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Ethnic minorities 'visible yet invisible' within Church of England

A senior Anglican has suggested the Church of England is institutionally racist and does not respect its ethnic minority membership.

The Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to Commons Speaker John Bercow, said ethnic minorities are "visible yet invisible" within the Church.

Mrs Hudson-Wilkin, who is originally from Jamaica, said the Church of England could learn from Pentecostalism, which is thriving and has prominent black leadership.

Her comments came after the R ev Prebendary Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu, who was born and raised in Nigeria, was appointed as the next Bishop of Woolwich - the first black man to be made a bishop in 20 years.

"We are visible yet invisible," Mrs Hudson-Wilkin told the BBC. "I do not believe that the Church recognises that we are there.

"With my hand on my heart, I do not believe that the Church respects and embraces its minority ethnic membership."

Asked if she was describing the elements of institutional racism, Mrs Hudson-Wilkin said: "I suspect that I am."

She added: "It's really a heavy burden to say that because that is the Church that I belong to, that is the Church that I love, but if someone else can genuinely give me another rationale as to why we are not there in senior leadership roles within the Church, then I'm prepared to consider it."

Mrs Hudson-Wilkin said young people are attracted to Pentecostalism because of the diversity of its leadership.

"Not only are there black leadership in the Pentecostal churches, but we see that here are lots of young people in those churches," she said.

"Those young people see reflections of themselves. They are able to say 'I belong'.

"They cannot see those reflections of themselves within the Church of England."

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, acknowledged that the Church had a problem.

"I think it is absolutely clear because the evidence is there in the lack of senior leaders," he said.

There is work under way to address "unconscious bias" but "some of it may well be conscious as well, or certainly has been at times", he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He said: "I am chairing a working group for the Church of England at the moment to look precisely at these issues. We, as a group, don't make the appointments so we are working quite hard to work with those who do make the appointments at the same time as developing the gifts of those who are potential appointees to senior posts."

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