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Doing a new thing: an update on Tearfund’s anti-racism work

Liz Muir, Tearfund’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, shares an update on our anti-racism work in 2021/22.

Liz Muir | 31 Oct 2022

A man and woman holding hands.

A couple holding hands. Image credit: Paul Mbonankira/Tearfund

History is a gift. It helps us to understand who and where we are now – and also to recognise that there are some things that should never be repeated.

An update on our anti-racism work

At Tearfund, we reflected on our recent history when we updated our anti-racism statement this August. We have been taking the time to remember the progress we have made over the last twelve months, and identifying areas for further work. This gives us an opportunity to keep learning how we can better love and serve others like Jesus. Rather than continuing past mistakes, it’s time to do something new.

In Isaiah 43:19, we read these words: ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’

Whenever I read about a new thing springing up, I always picture a freshwater stream. Its sound is calming, its sight healing, its flow lifegiving. 

As the church, we all have a role to play in helping those around us to see the ‘new thing’ that God is doing. We can commit to new ways of thinking and doing that will create a more just world and empower those who have been oppressed. By living out our faith in this way, we play our part in God’s restoration plan.

What we have been doing

When we shared our original anti-racism statement in August 2020, outlining our commitments to being an inclusive organisation where everyone feels they belong, we said, ‘while we have been taking positive steps forward, as an organisation we have also been reflecting on our shortcomings. We acknowledge that we have not done enough in the past to dismantle the systems, policies and processes that keep systemic racism alive. But we will change.’

Since then, we have made changes to how we do our work, including encouraging more diversity in how we pray and worship together, appointing a Black Majority Church leader to our Board and making other ethnically-diverse appointments to Board Committees. We also created guidelines to help us ensure that we use language and images that tell the stories of the people we work with around the world with dignity. A more detailed update from 2021/22 is available here.

What we will do

Becoming an anti-racist organisation has required us to become more intentional about how we do our work. To keep you up to date, we’ve outlined some of our commitments for the coming year below.

Improving accountability

We will:

  • Publish ethnicity pay gap data in the UK to ensure transparency and help us address any gaps.
  • Consider best practice guidance we can adopt in our external reporting on race and ethnicity.
  • Appoint each member from The Well Committee* – which is made up of respected leaders who attend Black Majority Churches in the UK – to one of Tearfund’s other Board Committees to bring a wider range of views, experiences and perspectives.

Developing understanding

  • Continue to offer staff learning sessions on the theology of diversity and inclusion, including race and ethnicity, on a quarterly basis.
  • Evaluate the staff feedback on the unconscious bias training module we rolled out in 2021, as we prepare for the next round of completions.

Diversifying recruitment

We will:

  • Continue to encourage staff to share their ethnicity data with us to help us consider how we can improve diversity and inclusion across our teams globally.
  • Develop a post-recruitment evaluation process to see where we can improve experiences for people from diverse backgrounds. 

We’ll continue to provide updates on our progress at least once a year.

We will keep going

We are committed to keep working towards the goal of being a truly inclusive and anti-racist organisation. We know this won’t always be easy or comfortable, but Jesus left us with great examples of the difference that can be made when we pursue the redemptive power of justice.

We are so thankful for the ongoing support and generosity of our faithful supporters. Please pray that we will have wisdom as we adopt new ways of working and that even more lives will be transformed as a result.

*What is The Well Committee?

The Well Committee is chaired by a Black Majority Church trustee, and made up of nine members, all of whom are respected leaders in the Black community in the UK.

Meeting quarterly, the committee is tasked – among other things – with helping to establish and shape new policies, processes and campaigns that are more inclusive for Black Majority Church audiences and Black Christians. Members of the committee are invited to sit on all the other Tearfund Board committees to ensure integration, representation, mutual learning and sharing of ideas.

  Liz Muir

Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Tearfund

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