Bishops acknowledge 'pain and suffering' highlighted in BBC Panorama

Bishops acknowledge 'pain and suffering' highlighted in BBC Panorama

First published on: 20th April 2021

On Monday 19 April, the BBC Panorama programme, ‘Is the Church Racist?’ was broadcast. It was very difficult to watch, with the programme sharing personal experiences and highlighting the failure of the Church to tackle racism within its structures over decades.

The programme comes ahead of the report by the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce, which will be published on Thursday 22 April.

Following the programme, Bishop James and Bishop Simon have written to all clergy and lay ministers of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic heritage in the Diocese, to acknowledge the 'real and lasting' pain and suffering of those interviewed, and the triggering of difficult memories and experiences it may have caused.

The message admits the faults of the Church and commits the Diocese to action.

Please read the letter below:


Dear Sisters and Brothers

Panorama Programme

Watching the BBC Panorama programme ‘Is the Church Racist?’ broadcast yesterday evening was a very painful experience.  

The programme highlighted the failure of the Church to tackle racism within its structures over decades.  The pain and suffering of those interviewed was real and lasting and we are aware that hearing these stories may have triggered difficult memories for you.   We share the concerns expressed in the programme and know that the Church of England has much to repent of.  While the programme focussed mainly on the experience of clergy, we are also aware that there are parallel experiences for lay people in the Church of England, not least in relation to lay ministers and lay office holders.

On Thursday of this week the report of The Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce will be published.  Our expectation is that this report will also be rightly challenging to us.  The report will include Action Points for the Church, and we want to assure you that these will be taken seriously in this Diocese.  We will want to hear your views on those recommendations as we shape our response and will be in touch to arrange for that.

If the programme or the report raise matters for you such that a personal conversation would be helpful, do feel able to be in touch with either of us or with Canon Jeremy Blunden.  Do also make use of our Diocesan Counselling Network where that would be helpful.

In the meantime please be assured of our prayers as we continue to journey with you in the light and hope of the resurrection of Christ.   We pray also that the Church of England will respond in a way that will bring positive, transforming and lasting change.

With our prayers and good wishes,

Bishop James Langstaff

Bishop Simon Burton-Jones