Partnership in Mission Conference Report

Almost 50 Christians from across the UK and various cultural backgrounds met together on Saturday 6 September at Spurgeon’s College in London to explore how missionaries and pastors from the majority world can work in partnership with indigenous British Christians in the UK. With increasing numbers of Christians from the global south moving to the UK as missionaries, the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World organised this Partnership in Mission conference to provide a space for honest discussion about how Christians of all backgrounds can work together more effectively and in equal partnership.

Pastor CeliaCelia Apeagyei-Collins, vice president of Tearfund and founder of the Rehoboth Foundation, spoke of how the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of many ethnic minority Christians in the UK, prompting them to have a heart for this land and helping them understand the terrain here. “God is savvy, he sees the future and has moved people from the global South in His wisdom to the UK to position us for what he is going to do” Celia explained.

Yemi Adedeji, director of the Evangelical Alliance One People Commission, agreed that while ethnic minority churche   s often did not initially focus on reaching out to British people, many now want to embrace their new community and are actively looking for ways to reach out to those around them.

Harvey Kwiyani, a director of CMMW, shared how many African pastors have told him they want to reach British people and be missional, and they are asking for training to engage effectively. CMMW in partnership with others is therefore working on a project in Birmingham called Missio Africanus, creating spaces for conversations and training pastors in cross cultural mission within the UK. Missio Africanus will also become a flagship journal for African missions and theology in Britain.

P1040763With six in ten of the missionaries to Ghana in the nineteenth century having died within two years, Celia shared her sincere thanks for the sacrifice of the missionaries who went from the UK across the world to share the good news, and for the prayer and worship of Christians across the decades in the UK, saying: “We need to celebrate and honour those that have gone ahead of us”.

Stories were shared at various points of the conference which revealed the divisions still evident among Christians – with one person asking why they were introduced as “my little African friend” when speaking at churches. Others shared how ‘white flight’ is a reality in many churches, with white people leaving once the church becomes largely black or a black leader begins, and pastors saying that many in their congregations do not want to coexist with people of other races.

“It’s about time we stopped focusing on what is different and zeroed in on the mission” Celia said, encouraging Christians to unite behind a shared vision to see God’s kingdom come. Partnership requires exchanging ideas and experiences with others, and letting truth bind us rather than being divided on doctrinal issues such as the prosperity gospel.

Celia spoke passionately about the need for us all to become more culturally intelligent – understanding where each other are coming from rather than viewing each other as “strange”. For example, we can understand why African Christians often pray through the night in prayer vigils when we appreciate that they have often come from cultures where you have suffered and need to rely on God for your basic needs, and where you are trained from a young age to pray for hours on your feet. African Christians can also find it hard to understand why some British Christians are relaxed and informal in the way they pray to God, but Celia has realised that this is because in the British culture people often relate to their fathers in a friendly way rather than having a respectful and fearful relationship.

P1040795“We can only have partnership when we accept that the other person has something to offer” Celia said, acknowledging the reality that often we look down on others and don’t consider them as equal partners. Drawing on the concept of covenant at Hebron in 1 Chronicles 12, she spoke of how God is looking for a covenant in Christian partnerships rather than just a bit of collaboration or participation. And covenant is not possible without relationships, which she suggested are formed through spending time and eating together, forging a tight unit and coming to the place where you ask others what their needs are and offer to supply them, getting alongside people and weeping with those who weep.

Yemi agreed with Celia that partnership is not possible without relationship. Using 1 Corinthians 14:22 he expounded on how we all have something to offer, with God placing in each of us the things he wished, and the body not being able to function without each doing its part. When partnering with others he emphasised the importance of knowing who you are and how you can serve the other person or organisation. For example your church may not have a building, but you may be passionate in prayer and can partner with another church’s project and pray for that. Or you may not have many people to run projects, but have a building you can offer other churches to use.

Roger StandingRoger Standing, principal of Spurgeon’s College, gave the final talk. He spoke passionately about the vision of a New Jerusalem where worshippers of all ethnicities worship before the throne, rich in diversity but uniting as one functioning community. He considers multi-ethnic churches as the best reflection of this vision, though acknowledges there are multifaceted reasons why mono-ethinc churches have and do exist.

Working for multicultural expressions of faith takes intentionality and hard work, and requires us all to go outside our comfort zones, avoiding the desire to simply associate with ‘PLUs’ – People Like Us. Roger feels local congregations are where the real and important action is, rather than national initiatives. Effective partnerships are seen through dialogical activism, with local ecumenical movements across the country seeing churches partner together and do things for their community such as food banks, debt counselling and Street Pastors.

