Commission for Racial Justice: Summary of 3rd Report

The Archbishops’ Commission for Racial Justice (ACRJ) has announced the publication of its Third Report; in this third of the six reports the ACRJ will produce, are updates on the work of the seven workstreams since the publication of the Winter 2022/23 report, and on the progress of work on the five priority areas and the forty-seven recommendations identified in From Lament to Action. The ACRJ will be reporting again over the Winter of 2023/24 and will conclude its work in October 2024 with a final report drawing the work of the three years together.


The Third Commission Report includes and Introduction by Lord Boateng and sections on: Theology; Slavery; History & Memory; Culture & Liturgy; Complaints Handling; Participation; and Patronage, Governance & Funding; each section is preceded with an extract from From Lament to Action (22 April 2021).

Progress on the Recommendations made by the Anti-Racism Taskforce is included in five Appendices: Appendix 1: Revisiting the Rustat Case; Racial Justice Funding Guidance Note; The Staff of the Racial Justice Unit; Workstream Membership; and The Forty-Seven From Lament to Action Actions. Extracts relevant to “law and religion” are summarized below.


In his introduction, the Rt Hon The Lord Boateng CVO, Chair of the ACRJ comments:

“Slavers and Slave Owners continue to be celebrated and memorialised in many Cathedrals, Chapels and Churches. The controversy surrounding the memorial in Falmouth, which we are monitoring closely, is the latest. The existing governance and legal structures are proving to be less than satisfactory in responding to the guidance and practical support challenge of congregations”.

“We have taken the opportunity in this Report to present a number of theological reflections from our members around issues of racial justice”.

With regard to Reparation, reference is made to “the ground-breaking and praiseworthy work of the Church Commissioners, Project Spire, to quantify through an exercise of forensic accounting the Church of England’s benefit from Slavery is inseparable from the cause of restorative justice. Its evidence based findings contribute to what amounts to a financial victim impact statement. The Church is a historic perpetrator and beneficiary of slavery”.

He also comments: “[w]hat is clear…is that synodical time will need to be found as a matter of urgency for both discussion and legislation”.


Professor Mike Higton, Department of Theology, Durham University, authored a theological reflection on the case of the removal of the memorial to Tobias Rustat at Jesus College, Cambridge, which is the culmination of work by the members of the theology work stream, Appendix 1, pp 58 to 70.

He makes three recommendations about the workings of the faculty system, which the Commission supports:

  • appropriate training needs to be provided for those involved in the system to help them handle the new issues that arise for the mission of the church in cases of Contested Heritage;
  • this training should lead to a new sensitivity within Consistory Courts to the testimony of those who bear witness to the impact of racism within church and society;
  • the Church’s Statutory Guidance on Contested Heritage should be strengthened to reflect the ongoing impact of past horrors, which cannot be seen as safely ‘in the past’ because they continue to have an impact in the present as an impediment to mission.


“The Commission notes the number of historical and heritage bodies which approach Contested Heritage by holding to concerns of architectural and archaeological significance of objects and espouse the default “retain and explain” approach. The Commission recommends the shift from this prevailing viewpoint towards recognising the unwelcoming reality of these memorials and lack of solace available to worshippers of specific heritages in buildings adorned with these contested artifacts. Churches and cathedrals should be safe spaces open to all and owned by everyone.”

“The Commission encourages the convening of an international conference in July 2024 on truth telling as it relates to the Church and the legacies of the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, racialised theology, colonialism, and racial discrimination”.

Recent Developments in Contested Heritage[1]

Few aspects of this section will come as a surprise to readers of L&RUK, apart perhaps, for the report on developments at the King Charles the Martyr, Falmouth, in the Diocese of Truro, infra.

Since the last report of the Commission, the Dean of Arches, the NCIs legal team and the Cathedral and Church Buildings division have been working in a number of areas to progress improvements on racial justice as it relates to ecclesiastical exemption.

