Augustine Tanner-Ihm, a devout seminary student from Chicago who currently lives in the UK, was hoping he could get a job as a “curate” in a Church of England parish. He was rejected in February.
But after the Black Lives Matter protests over the past couple of weeks, and after Church of England officials weighed in with their own support of the protesters, Tanner-Ihm was puzzled because that seemed to be at odds with what they told him in the rejection email.
In short, they didn’t want him because he’s Black while the church in question was “monochrome white working class.” (Seven other churches rejected him as well.)
So he posted the email on Twitter:
@JustinWelby @churchofengland Bishops make statements of #BlackLivesMatter this week, I’m still struck by this I received & many more from Diocesan Staff this year. Also, the 8 different dioceses that rejected me for a curacy. I guess not all black lives matter. pic.twitter.com/pIKqO6U8lY
— augustineihm (@augustineihm) June 4, 2020
The Church of England responded, saying they would look into the matter:
We take very seriously any allegation that a curacy post was denied on the grounds of ethnicity. This letter is plainly unacceptable and we're looking into this urgently.
We recognise there's a lot more to do to ensure our leadership is representative.
— The Church of England (@churchofengland) June 5, 2020
The whole incident raises a lot of questions about the racism inherent within the Church itself.
The Rt Revd Chris Goldsmith, the Church of England’s director of ministry, said: “We take very seriously any allegation that a curacy post, or any other position, may have been denied to someone on the grounds of their ethnic heritage.”
He said a member of his team had “reached out” to Mr Tanner-Ihm to learn about his experiences, adding: “We have also established that the diocese concerned has recognised its failure in this and sent a written apology to [him].
“We fully recognise that the Church of England has a lot more work to do to become a place where our leadership is representative of the rich heritages of all the people of England.”
The fear is that the “work” just means their future rejection emails will read more like vague corporate statements: “Thank you for your application, but your skills are not what we need at this time.” “Sorry, but the position has been filled.”
I suppose they deserve kudos for honesty saying, “Sorry, but we’re racist ass-hats.”
Understandably, Tanner-Ihm is deeply grieved over this. Surely, considering the lack of young people in these churches altogether, one of them in his area would embrace his passion and reach out to him directly. The Church wouldn’t have to make a PR statement to save face if they just lived up to their stated values in the first place.