The catalyst for the Racial Justice and Inclusion Task Group (RJITG) was the events of the summer of 2020 surrounding the violent murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA. In the autumn of 2020, a diverse group of eight people from across the diocese was invited by Bishop Michael Ipgrave to form the RJITG with the Revd Pamela Ogilvie and Archdeacon Julian Francis as co-convenors. The group began meeting in December 2020 and has shaped an agenda for racial justice across the diocese.
We were glad to be able to welcome The Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng as guest speaker at a special event open to all at Lichfield Cathedral in November focusing on Racial Justice and Inclusion in the Church of England.
He is the chair of the Archbishops' Commission on Racial Justice which delivered its important initial report 'From Lament to Action' in 2021 and its second in February 2023.
The present membership of the RJITG:
- The Ven Julian Francis (Co-convenor)
- Debbie Parkes (Co-convenor)
- Canon Theologian Dr Sharon Prentis
- Revd Graham Adamson
- Revd Canon Dr Gregory Platten
- Revd Treena Larkin
- Revd Gilbert David
The Lichfield RJITG mirrors an initiative that began nationally. In July 2020, the Archbishops proposed to the House of Bishops that an ‘Archbishop’s Commission on Racism’ should be set up to implement ‘significant cultural and structural change’ within the Church of England on race. The commission would also monitor progress on implementing change. An Anti-Racism Task Force was put in place immediately to begin work on anti-racist policies for the Church of England and to frame an agenda for tackling systemic racism in the church. On 22 April 2022, From Lament to Action was published, a report on the nature of structural and systemic racism with an extensive action plan for implementation to begin to tackle the failings that have been evident over many, many decades.
The RJITG have identified key priorities to address racism and are in the process of implementation. These include:
- UK Minority Ethnic/Global Majority Heritage (UKME/GMH) clergy recognised in the new pastoral support provision.
- Recruitment monitoring to establish UKME/GMH applying for vacancies and the success rate.
- Consultants advising on inclusive processes and procedures.
- Data collection on UKME/GMH presence and participation.
- As an initial step, with the assistance of consultants, devising and circulating a confidential questionnaire to begin to hear, honour and value UKME/GMH people’s experience of ministry.
- Commencement of Unconscious Bias Training by the Vocations and Training Team.
- Meeting with Central Sector staff and officers to discuss the relevant action points for implementation in From Lament to Action.
- Developing a procedure to deal effectively with racist incidents.
- Bishops, as part of their ongoing training, to participate in ‘reverse mentoring’ with a member of UKME/GMH clergy/lay person from a different diocese who already serves as a mentor.
- UKME priest to participate in Bishop’s Staff Meeting for a minimum of six months.
- Establish Racial Justice section on Diocesan website demonstrating commitment to racial justice and inclusion.
- Working towards Racial Justice Officer provision for West Midlands dioceses supported by West Midlands bishops and central CofE.
- RJITG as a resource providing support and advice to parishes addressing racial justice and inclusion.
- Increasing UKME/GMH representation on Diocesan Synod (and Bishop’s Council). The following were co-opted as members in 2021 for a term of three years:
- Clive Thomas
- Revd Dr David Isiorho
- Debbie Parkes
- Revd Jassica Castillo-Burley
- Revd Jeremy Sylvester
- Revd Romita Shrisunder
- Sam Duru
In Lichfield we have the widest possible variety of urban, rural and suburban contexts. It is our strong desire as a RJITG to engage the whole of the diocese in this initiative for change. We are founding that aim on the conviction that racial justice is as much about white people as it is about people of colour. The way forward lies in a more discerning, honest, committed partnership that embraces the imperative of Micah 6.8 to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.