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Church of England is hit by racism claims

Church of England is hit by racism claims: ‘HR department ruled banana picture sent to black worker wasn’t racist’ while Brazilian vicar ‘was told to find a job with people of his kind’

  • Former adviser on race relations Dr Elizabeth Henry described the 2019 incident
  • Black staff member was sent image of banana with his face superimposed on it
  • The disturbed image was sent to him along with the caption ‘Banana Man’
  • Dr Henry said the man took the ‘deeply offensive and deeply racist image’ to HR
  • But they decided it wasn’t racist and man left Church with small compensation 
  • Brazilian vicar Peterson Feital was told he is ‘too Brazilian’ by his manager

Church of England bosses have been accused of racism after its HR department ruled a picture of a banana sent to a black worker was not racist.

The church’s former adviser on race relations Dr Elizabeth Henry – who retired due to a lack of action of race issues in the church – described a disturbing incident from 2019.

A young black staff member was sent the image of the fruit with his face superimposed on it – along with the caption ‘Banana Man’.

Dr Henry said the man took the ‘deeply offensive and deeply racist image’ to the human resources (HR) department who took note of it, but deemed it not racist.  

Dr Henry told the BBC’s Panorama: ‘That person left, and he received a very small compensation – however he was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.’ 

Another account saw Brazilian vicar Peterson Feital told he needs to ‘find a job with people of your kind’. 


The Church of England’s former adviser on race relations Dr Elizabeth Henry (left) – who retired due to a lack of action of race issues in the church – described a disturbing incident from 2019 involving a black worker being sent a picture of a banana with his face on it. Another account saw Brazilian vicar Peterson Feital (right) told he needs to ‘find a job with people of your kind’

Last year the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured), compared the CofE’s attitude to ethnic minorities with that of Nazi-era German churches to Jews

He said the more-senior vicar told him: ‘I don’t like your preaching, and you are too Brazilian in your compassion, you’re not very coherent.’ 

Feital was a trainee vicar at a mostly white and middle-class London church for seven years, during which he claims to have experienced bullying and racism.

He made several complaints to authorities at the Diocese of London over the racism he experienced – but senior staff told him he’d never be hired anywhere else if he made a fuss, Feital claimed.

The claims follows a year of Anglican agonising over race.

Last year the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, compared the CofE’s attitude to ethnic minorities with that of Nazi-era German churches to Jews.

He also called on cathedrals and churches to examine monuments and statues that may be connected to slavery, saying ‘some will have to come down’. 

Dr Henry (pictured) – who retired due to a lack of action of race issues in the church – described a disturbing incident from 2019

The Church said it cannot comment on individual claims – but added any racist behaviour is confidential.

It said non-disclosure agreements are used on very rare occasions, such as when ongoing discussions have not reached a conclusion.  

Earlier this month, Church of England leaders recommended future bishops should be approved by a representative from black or minority groups in a move influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Reforms to the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) – which picks bishops – have been recommended in a report compiled over three years by senior Church figures.

The plans will go before a meeting of the Church’s parliament, the General Synod, this month.  

The authors said the BLM movement ‘provides a particular context to the conclusion of our work and brings into sharp focus the issues of diversity highlighted throughout our report’.

Earlier this month, Church of England leaders recommended future bishops should be approved by a representative from black or minority groups in a move influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement (pictured in Cardiff) 

Its 38 recommendations will shake up the workings of the commission, which includes the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Synod members and a Downing Street official.

The key proposal says a minority representative should join the commission as a non-voting member whenever a new diocesan bishop has to be chosen. 

The individual must be listened to by other members.

The report stressed the commission should also be able to pick representatives from other minorities. 

This would ‘deal with the perception that it fails … to reflect adequately the diversity of the Church … in terms not only of theological opinion, but also gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and social background’.

Names of potential bishops go to the Prime Minister for final approval. 

They are usually chosen by a two-thirds majority of CNC members. The report conceded: ‘We recognise some will be unhappy with a proposal for a non-voting co-opted member.’ 

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