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Church Culture

Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns Non-Disclosure Agreements That Hid Racism in the Church of England

The leader of the Church of England has called for an end to non-disclosure agreements after a BBC documentary revealed they were used to cover up racist abuse against church staff members. 

The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told Times Radio he was “horrified” by racism within the church and was unaware that confidentiality agreements prevented victims from speaking out about it after they received settlements and left the church.

Rev. Welby called the documentary that aired Monday night on the investigative series “Panorama,” featuring a conversation with the church’s former adviser on race relations Dr. Elizabeth Henry, “rightfully shaming.”

Henry told Panorama she left her position last year because she was disillusioned and frustrated by the church’s lack of progress on racism. She shared details of one case where a Black staff member filed a grievance after receiving a “deeply racist” image and left the church with “very small” compensation and an NDA after the church’s human resources department ruled the image was not offensive, per the BBC

In a statement to Panorama, the church said although it could not comment on individual cases or say how many individuals left under NDAs, “any behaviour of the sort described by Dr. Henry is unacceptable.”

Welby told Times Radio he was glad Dr. Henry “was as forthright as she was” on the program. He said he and the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. Stephen Cottrell, have written to “senior people” within the church telling them the use of NDAs should be discontinued. 

The Church of England also plans to release a report later this week that outlines how it will address racism going forward, per BBC.  

See the video of the interview with Times Radio here

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.