Institutional Racism & the Church

On Sunday, 30th May we’ll be looking at Rev Azariah France-William’s book Ghost Ship as fuel for our discussion of institutional racism, particularly in the church.

This will be part of our series looking at the practice of inclusion and what it does/ can look like in a variety of areas of life and faith. The clue is in the name, but we see inclusion as a core part of our spirituality and our justice-seeking as a community.

Earlier that week (25th of May) marks one year since the murder of George Floyd in the US. We’ll be making some space to pause and remember and mourn those who have been killed or abused or defamed SINCE George Floyd’s death due to racism.

We’ll reconvene on Zoom for a book club discussion of Ghost Ship at 5:15. (You don’t need to have read the book, and there will be casual hang-out spaces on the Zoom too).

You will need to be logged into a Zoom account with a public account name in order to access this Zoom. (Meeting ID: 853 6699 5635, Passcode: 123674)

Welcome (Danielle)

Song – The Medicine (Common Hymnal)

Question for Sharing (Danielle) – What is one blessing or challenge you’ve experienced as a result of getting to know someone who has had a different life experience from you? (That difference could be culture, race, background, education, sexuality, gender or worldview)

Prayer (Neil, Ruth & Danielle)- Gospel Reconstruction: A Lament for Slaveholder Religion and the Ongoing Racism That Infects Us by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Jesus, we confess that we have inherited a faith that was used to justify the theft of land and the enslavement of Black bodies. From this, our original sin, we ask for deliverance.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.

Touch hearts that have been shrivelled by generations of suppressed empathy and eyes that have lost the ability to see siblings who suffer from systemic injustice.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.

Grant us courage to renounce the false teaching that we can somehow know you without being committed to justice for all people.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.

In your mercy, help us mourn the divisions among the body of Christ and work for its healing in the places where we gather to worship you.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.

Embolden us to resist the political forces that idealise a past when white men were in charge.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.

As we name and unlearn the habits of slaveholder religion, give us grace to draw deeply from the witness of the movements that have always resisted injustice in the power of your Spirit.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.

Reading (Farai) – This is an excerpt from the book we are looking at today: Ghost Ship by Azariah France-William

The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of the first murder and the introduction of physical violence into the world. One man called Cain kills his brother Abel. The passage reads like this:

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.’ (Gen. 4.8–10)

If the notion of the ground having a mouth to receive the slain is not horrifying enough, that the spilled blood is able to vocalise its victimhood and name the perpetrator should make every would-be murderer shudder.

[Metaphorically] the transatlantic slave trade elevated one brother, Cain the white, over his brother Abel, the one of colour. When God says to Cain ‘Where is your brother?’ he shrugs his shoulders and says ‘I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’

When talk of reparation comes up (if it comes up at all), do white senior clergy have any sense of how to answer the question God is asking (and if God isn’t asking it, then God’s own people are asking it)?

‘Cain, where is your brother?’

‘I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?’ Maybe yes, maybe no, but if we are not fighting injustice, we are complicit with our brothers’ and sisters’ deaths, social, spiritual and societal. With mass incarceration, stop and search, hurdle after hurdle to get access to education, opportunities in the jobs market and decent housing, and a woefully low access to its own church leadership, the roar of blood is crying out. No wonder black mental health is among the worst of all groups in British society. No wonder black people feel the least welcome in communities, no wonder they get heavier sentences.

We are Abel.

A.D.A France-Williams. Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England (pp. 75-77). SCM Press. Kindle Edition.

Reflection – Institutional Racism & The Church ( An excerpt from a conversation with Azariah France-William & Farai Mapamula as part of an online event hosted by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Used by gracious permission).

Song – Oh God You Search Me (Nichole Grace)

Protest & Progress – Looking back at one year since the murder of George Floyd (Farai Mapamula & Danielle)

Song – Say Their Names (Aaron Shah)

What to Expect at IGB in-person services at the Church at Carrs Lane (Danielle)

*Giving to IGB

What’s Coming up (Danielle) 

Blessing: “May we live fully, love wastefully and have the courage to be all that God has created us to be.”

At 5:15, we’ll reconvene on Zoom to chat more about the themes from the gathering. (Meeting ID: 853 6699 5635 Passcode: 123674)

*If you are part of our community and would like to make a gift toward Inclusive Gathering Birmingham, you can do that here. Anything you give helps to support the costs of making church happen and allows us to be generous as a community. There’s no pressure to give!

If you’ve got any questions about Inclusive Gathering Birmingham or would like to have a chat with someone from our community, please email and we’ll be in touch.


About Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism in the Church of England (by Rev Azariah France-William)…

The Church is very good at saying all the right things about racial equality. But the reality is that the institution has utterly failed to back up these good intentions with demonstrable efforts to reform. It is a long way from being a place of black flourishing.

Through conversation with clergy, lay people and campaigners in the Church of England, A.D.A France-Williams issues a stark warning to the church, demonstrating how black and brown ministers are left to drown in a sea of complacency and collusion. While sticking plaster remedies abound, France-Williams argues that what is needed is a wholesale change in structure and mindset.

Unflinching in its critique of the church, Ghost Ship explores the harrowing stories of institutional racism experienced then and now, within the Church of England. Far from being an issue which can be solved by simply recruiting more black and brown clergy, says France-Williams, structural racism requires a wholesale dismantling and reassembling of the ship – before it is too late.

Ghost Ship is available to purchase online, OR you can listen to an interview with Azaraiah France-William on this episode of Nomad Podcast.



About Inclusive Gathering Birmingham …

Inclusive Gathering Birmingham is a diverse church gathered together by a common dream: to become a truly inclusive faith community, where doubt and difference are a welcome part of our journey together toward Jesus. We believe that the way of Jesus leads us to the wild, radical idea that true spiritual community can be formed based on who is INCLUDED, not by who is EXCLUDED. We are a learning community, constantly growing and changing to live out this vision in new and expanding ways.

When we say “inclusion”, we mean much more than mere tolerance or welcome. We believe God wants us all to know that we actually belong. That means people of every race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, age and background, HIV status, ability and disability, theological and political conviction are loved, invited, and fully included. Read more about what makes us tick at or send an email to to ask questions or chat.

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