Posted on May 6, 2021

How Critical Race Theory Captured the Church

Giles Udy, Unherd, April 21, 2021

“I’m ashamed of our history and I’m ashamed of our failure. There is no doubt when we look at our own Church that we are still deeply institutionally racist.” This was Archbishop Justin Welby’s shocking confession last year at the General Synod. He swore to eradicate racism and set up a task force to investigate further.

The Archbishop’s distress was echoed on Panorama this week, as real experiences of racism were aired by members of the clergy, some of whom wept as they told their stories. But as the Anti-racism Taskforce prepares to publish its first report into these assertions of bigotry and prejudice, and set the parameters for a new Racial Justice Commission, cool heads must prevail. The existence of racism in the Church of England does not validate every diagnosis of its cause, and thus, even more so, every prescription for its eradication.

Amid the heightened emotion of our current moment, however, this very important distinction is in danger of being overlooked. The task force has made its diagnoses and is offering prescriptions based upon them. And the most troubling part of the report’s diagnosis, which was leaked a few weeks ago, comes in its section on “theology”. Theology is the heart of the church its body of belief. It provides the reference point for all doctrine and action. On this, the report is bold: the objective must be “transforming the theological landscape”.


According to the report that I saw, the church’s “existing foundations and principle theological frameworks entrench racial prejudice and white normativity across the church’s traditions and its doctrinal teachings”. Its “systemic and structural racism … derives its legitimation from certain theological foundations” which must be “redressed”. These foundations are “Eurocentrism, Christendom (sic) and White normativity”. They form “underlying theological assumptions” and “a prejudicial theological value system” that shapes “racial prejudice” in the “official teachings of the church”, perpetuated by “predominantly white male theological perspectives and forms of knowledge”. Its theology must be “decolonized”.

The shocking set of accusations provokes two questions: where have these ideas come from? And where, more ominously, will they lead?

In fact, they all reflect the key concepts that are part of a little-known branch of teaching called Black theology, or more accurately, Black liberation theology — a radical, revolutionary doctrine which analyses power structures in the church in order to liberate black people — and its better known (though equally little understood) secular cousin, Critical Race Theory. Unnoticed by many, the two have been making substantial inroads in the Anglican Church and their proponents already dominate the church’s conversation on race.

A number of events track that course. Last June, Justin Welby honoured Oxford Professor Anthony G. Reddie, with a Lambeth award for his “exceptional and sustained contribution to Black Theology”. {snip}

Then, last December, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York appointed Dr Sanjee Perera as their new Adviser on “Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns” – i.e. on race and racism. {snip}

Both these key figures are steeped in the subversive (Reddie’s own description) ideology which seems to have been welcomed right into the heart of Anglican Church. Reddie, literally wrote the textbook on Black liberation theology (BLT), which seeks to “reinterpret the very meaning of the Christian faith for the sole and explicit purposes of fighting for Black liberation in this world”. This is problematic because in the process, it so abandons every core tenet of orthodox Christianity that it hardly qualifies to be called Christian.


Any challenges to the doctrine are deemed invalid, especially if they come from white Eurocentric male theologians, because white perceptions of truth are corrupted by their hold on power. By contrast, black experience is always accounted true because, having no power, the oppressed alone can see clearly. {snip}


According to the leaked report, there are also demands that the Theology curriculum be “decolonised”. Black liberation theologians, including Reddie and Perera, already form the majority of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group of the Common Awards Scheme which validates almost all theological degrees in the Anglican Church. “Black theology” is to be made compulsory for priests in training. Standards are to be set for anti-racism training of theological college staff. Ordination candidates will have to prove their anti-racism credentials. New racial justice and anti-racism training materials are to be produced for CofE schools, youth groups and for a new Racial Justice Sunday. All these will be overseen by proponents of Black liberation theology.