LONGLISTED FOR THE MICHAEL RAMSEY PRIZE 2023
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.
"France-Williams offers a narrative of passion, interlaced with modern history. He holds a mirror up to the Church of England which we would do well to look into and reflect deeply on our record concerning racial injustice and the need to confront it urgently wherever it is found. Reading this in the immediate aftermath of the shocking killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis there is renewed focus on the need to demonstrate in every part of our common life that Black Lives Matter. The failure to see the consequences of persistent neglect in our structures makes for uncomfortable reading, as will his remedy of truth and reconciliation. Honesty is a constant refrain this gifted writer deploys with each topic he examines." -- The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark 'Searing, truthful, devastating, prophetic. I hope this book reaches a wide and worldwide audience. And for those of us who are white Anglicans, it should cause us to weep in recognition of our complicity. Then resolve to be part of the change that must come.' -- Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James' Church, Piccadilly "Racism thrives best in the company of silence. That's why Ghost Ship is such an important book. France-Williams' voice from within provokes a long overdue, honest conversation around how we recognise and dismantle the deep rooted racist attitudes and systems that still haunt the Church from our colonial past. If we are to play our full God-given role in de-escalating racial tension and in building a society where no one is disadvantaged because of the colour of their skin, we cannot afford to ignore this book and its message. You don't have to be black or brown to call out racism - but you have to be complicit with it not to!" -- Rev. Steve Chalke MBE 'Intelligence and passion fuel France-Williams' dissection of the leadership "club" - people like me - at the heart of the Church of England's failure to own and address its racism. The reader need not accept all his arguments uncritically, to recognise this authentic black voice needs to be heard.' -- The Right Reverend Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester 'This is a powerful book. Its power comes not in loud or angry protest, but in prophetic storytelling that speaks truth to power, reflecting back on the Church its failings when it comes to racial justice. In an understated way, it combines personal testimony with imagery, real-life accounts and a range of voices who put together a mosaic of centuries-long racial injustice in the Church. The at times devastating critique of the status quo within the Church is not dampened by the beautiful writing, but calls the reader to attention. It is a lament of the state of the Church and a rallying call towards a better way.' -- Chine McDonald 'In Ghost Ship, France-Williams takes on white supremacy in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion with precision, imagination, and confidence. Every page is evidence of his ability to make complex matters accessible to neophytes and experts alike. It is within reason to expect this tome to become a standard in the training of church leaders, lay and ordained. His exploration of Pan-African Anglicanism is a gift to students of church history and shows that he stands on the shoulders of faithful giants. I commend this book to a world desperately in need of France-Williams's pioneering imagination and insight.' -- Broderick Greer 'In this powerful book, France-Williams tells the stories of discrimination many of us review in our heads on the way home after work and put aside to be cheerful and present with people we love, and then we go back the next morning. For those of us who have committed our lives to the service of God through the Anglican Church, the institutional weight of slavery and colonialism and their legacy of racism bear down daily, whether we have decided to cope like a raging and blinded Samson in the temple of Dagon or a smiling token carefully packaged. France-Williams digs it all up and puts it on the page. Ouch! But, thankfully, he reframes the isolating burden of discrimination as institutional racism, the presenting sin of the church. With that sin has come the great potential for repentance, deep institutional transformation, and the salvation of a radical change of course. Let us take it up in our time.' -- Winnie Varghese 'Ghost Ship is poetically, formally and spiritually courageous. The profound honesty with which it is written is matched only the honesty it asks for. The power of that honesty offers wondrous scope for the liberation and revitalisation of the Anglican church.' -- Kobna Holdbrook-Smith 'France-Williams employs a formidable range of approaches - among them testimony, academic categories, careful research, interviews, anecdote, poetry, humour, parody, exegesis and close reading - to mount a compelling and urgent argument for the church's institutional and personal failure to receive the gift the Holy Spirit in the lives, bodies and callings of its BAME witnesses. Most of all he models prophetic ministry: pleading, portraying, persuading and ultimately inspiring the church that has caused so much hurt and grief but that despite all he still bravely loves. This is a testament of truth; and an epistle of power.' -- Sam Wells 'Ghost Ship has been many years in the making and I have been honoured to have journeyed with the author as his prophetic vision has developed and matured, culminating in this book. This text is an excellent combination of historical analysis, personal reflection, poetry, biblical hermeneutics and first hand narratives, all combined to produce a highly readable book. Its key strength is that it is written by an insider, one whose love for the Church of England is such, that he is willing to tell her the truth!' -- Anthony Reddie 'Although the subtitle of France-Williams' new book is 'Institutional Racism and the Church of England,' make no mistake:-here is a powerful and provocative word to people on both sides of the ocean, wherever racial injustice is found. It's impossible to turn the pages of Ghost Ship and not find yourself challenged to turn the nightmare around us into God's dream of a better world.' -- The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
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