An Anglican priest who helped expose a deportation scandal in the British government has been appointed as the Church of England’s first racial equality director.
The priest, Guy Hewitt, will lead the church’s Racial Justice Unit starting in November. The group was set up on the recommendations of a task force commissioned in 2020 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to implement “significant cultural and structural change” on issues of racial justice within the Church of England.
In April 2021, the task force published a report, “From Lament to Action.” Hewitt will work with the Archbishops’ Commission for Racial Justice to ensure the recommendations of the task force are implemented.
A descendant of immigrants from Barbados and India, Hewitt is a former Barbados high commissioner to the UK. He played a key role in exposing the so-called Windrush scandal, which erupted in April 2018 and led to an apology from the British government for threats of deportation that officials made to the children of Commonwealth citizens even though they had lived and worked in the UK for decades.
His appointment came with Archbishop Justin Welby’s apology for the church’s role in the trafficking and enslavement of African people. And revelations that one of the church’s investment funds was linked to the slave trade prompted Welby to call it a “source of shame.”
Hewitt is an advisory board member of the Windrush Scandal Research Project based at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, where he is an honorary senior research fellow.
Ordained in Barbados in 2005, the Church of England priest has a background in social policy and development. In addition to being a fierce critic of the British government’s handling of the Windrush scandal, he has worked internationally on issues of marginalization, economic enfranchisement, racial justice, youth empowerment and gender equality.
“I am humbled by the confidence of those who have chosen me to serve as the inaugural director and look forward to what I plan to be a participatory and inclusive process of restoration,” Hewitt said after the Church of England announced his appointment on August 23.
“The indelible link between our faith and public life is reinforced at Confirmation with our vow to defend the weak, and to seek peace and justice,” he added.
In 2018, Hewitt criticized British society for its failure to adequately address race relations. “Colonial history is still not taught here,” he said. “The modern global Britain, with a multicultural society, is still an aspiration rather than a reality.”
Hewitt served most recently as associate vicar at All Saints Church in Fulham, an upscale residential and commercial area in southwest London. Before that, he was priest-in-charge at St. James in the Hill Episcopal Church in Hollywood, Florida.
William Nye, Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council, described Hewitt’s new assignment as vital in helping the Anglican Church not only “address the challenges of racial justice” but also in enabling the church to “speak into this agenda nationally.”
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