At the February 2023 General Synod Session, two amendments were agreed relating to ecclesiastical exemption. The first was to amend the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018 to enable the Dean of the Arches and Auditor to set out training requirements to be met by ecclesiastical judges[2]. The second was an amendment to the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction to enable a member of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England to be drawn from the wider pool of the College of Bishops not just the House of Bishops[3].

At the July 2023 Synod, an amendment was agreed to the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2020 to impose an obligation on intending applicants, in formulating proposals relating to contested heritage, to have due regard to statutory guidance on that subject issued by the Church Buildings Council and demonstrate that they have done so; and require Chancellors, when giving reasons for granting a faculty or for dismissing a faculty petition, to state how a decision has taken that guidance into account. It is envisaged that this amendment will be enacted in January 2024. [See Contested heritage: amendments to faculty jurisdiction rules, (3 July 2023]

An action plan endorsed in March 2023 by both the Cathedrals Fabric Commission and Church Buildings Council includes developing diversification of the talent pipeline through shadowing opportunities and greater engagement with emerging professional networks and education providers.

The Church Buildings Council’s Contested Heritage Committee, chaired by Novelette-Aldoni Stewart, has met four times since its formation in August 2022 and has provided advice to the Church Buildings Council on three cases. The Church Buildings Council has used the advice of the Committee as the basis of their advice on cases,

On this last case, the Report states:

“National support is currently being provided to the parish at Falmouth, King Charles the Martyr (Diocese of Truro) as they consider ways forward for the memorial to Thomas Corker (1669-1700). Thomas Corker was Chief Agent to the Royal African Company and Governor at Fort James in Gambia until his dismissal from the Company for illegal trade in enslaved people. The church also contains a memorial to Joseph Emidy (1755- 1835), a remarkable formerly enslaved person, violinist, and composer, who arrived in Falmouth in 1799. The Cathedral & Church Buildings Division is working with the Racial Justice Unit and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reconciliation Ministry team on a pilot project to support the parish and its local communities to work together towards a long-term solution for the memorials. Materials are being developed that will help the parish provide witness to the narrative of social justice as being a Gospel principle”.

The Cathedral & Church Buildings Division is reviewing the national guidance on contested heritage, first published in June 2021. This process has included a survey and consultations with those who have been involved in contested heritage cases including Jesus College Cambridge, Dorchester St Peter, and Redcliffe St Mary.

The theology of contested heritage underpinning the national guidance is also being reviewed. The theology will focus on the impact of the legacies of historic transatlantic slavery and injustices on those who are in the local communities that parishes and cathedrals serve today. This work will be informed by the Commission’s own theology of contested heritage in relation to faculty jurisdiction for church buildings.

Complaints Handling

The Commission is monitoring the process of revising the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), [see  Legal Issues July Synod (2): Clergy Conduct Measure]. The Commission met with a representative of the NCI legal office and is liaising with them on the draft Clergy Conduct Measure (CCM). The Commission seeks assurance that when the legislation is updated it will substantially address the concerns raised that GMH/UKME (UK Minority Ethnic or Global Majority Heritage) clergy are treated in a unequal manner.

The Commission currently has only anecdotal evidence, but this suggests the adverse treatment towards GMH/UKME members and a general unresponsiveness regarding complaints is considered by the Commission as a failure of management within the Church. The need for diversity data-gathering within the Church was reinforced by the Secretary General to the Archbishops’ Council who stated in relation to the NCI Belonging and Inclusion Action Plan: “We can’t change what we don’t know”.


[1]. This section was written by Janet Berry, Head of Conservation & Collections Policy, Cathedral & Church Buildings Division.

[2]. Judicial training is addressed in Clause 10 of the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure (GS 2272B) which amends the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018 to give the Dean of the Arches and Auditor power to make regulations setting out training requirements to be met by ecclesiastical judges.

[3]Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, GS 2272B

15 Care of cathedrals

(3) In Schedule 1 to that Measure (Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England), in paragraph 3(a) (membership to include one bishop), for “the members of that House” substitute “those who hold office as a diocesan or suffragan bishop”.

Last updated, 13 September 2023 at 09:35. 

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Commission for Racial Justice: Summary of 3rd Report" in Law & Religion UK, 10 August 2023,

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