P1040787The conference concluded by reaffirming the importance of relationships and focusing on a common kingdom vision which overcomes our differences. The need to train future church leaders to understand issues related to partnership and multicultural churches was also emphasised.


Action points

  • To reflect and challenge ourselves in regards to working together with other people
  • To find out in our local contexts who we can work in partnership with
  • Develop relationships first by eating together and listening to each other
  • Ask the question “what can I contribute to this relationship or how can our church help
    another church?”
  • What is it that the other person or church has that we do not have?
  • In a case where we already have these partnership or relationships in existence, how can we strengthen them?
  • How can we move from collaboration to covenant relationships?
  • To facilitate and create more spaces for these sort of conversations, CMMW aims to host more conversations, not just in London, but in other places such as Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol, Lincolnshire and so on.

Written by Lucy Olofinjana

Listen to the talks here

Read an article on the Partnership in Mission conference on the Evangelical Alliance website.

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Legacy of Daniels Ekarte (c. 1890s-1964) and its implications for Public Leadership

Daniels Ekarté was from Calabar, Nigeria and around 1915 he worked his way into Liverpool as a seaman. The ethnic minorities in Liverpool suffered from the effects of institutional racism such as poverty, unemployment, rejection of mixed-race children and social deprivation. Ekarté founded The African Churches Mission (ACM) in 1931 in Toxteth, Liverpool to combat some of these social ills. As a preacher, Ekarté used every public opportunity he had to speak out against the injustices of his time. During World War II, he started an orphanage home to accommodate mixed-race children who were discriminated against by the society. The African Churches Mission was one of the first Black churches in Britain.
The history of African Churches Mission begins with the history of its founder, Daniels Ekarte, who was born in Calabar, Nigeria c. 1890s. As a boy Daniels was influenced by the Scottish missionary Mary Slessor (1848-1915) who worked amongst the Calabar people in Nigeria. Mary influenced Daniels as a result of her warming to the African culture. This sympathy towards African culture also helped Mary to stop the killing of twins in Calabar (as having twins was a taboo in that part of Nigeria in those days). Ekarte became a seaman and came to Liverpool, probably around 1915. He became a Christian in 1922 and began the African Churches Mission (ACM hereafter) in Toxteth, Liverpool in 1931. Liverpool’s prosperity in the mid-nineteenth century depended largely on the slave economy. The Black population increased during and after the First World War in places such as Liverpool, Bristol and London. One of the impacts of the war on Liverpool was the increase in unemployment and poor living conditions. This was coupled with racial discrimination. For example, inter-marriages between black men and white women were a major tension in Liverpool and the children of such marriages were termed ‘half-caste’ children (today known as mixed-race or dual heritage) and were rejected by many people in the society. These children were actually labelled as ‘mongrels’. This was the socio-economic milieu into which ACM was born.

Ekarte began to organise services in the slums, private rooms and open-air fields for the ethnic minority of Liverpool and through generous giving he later acquired a permanent place to meet. Ekarte’s church became a community centre for both black and white people in the community. He also visited people in prisons, hospitals and gave free meals to the poor. He became a voice for the poor and marginalised in society by defending them in his sermons and public speaking. Ekarte believed and fought for racial equality. For example, he campaigned for equal payment for black seamen because their white colleagues were receiving higher wages than them. This brought him in direct opposition with the local government and had negative effects on the ACM.
Post-Second World War brought about the birth of half-caste children resulting from the union between African American soldiers and English women. Ekarte decided to transform the ACM into an orphanage for these children and a rehabilitation centre for their mothers. He achieved this, but later this community project was ordered to close and the children transferred to the city’s children home. Ekarte was barred from any further contact with the children. The local authorities did this because they could not tolerate an African campaigning for racial equality and openly rebuking the British government for plundering the resources of Africa through colonialism. In addition, financial constraints worsened the case. After this event the life of the Mission continued but it struggled to survive. Finally in 1964 the local authorities demolished the building housing the Mission. The blow of the Mission closing was too much for Ekarte and not long after he died in 1964. Ekarte was and remained a hero in the sight of Africans and other marginalised people for the great things he achieved in Liverpool, but was a controversial figure in the eyes of others.

