 years of ordained ministry that it is), then racial prejudice is a sin of which the vast majority of Anglicans in this country are not guilty.  


But in order to push parish churches into wokedom (a radically different spiritual realm from the Kingdom of God) there would seem to be an agenda at the top of the CofE to make out that racism is somehow rampant in the pews.  


One wonders what the right term might be for the behaviour of church leaders who stir up guilt in Christian people who have not done the wrong they are accused of. Would ‘abusive’ do?  

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Morecambe, Lancashire.

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