A Black trainee vicar has been denied a position by the Church of England because the demographic of the parishioners in the area he had applied to work was ‘monochrome white working class’ and it might make him feel ‘uncomfortable’.
Augustine Tanner-Ihm has hit out at the ‘institutional racism’ in the church after the the statement was listed as one of two reasons why he was not a ‘match’ for a curacy role in the Hertfordshire area.
The row erupted in February after Mr Tanner-Ihm, was turned down for a curacy in the diocese of St Albans, despite being told that he had ‘obvious gifts’ by local church leaders.
But the The Masters student, 30, has only made it public now following the supportive reaction of the Church of England to the Black Lives Matter protests.
Alongside his criticism of the church, Mr Tanner-Ihm, whose ancestors were slaves has also called on the church to ‘use actions not words’ after several senior church leader backed the recent protests.
Today a spokesperson for the Church of England said the dioceses of St Albans had ‘recognised its failure’ and sent a written apology to Mr Tanner-Ihm, while the writer of the email also expressed regret and offered an apology.
Augustine Tanner-Ihm has criticised the Church of England after he was rejected from a job as a trainee vicar because the demographic of the parishioners in the area he had applied to work was ‘monochrome white working class’ and it might make him feel ‘uncomfortable’
But upset turned to anger when an email informing he had been rejected said it was party due to the fact that the demographic of the parish was ‘monochrome white working class’ and it might make him ‘feel uncomfortable’.
Distraught Mr Tanner-Ihm, who claims the parish had not interviewed him over the phone or in person before rejecting him, said he was left ‘bitterly upset’ and felt ‘broken down’.
He said when he complained he received a response ‘along the lines of ‘sorry you took it that way.’
Speaking about the church’s supportive response to Black Lives Matter, Mr Tanner-Ihm, who had been studying a masters in theology at Durham University, said the Christian narrative was about ‘actions not words’.
He said: ‘It’s really nice they said ‘black lives matter’, but they need to do something about it.
‘The Christian narrative is not just saying nice words on a piece of paper and then acting as everything is good.
‘It calls for us to do way more than just taking a knee.
‘The Church of England owned plantations, and all they have said is ‘sorry we did that’.
‘You have to do something about it I love the Church of England on the ground, but the institutional, systematic racism is still there. I’ve experienced it.’
Mr Tanner-Ihm received the letter in February, but has only made it public now following the reaction of the Church of England to the Black Lives Matter protests
Mr Tanner-Ihm, who is of African American descent, and was adopted as a boy by white parents, applied to around eight different parishes but was mainly turned down due to funding problems.
Alongside the ‘monochrome white’ remark, the St Albans Diocese rejection email said Mr Tanner-Ihm would be ‘best suited to a curacy with a more experienced vicar’.
He said: ‘My partner is white, from a working class background, my parents are white, from a working class background, and three of my brothers are white,’ he fumed.
‘They knew all that, yet they’ve still judged me on my race.’
Partly due to his disappointment and anger over the letter, Mr Tanner-Ihm will now take up a job outside the church after he finishes his studies.
And he said the Church of England had still not contacted him after he made the email public.
Mr Tanner-Ihm, who is of African American descent, and was adopted as a boy by white parents, applied to around eight different parishes but was mainly turned down due to funding problems
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.
‘A member of the National Ministry Team has reached out to Augustine Tanner-Ihm and has spent time with him learning about his experiences.
‘We have also established that the diocese concerned has recognised its failure in this and sent a written apology to Mr Tanner-Ihm earlier in the year.
‘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.’
A spokesperson for the Diocese of St Albans said the sender of the letter had ‘made an unqualified apology by email to Mr Tanner-Ihm the same day’ that they had discovered it had ’caused distress’.
The sender of the letter said: ‘I quickly recognised and regretted my poor choice of words and I am very sorry indeed that what I said was hurtful to Mr Tanner-Ihm.
‘It was careless, thoughtless and hasty and I still regret my choice of words.’
The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, also wrote and apologised to Augustine Tanner-Ihm.
He added: ‘This incident and the hurt we have caused serves to heighten our awareness of the need to improve. We wish Augustine well with his search for a curacy and with his future ministry.’