Mere Anglicanism

Institutionally racist? The Church of England has fallen victim to institutional cowardice

With one of the spectacular own goals which are becoming something of a habit, the Church of England has blocked the appointment of a gifted young curate who ticks every box favoured by the right-on bishops. Every box, that is, except one. “I’m the wrong kind of black,” Calvin Robinson told me. “I refuse to say I’m oppressed. The minute I say I’m not a victim, I’m no longer black in their eyes. I lose my skin colour, I lose my culture, I lose all of it because I’ve got the wrong politics.”

A theory is gaining ground that the hierarchy of the CofE has given up on Christianity, finding it embarrassing and judgmental. Instead, it has replaced the old commandments with secular, progressive ones. Calvin Robinson’s traditional Christian values (pro marriage, anti the ordination of women) make him a heretic. When he announced publicly that he didn’t agree with Black Lives Matter, and the Critical Race Theory which says that the UK is inherently racist, he claims the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, reproved him. 

“Calvin, as a white woman I can tell you that the Church is institutionally racist.”

I wonder, how does it feel as a man of colour to be told by a white woman that the institution you love and feel called to serve is racist?

Calvin sighed heavily. “It’s so patronising and hypocritical. The bishops say: ‘We need to take on board the lived experience of ethnic minority people.’ And I’m like: ‘Hi, I’m an ethnic minority person! I’ve got a lived experience I’d like to share.’ And then it’s: ‘No, no, not that type of experience’.”

What the Church wants, he says, is biddable black people they can help; who can relieve their white liberal guilt. “They want to pat us on the head and say: ‘Yes, you’re a good black person, you are, because you’re reaffirming my values and making me feel virtuous.’”

Funny, it sounds remarkably like the condescending, colonialist attitude from which the Church is busy trying to decolonise itself.

After his shocking treatment, Calvin Robinson is challenging Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell to stand down. 

“If they really believe the Church is institutionally racist, shouldn’t they cancel themselves? These people have been in office for years. Either they are the racists and it’s their fault or they’re incompetent and they cannot fix the problem. By their own logic, if it’s an entirely white hierarchy, surely, they should make way for someone of colour. But they don’t. If the institution is racist (and I don’t think it is), by sacking me their actions are causing the very thing they’re trying to prevent. The bishops are stoking racism.”

When we speak, Calvin is still quietly devastated. I hear it in his voice. He was due to be ordained as a deacon, working as assistant curate at St Alban’s Church in Holborn, and combining that role with his work as a presenter on GB News. and media commentator on education. Parishioners had paid for him to do a two-year course as an ordinand at Oxford and both vicar and congregation were looking forward to welcoming this eloquent, peaceable man.

Then, in February, he was told that his ordination was likely to be “problematic”. (A leftist coinage, ‘problematic’ roughly translates as: ‘We have a problem with you not thinking like us.’)  The time was “not right”, the bishop said, and there had been complaints against him. To find out what they were, Robinson made a Subject Access Request.

There were only a handful with just one from a member of the public. What shocked him was discovering that the Bishop of Edmonton, the Right Rev Rob Wickham, had been reporting him to church leaders. In September 2020, when Robinson told Good Morning Britain that he was against BLM because the group was increasing racial tensions, that same day Wickham wrote to the Bishop of London: “Calvin Robinson is not only a political commentator, but he’s an ordinand and former teacher in this area… Calvin’s comments concern me about denying institutional racism in this country.” 

Read it all in The Telegraph

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