Queen Elizabeth II’s chaplain Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, tipped to become one of Britain’s first women bishops, said Saturday that the Church of England is struggling with “institutional racism”.
Jamaican-born Hudson-Wilkin, a chaplain to the monarch and also to parliament’s lower House of Commons, told The Times newspaper that she had been a victim of racism in her ministry.
The church’s second-highest cleric, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is of Ugandan origin.
But Hudson-Wilkin asked why there were not more people of minority ethnic backgrounds in leadership roles within England’s state church.
“There’s still an element of racism running through people’s veins,” the 51-year-old said of Britain.
“I’ve had people who did not want me to do a funeral. I can smile because it’s their sheer ignorance, I feel sorry for them. I know that it’s not about me, it’s about them.”
Only 15 of the 467 members of the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, are from black or South Asian backgrounds.
“We have been encouraging people to stand and people have been putting themselves forward and have not been elected. I think there is a level of racism around that.”
Hudson-Wilkin, also a vicar in Hackney, east London, put herself forward for the Synod a few years ago but was not elected.
“It did not occur to them to ensure that one of the priests elected should be from an ethnic minority—even the ones who stand up Sunday after Sunday in front of a predominantly black congregation,” she said.
“I’m not one of these people who lifts up a stone to look for racism.
“But that shook me because I thought, ‘My God, it’s as if we don’t exist’.
“That told me very clearly that they don’t give a damn about the congregations that they serve.
“The Church, although it has made a lot of steps forward, is still struggling with institutional racism.”
The General Synod failed to pass legislation last month that would have permitted women bishops. Hudson-Wilkin, who came to Britain in 1985, was tipped to become one of the first.