Some ethnic minority staff who made complaints of racism within the Church of England have been paid off to “buy their silence”, BBC Panorama has been told.

Dr Elizabeth Henry, the Church’s former adviser on race relations, said some of those who received compensation had had to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Some clergy have told Panorama about the racism they have suffered.

The Church of England is set to publish plans promising to address racism.

Last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, admitted that the Church had failed to tackle racism in its own ranks.

After seven years in her job, Dr Henry retired last year due to feeling disillusioned. “I felt frustrated by the lack of progress with issues of racism,” she tells Panorama.

She says one incident from 2019 particularly stood out.

“A really shocking incident was a young black man who received a picture of a banana. But that banana had his head superimposed upon it – and underneath it said: Banana Man. That is a deeply offensive and deeply racist image.

“He took it to HR [human resources department] and he did file a grievance. And the decision was that it wasn’t racist.

“That person left, and he received a very small compensation – however he was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.”

That agreement means the BBC cannot say where the incident took place. The total number of non-disclosure agreements is also unknown.

The Church told Panorama that while it can’t comment on individual cases, “any [racist] behaviour of the sort described by Dr Henry is unacceptable”.

It added confidentiality agreements are only used “in exceptional circumstances” where open processes “may not have reached resolution”.

The Church has no single system for recording complaints of racism – which has left some clergy feeling unheard and angry.

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