The achievements of ACM have implications for churches today in engaging with the social ills in our community: The first challenge of ACM is the fact that Ekarte condemned publicly the inequalities that he witnessed. Ekarte used every public opportunity he had to speak against the ill-treatment of the ethnic minority of his time. It is interesting to observe that Ekarte advocated for equal payments of black and white seamen and that he campaigned against institutional racism. In this he predates the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the United States which campaigned against racial discrimination. This point makes Ekarte a prophetic witness in his generation. We need church leaders today who will be bold to challenge some government policies and media stereotypes. One example will be the current stigmatization of immigrants, especially immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Secondly, Ekarte did not just advocate for the oppressed; he actually did something to remedy the situation. He used the resources at his disposal to feed the poor, and open an orphanage home and rehabilitation centre. A concern at the moment is that the Church in Britain has become either too middle class or professional to reach an average working class. It appears we are distant from people’s reality as we worship in our comfortable mega churches or big Christian festival and events. The church in the UK must surely find ways to connect with the working class.
In conclusion, the legacy of Daniels Ekarte is found in his recognition that God is in the business of liberating the oppressed. This propelled him, like the Old Testament prophets before him, to speak out against inequalities such as institutional racism. In addition to his public denunciation of injustice, he also became an agent of social change through acting on his convictions by starting ACM which became a centre for the community. Our churches must be challenged in the light of ACM’s legacy and the role of Daniels Ekarte as a public leader.

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That Christianity has shifted from the North to the Global South is a reality that we are living through. Christianity is growing every day in Africa, Asia and Latin America while it appears to be declining in the Western world such as North America and Europe. Christians from the Global South have taken the mandate to spread the Gospel so that there is now reverse mission from the former mission field to Europe and North America. In the British context, Caribbean and African Christians have taken the lead in establishing churches since 1906! These churches are commonly known as Black Majority Churches (BMCs). Majority of these churches, particularly the African churches are church plants from their head quarters back in Africa. Examples of these are The Church of the Lord Aladura, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Church of Pentecost, Victory Bible International Church and many others. All the above churches started in West Africa and have send missionaries and pastors to the UK to do missions. This type of African churches constitutes the first set of African churches in Britain and other parts of Europe. The second type of African churches are those that were founded here in Britain and are now sending missionaries and pastors to different parts of Europe and other parts of the world. It is to this second group that I want to draw attention.

An example of an African Church that started in Britain and is sending missionaries to other parts of the world is Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) founded by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo in 1992. KICC is one of the largest churches in Britain having a congregation of around 12,000. They have church plants in major cities in the UK such as Birmingham, Luton, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Bedford and Oxford. KICC is also involved in global missions through their television station KICC TV which is viewed in Africa, Europe, North America, Asia and the Caribbean. Other avenues that KICC use in spreading the Gospel to other parts of the world is through conferences (Winning Ways Africa), Gospel campaign meetings and relief work. In addition, KICC also has church plants in Republic of Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia and Malawi.

A second example of an African church that started in Britain and is involved in global missions is Trinity Baptist Church founded by Rev Kingsley Appaigyei in 1989. Trinity Baptist Church is also considered one of the largest Black Majority Churches in Britain having a congregation of around 3,000 people. Trinity Baptist Church since its inception has been involved in many church plants within the UK and other parts of Europe. They have a church in Italy, Denmark, Netherlands and Ghana. In addition, they also have an orphanage home in Ghana.

A third example is Jubilee International Church founded by Dr Femi Olowo in April 1992 in South London. Jubilee International Church has planted churches within Britain and other parts of the world, such as in African countries like Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, the Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and the Gambia, and in Asian countries like Pakistan, India and the Philippines. In addition, the church conducts mission trips to Europe, Africa and Asia.

Lastly, The Embassy of God Church founded by Pastor Sunday Adelaja in 1994 in Kiev Ukraine is yet another church founded by an African in Europe and is involved in global missions. The Embassy of God Church is one of the largest churches in Europe having about 20,000 members. This church cannot actually be labelled an African church because 99% of its membership is white European. The church has a leadership training programme, International Training School for Leaders which trains and equips church leaders, missionaries and church planters in global missions. This school have sent missionaries to different parts of the world so that today the church can boast of having over 200 church plants in the former countries of the Soviet Union, The United Arab Emirates, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Georgia, India, Canada, United States of America, Finland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Japan, Moldova, Estonia and Finland. The Embassy of God Church is also involved in relief work in some of these countries.

Having given few examples of African churches’ involvement in global missions, it is important that European mission agencies and organisations recognise and possibly partner with these African churches in working together for God’s kingdom on earth. Gone are those days when Europe and North American mission organisations can claim the monopoly of world missions. This shift in global mission must be recognised and co-operation is needed on both sides to work together. Let us drop our agenda of doing it alone and work as partners in reaching the unreached!

