The opening chapters of the Bible in the book of Genesis contain some of the most fundamental and profound truths about the nature of the creation in which we live, and our own humanity. That the world was made by God and that it was good and that we, men and women, were created in God’s image, to reflect God’s love and to care for creation.
As we reflect on this truth, what is laid before us is our failure. The way in which, in the words of the reproaches that we sing in the liturgy of Good Friday, we have created the means to destroy creation and denigrated body and spirit to mar the image of God in ourselves and others. As the Reproaches put it, God says to us:
I made my children of one blood
To live in families rejoicing in one another.
But you have embittered the races and divided the nations
Like so many I was deeply shocked by this week’s Panorama programme. As Bishop Rachel said that evening, “We heard the voices of courageous brothers and sisters sharing heart-breaking experiences of racism in the Church of England, underlining yet again, our failure to act.”
We need to say it clearly. Racism is a sin. It is an affront to the very nature of God who created us, each one of us, every one of us, with no exceptions, children of one blood… called to rejoice in one another.
The report of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce will be important. It builds on work already begun by the House of College of Bishops, and work we are undertaking in this Diocese – it is a major focus just this week for a meeting of the Bishop’s Staff Team. But all this will be of no consequence if we do not act, and we will not act until our hearts are convicted of the evil of racism and discrimination and the need to confront it, in our Church, in wider society, in our county… crucially in ourselves. Racism is simply never someone else’s problem; it is mine and yours and needs to be actively confronted and countered.
Jesus commands us to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. We have marred the image of our God.
This week’s Panorama programme challenges us again. How will I play my part, what thing will I, my church and community, what we will as a Diocese do, to redress this sin, to live differently, in the way for which we were created.