Sitting in an ornate study in the Old Deanery – a 17th Century mansion house opposite St Paul’s Cathedral – the Bishop of London put her hand on my arm and quietly said something that left me astounded.
‘Calvin, as a white woman I can tell you that the Church IS institutionally racist,’ the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally told me.
We had been discussing the Church’s race policy, which I had been vocally objecting to for some time. The Bishop could not understand that as a black man, I simply did not share her – and the Church hierarchy’s – view on this contentious issue.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has proclaimed that the Church of England is ‘deeply institutionally racist’ and called for ‘radical and decisive’ action. Last year an Anti-Racism Task Force recommended using quotas to boost the number of black and ethnic-minority senior clergy, introducing salaried ‘racial justice officers’ in all 42 dioceses and launching ‘racial justice Sunday’ once a year.
I fundamentally disagreed with this approach, which is based on a faith in divisive Left-wing Critical Race Theory, instead of the teachings of Christ. I believe it is divisive and offensive.
I have experienced plenty of racism in my life, but it has always been down to a minority of malicious individuals. I do not think the claim that either the Church, or wider society, is institutionally racist has ever been supported by robust evidence.
The Bishop of London’s hushed condescension during our meeting made me realise that any dissent from the Church’s ingrained view, which to me seems like nothing more than virtue-signalling, is not welcomed. The Church claims it wants to listen to the perspectives of minorities – well, I am one of them but it doesn’t appear to want to hear my view because it also happens to be a conservative one.
For the past two years I have been training for ordination at St Stephen’s House at the University of Oxford. I was due to begin a curacy at a lovely parish in Holborn, Central London, and within a year I hoped to be ordained a priest.
It takes a long time to acknowledge a call from God to serve as a priest, and it’s a vocation that often involves the sacrifice of leaving behind a successful career. I gave up my career as an assistant headteacher and consultant for the Department for Education to throw myself into my theological studies.
Mr Robinson also claimed that the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally (pictured), lectured him about racism in the church, insisting that ‘as a white woman I can tell you that the Church is institutionally racist’
I was therefore staggered to be told that the Church could no longer offer me the position.
During a Zoom call, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, told me that there had been ‘a lot of turbulence’ over some of the views I had expressed online and on TV. It was no secret that senior figures in the Church disliked me. I am after all a traditionalist – which means I do not believe in the ordination of women – and I have never been afraid to voice my criticism of the Church’s drift away from what I, and many of its parishioners, think are its core values.
I did not expect everyone to agree with me, but what I did expect is the right to express my own opinions. I had always been taught that the Church of England was a broad church.
I later discovered that Church leaders in London appeared to have had deep misgivings about my ordination from the very beginning of my training – despite spending more than £20,000 of parishioners’ money on sending me to study theology at Oxford.
Emails that I obtained via data-protection rules revealed that bishops at the very top of the Church had been closely scrutinising my public comments.
‘His political agenda is I guess what you would call libertarian – anti-woke, anti-identity politics, Covid-sceptical,’ the Bishop of Fulham wrote in one email. ‘His tweets get him into trouble sometimes and there have been complaints to the Bishop of London that he shouldn’t be ordained.’
One particular email stood out. It was written by the Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Rev Rob Wickham, to the Bishop of London and one of the Church’s PR advisers. ‘Calvin’s comments concern me about denying institutional racism in this country,’ the Bishop wrote.
But why was this white, middle-class clergyman so worried about my perfectly legitimate view that Britain is not riven with systemic racism?
Perhaps he did not regard my view as valid and his real concern was that I did not adhere to the Church’s liberal agenda.
It was confirmation to me that the Church, like our Civil Service and universities, is under the control of people with the same Left-leaning, woke mindset.
If the Church is institutionally racist, as the Archbishop of Canterbury insists, then why have he and other senior figures, including Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, and Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, not resigned? After all, they have all been bishops for years, which suggests they have been unable to solve the problem.
And it’s not just issues of race and gender. It seems the Church will affirm any liberal progressive secular view, but clamp down on conservative views, either political or theological.
If you defend family values, the sanctity of marriage, all human life being sacred, or the fact that God made us male and female, you’ll face opprobrium.
Something has gone wrong. The established Church is entering apostasy, and the faithful masses in the congregations and the hard-working clergy deserve better.
Since my ordination was blocked I’ve been contacted by clergymen and lay people up and down the country who have been sharing their stories of how they’ve been silenced by the Church for holding conservative views.
It is perhaps no surprise the Church has been in slow and steady decline for decades. The average attendance at Sunday services across the country fell from 740,000 in 2016 to 690,000 in 2019.
After becoming increasingly disillusioned, I recently decided to leave the Church of England and join a more orthodox institution, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Walking away from the Church of England has been heartbreaking.
People often quizzed me on why, if I was so troubled by its direction, I was also so determined to take holy orders in the Church of England. It was because, for me, the Church is the body of Christ and, perhaps naively, I thought I could help pull things back on track from within.
But I have, sadly, been proved wrong. Comfortable in its liberal world view, the Church of England is completely unwilling to change.