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March 29, 2006

Lies and Paranoia in Bishopthorpe Palace: The Archbishop's Press Officer and "Institutional Racism"

Posted by Peter Mullen

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - describes his recent dealings with Archdeacon John Barton, the Archbishop of York's Media Officer.

There is something rotten in Bishopthorpe Palace.

Last December I wrote a newspaper column to welcome Dr John Sentamu as new Archbishop of York. I sympathised with him because, as I said, the media will never let him escape the cliché "first black Archbishop". But I also urged Dr Sentamu not to complain so incessantly that the Church of England is "institutionally racist". I said it appeared the Archbishop was obsessed with the colour of priests' and bishops' skins.

On 3rd January I received a letter of complaint from the Archbishop's Media Officer, Archdeacon John Barton ALCD, who asked me to tell him:

Where and when Dr Sentamu complained that the Church of England is institutionally racist.
As I suppose is appropriate for a Media Officer who is also my ecclesiastical superior, the Venerable Barton offered me some timely admonishment:
When writing or broadcasting, clergy are not exempt from the moral and professional obligations to verify their sources.
I thanked the Archdeacon for this advice and supplied him with a large dossier of reports from the national press and the BBC in which Dr Sentamu complains about racism in the church.

For example, that he had told the General Synod in July 1999 that it must change from its:

monochrome culture [and that] ethnic Anglicans must be more visible in the life of the church.
Crucially, Dr Sentamu added:
The expectation of the historic, white, educated elite English norm is maintained regardless of the makeup of a congregation.
I made the point to his Media Officer that that last remark is as clear a definition of "institutional racism" as we could hope to find. Indeed, it was taken so seriously at the time that the then Archbishop of Canterbury gave over a whole speech in the Synod to reply to Dr Sentamu's concerns.

I supplied the Media officer with many other such examples of Dr Sentamu's views on the race issue. But he was not satisfied and demanded that I apologise publicly for my original article. He accused me of writing that was:

at best careless and at worst mischievous.
I stood by what I had said in my article and supplied the Media Officer with even more telling evidence of the Archbishop's views. For instance, as reported by the BBC in June 2005, Dr Sentamu had said:
The Church of England contains institutional racism as a room full of smokers contains smoke.
Dr Sentamu's allegation was also reported in The Independent in October 2005. These quotations have never been challenged as inaccurate by Dr Sentamu.

Still this did not suffice, and soon the Media Officer started to turn nasty and issue threats:

If you decline to withdraw these unwarranted slurs, I shall have to raise the matter elsewhere.
At this point I thought it appropriate to send all my correspondence with the Media Officer to my editor on the paper where my article had originally appeared and to my immediate superior The Rt Rev'd Richard Chartres, Bishop of London.

This was when the Archbishop's Media Officer started to lie to me. I had claimed, as part of my answer to his complaints, that Dr Sentamu had applied the description "institutional racism" to the Church of England in the Foreword he had written to the book Rejection, Resistance and Resurrection: Speaking Out Against Racism in the Church by Mukti Barton. But the Media Officer fervently denied this:

The Foreword to the book certainly does not use those words.
In fact, this is what Dr Sentamu says in his Foreword:
Kinds of institutional racism are in society and so inevitably to some degree found in the churches, both in the Church of England and other churches.
Bang to rights, Venerable Barton, I think.

As a traditionalist priest I have become accustomed to being threatened and bullied over many years by the "liberal" – actually authoritarian – hierarchy, but I must say I was shocked to be so blatantly lied to by a senior member of The Archbishop's Staff.

This lying Media Officer then had the brass face to lecture me on standards of veracity:

Nor does something become true through repetition (contra Lewis Carroll) not even ad nauseam.
So finally he is driven to quote Alice in Wonderland at me. I wonder which rabbit hole he is writing from? I mean, I question Dr Sentamu's constant harping on the race issue. He says the Church is "institutionally racist", while there he is a black man promoted to the second highest position in the worldwide Anglican Communion – and nobody laughs.

There is no institutional racism in the Church of England. But there is institutionalised lying and paranoia in Bishopthorpe Palace.

Subsequently I wrote to the Media Officer asking him to explain why he had lied to me. He sent back my letter with a copy of his earlier letter – the one in which he had said that the Archbishop had not mentioned institutional racism in his forward to Mukti Barton's book or anywhere else – the explicit lying denial highlighted in green felt tip, just as if the Archbishop's Palace were an outpost of a tabloid newspaper!

Receiving no sense at all from the Media Officer, I then wrote to the Archbishop to ask him why his Media Officer persists in lying to me and in trying deceitfully to blacken my name with my employers on The Northern Echo.

I am eagerly awaiting the Archbishop's response.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.

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Thank you so much for continuing to show what a ridiculous self-flagellating anomaly the Church of England has become. I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see liberals trying to turn churches into fairtrade coffee shops or re-brand Christianity to attract converts.

Here's a prime example of what I mean:

'Designer' ad campaign for Church

Churches are being urged to launch an advertising campaign stressing the social side of services...


[My emphasis]

This is dangerous heresy. Jesus' suffering and death on the cross is central, fundamental to Christian faith. It would be better if the Church of England split up; a free-er market in religious belief would accrue and the false teachers like the Archbishop of Canterbury would be stripped of official status, thus reducing their capacity to lead their flocks astray.

"... he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me"

Matt 10:38

Posted by: Dangerous_Heretick at April 1, 2006 12:44 PM

I have just seen this article for the first time and thought I MUST post a response. It is even more shocking coming from someone who should by way of pro social modelling set a better example for others to follow. As a member of the Black and Asian network core group in the diocese of Birmingham ably led by Dr. Mukti Barton, I found Rev. Dr. Peter Mullen's comments very disturbing but in some senses not at all surprising. This is a case of the biblical saying "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" when Jesus was dying on the cross , being so apt.

I am not sure whether he has read and even more importantly digested Dr. Barton's book, "Rejection, Resistance, Resurrection, Speaking out on Racism in the Church of England", which he makes reference to. He surely cannot have done so, as his prejudices, narrow minded, blinkered views and vitriolic attack on Archbishop Sentamu and Archdeacon John Barton would not be so apparent. Then again how does one change the habit of a life time of indoctrination, mis-information and mis- education ?

Since Dr. Mullen seems to be calling individuals, liars, is he therefore dismissing all the, at times painful recollections of Black and Asian Anglican christians' experiences that they have so painstakingly recounted in this powerful book? Are all these people lying about their experiences of institutional and personal racism that they have experienced in the Church of England? He needs to stop denying people their real life experiences and what the impact of racism has had on these Black and Asians whilst worshipping with other Christians.

It would be far better if he showed a bit more humility as a "man of the cloth" and go one stage further by booking himself on a training course to get a proper understanding of what institutional racism really is. Ignorance is bliss and with language such as what he has used in the article I worry about him trying to embrace, harness, value, promote and respect equality and diversity.

Posted by: T. Kelly at January 31, 2007 09:13 PM
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