Church Commissioners Written Answer: Travellers, plans to tackle racism

On 12th March 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question from Kate Green MP on Gypsy and Traveller sites and plans to tackle racism:

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) 27547: To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress has been made on (a) making Church land available for Gypsy and Traveller sites and (b) other plans to tackle racism and discrimination as agreed at the General Synod in February 2019.

Andrew Selous: The Church Commissioners manage the charitable and historic endowments of the Church to support mission and ministry financially. The Commissioners seek to make provision for a range of housing types on their land but have not recently been made aware of any requirements for the direct provision of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation on that land. Other land at a parish and diocesan level is not under the ownership or management of the Church Commissioners.

The Church has an active network for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and is also running an annual training day for clergy that offers support and guidance, alongside a conference on 24th March 2020 which aims to give voice and visibility to minorities not traditionally heard, seen and represented in the Church of England.

The Church of England’s Ministry Division and clergy senior appointments team have developed a programme of work to support vocations from UKME communities and is working towards increasing representation in the senior leadership of the Church.

The Church will also be making an additional £20 million available over three years under its new Social Impact Investment Project, which incentivises positive investment in communities over the maximisation of financial return. One of the key areas for this project will be looking at the social impact of housing and consideration will be given to the housing needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller peoples.

At its February 2020 session the General Synod of the Church of England debated and passed the following motion:

Windrush Commitment and Legacy

That this Synod, commemorating in 2018 the martyrdom of the Revd Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., noting with joy the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush liner in the United Kingdom in June 1948 bringing nearly 500 Commonwealth citizens, mainly from the Caribbean, to mainland UK; and the eventual arrival of approximately half a million people from the West Indies, who were called to Britain as British subjects to help rebuild the post-war United Kingdom:

  1. lament, on behalf of Christ’s Church, and apologises for, the conscious and unconscious racism experienced by countless black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Anglicans in 1948 and subsequent years, when seeking to find a spiritual home in their local Church of England parish churches, the memory of which is still painful to committed Anglicans who, in spite of this racism from clergy and others, have remained faithful to the Church of England and their Anglican heritage;
  2. request the Archbishops’ Council to commission research to assess the impact of this on the Church of England in terms of church members lost, churches declining into closure, and vocations to ordained and licensed lay ministries missed, and to report back to this Synod and the wider Church.”
  3. express gratitude to God for the indispensable contribution to the mission, ministry, prayer and worship of Christ’s Church in this nation made by people of BAME descent in the Church of England;
  4. acknowledge and give joyful thanks for the wider contribution of the ‘Windrush generation’ and their descendants to UK life and culture in every field of human activity, including service across the Armed Forces and other services during and after the Second World War; and
  5. resolve to continue, with great effort and urgency, to stamp out all forms of conscious or unconscious racism, and to commit the Church of England to increase the participation and representation of lay and ordained BAME Anglicans throughout Church life;
  6. request the Archbishop’s Council to appoint an independent person external to the Church to assess the current situation as regards race and ethnicity in the Church, in order to present a report to this Synod with recommendations for actions to achieve reconciliation and authentic belonging so that we can move towards truly being a Church for all people;
  7. to the greater glory of the God in whose image every human being is made.