Aldershot vicar ‘devastated’ by bishop’s racial stereotypes

aldershot vicar devastated by bishops racial stereotypes - Aldershot vicar 'devastated' by bishop's racial stereotypes
Image caption The Reverend Alwyn Pereira is currently vicar of Aldershot Parish Church

A Church of England vicar has described his “absolute devastation” at finding a letter about him containing racial stereotypes.

The Reverend Alwyn Pereira, vicar of Aldershot Parish Church, Hampshire, found comments by the former Bishop of Bristol Mike Hill in a church file.

Mr Hill admitted the comments were “unacceptable and offensive”.

Mr Pereira has called for a “reprogramming” of attitudes in the church towards BAME clergy.

He said while working as a curate, he had been “surprised” at repeatedly not being offered parishes despite good reports about his work.

He came across the letter in a personnel file in 2017 while preparing to take up a post in Aldershot.

Written by the then-bishop Mr Hill, it said: “Having worked very closely with people from the Indian sub-continent in my past, I think there are cultural differences in the way people like Alwyn communicate, and actually handle issues of truth and clarity.”

Image caption Mike Hill retired as Bishop of Bristol in 2017

Mr Pereira said: “It was like something pierced me in my very depth.

“I was completely shocked, I thought it might have been from the 1970s but to read it on paper. I didn’t know what to make of it.”

A complaint to the church, brought by Mr Pereira, has gone to appeal.

He said he was speaking out about the issue following Church of England clerics backing the Black Lives Matter protests after the death in the US of George Floyd.

He said it should be a “pivotal moment” for the church, rather than “playing to the galleries”.

“The reality is I have not received an acknowledgement of the pain I went through. It requires a wholesale reprogramming of attitudes and minds.”

‘Find reconciliation’

In a statement Mr Hill said: “I wrote a letter in support Alwyn Pereira with the intention of helping him secure a future ministerial role.

“In this letter, I used racial stereotypes which were unacceptable and offensive. I deeply regret the incident and I wholeheartedly apologise.”

The current bishop Bishop of Bristol, The Right Reverend Vivienne Faull said the comments were “unacceptable” and she hoped to “find reconciliation and a way forward” with Mr Pereira.

“I have made the commitment to address institutional racism and to recruit and support more BAME clergy.

“This work won’t be easy but I will be relentless in my dedication to bringing about change.”

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