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Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther: The First African Bishop

This Sunday 29th of June will mark the 150 years anniversary since Samuel Ajayi Crowther was ordained as the first African bishop in the Canterbury Cathedral in England. While this is worth celebrating, it is important to understand the life of Samuel Ajayi Crowther and learn from his pioneering role.
Samuel Ajayi was born in a little town called Osogun, now is Oyo State, Nigeria in 1810. His parents gave him the name Ajayi as a symbol of importance. On one sunny bright afternoon, his town was raided by 2,000 strong men on horses who were slave traders. His father was probably killed during this raid as he never saw him again. Ajayi was captured with his mother and two sisters and were sold to different slaves masters. He was finally sold off to the Portuguese traders at the Lagos slave market. As the Portuguese slave traders were shipping him with other enslaved Africans, their ship was intersected by the British anti-slavery warship. The Portuguese ship was attacked and destroyed.
Ajayi was one of the people rescued and he with the other people rescued were taken to Sierra Leone. He was treated very well and was placed in a Church Missionary Society (CMS) school where he learned to read and write. Ajayi had a great passion for learning and he applied himself to learn everything that he could. Within six months of his arrival at Sierra Leone, he became a teacher in a local school. Ajayi began to learn about God who, he believed won his freedom for him therefore he decided to devote himself to His service. Ajayi noted that he was not only saved from slavery but also from sin. On the 11th of December 1825, he was baptised and he named himself after the Vicar of Christ’s Church, Newgate, London (Samuel Crowther). Ajayi made his first visit to London in 1826 and this left an impression on him. He returned to Sierra Leone becoming a government teacher and got engaged to an ex-slave girl, Asano. Asano was educated as well as she could read and write. She was baptised with the name Susan Thompson. They got married and lived happily for about 50 years.

Ajayi enrolled as one of the first set of students in Fourah Bay College in 1828, the first higher institution in West Africa and Bible College. He later taught Greek and Latin at the college. 1841 marks the beginning of what is popularly known as the Niger Expedition. CMS was interested in expanding its mission work in the Niger-delta region in Nigeria. Rev Schon, one of the CMS missionaries was sent with Ajayi and a company of other missionaries. The mission did not succeed due to malaria, rejection of white missionaries and other factors. Rev Schon recommended to the CMS that Africans should be used in evangelising their own people. To this end Ajayi was invited to London in 1843 and was ordained into the Holy Orders of the Church of England and was made a minister in 1844. He went back to Sierra Leone and was given a rousing welcome. He preached his first sermon in English and another in Yoruba. He went to Abeokuta in Nigeria with Rev Henry Townsend and began missionary work among the Ijebu people in Abeokuta. He also began translating the Bible into some of the African languages. One example is the Yoruba Bible called  Bibeli Mimo.

Henry Venn, one of the CMS leaders recommended Ajayi to be consecrated as Bishop of the Niger-delta. Ajayi refused arguing that he was not seeking any honour but only wanted to serve Christ. After lots of appeal and persuasion from Venn, Ajayi accepted and was consecrated the first African Bishop on the 29th of June 1864 at the Canterbury Cathedral. The same year, in recognition of his missionary contributions,  he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Oxford. Towards the end of his life, Ajayi’s missionary work in the Niger-Delta was called into question by two younger churchmen. Accusations of fraudulent practices where reproted and investigated in Ajayi’s diocese. This investigation sidelined Ajayi’s authority and concluded that whilst he was inocent, the people he had trained were not therefore they were dismissed. This broke the heart of the Bishop and he died not long after that in 1891.

In conclusion, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther remains an iconic church leader in Africa and beyond due to his pioneering role as the first African bishop. He operated at a time when black people were seen as inferior based on the pseudo sciences of the seventeen and eighteen century. He challenged this perceptions and ideology by his literatures, bible translation work and character. He was a humble man who saw the goodness of God in redeeming him twice. While he believed that Africans needed African clergies to evangelise, he always respects and speaks highly of European mission efforts to Africa. He was the bridge between Africans and Europeans and was most of the time misunderstood by both. His lifelong goal was to serve God and that he did. It is in memory of his pioneering of African Christianity and mission that Ajayi Crowther Centre for African Mission is founded and is organising a conference (Missio Africanus) on the 27th of June at Crowther Hall, Birmingham Christian College in Selly Oak to celebrate his consecration as the first African bishop.


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John Jea (1773-18?): The First African Evangelist in Europe

John Jea who was from Calabar in Nigeria could be regarded as one of the pioneers of reverse mission and possibly the founder of the first black majority church in the UK between 1805-1815. He was perhaps the first African preacher to travel Europe, North America and South America as an evangelist preaching the Good News of Jesus. He did this at a time when blacks were in slavery or were racially oppressed. He rose above his socio-economic conditioning and background to become an itinerant preacher. His ministry was modelled on that of Paul’s missionary journeys using Boston and New York as his Jerusalem. He preached in countries such as England, Ireland, Holland, Germany, France, Argentina and United States. He even had a successful prison ministry in France! How did John Jea rose from an African slave to become an international evangelist?
John Jea was born in Old Calabar in Nigeria in 1773. At the age of two he was sold as a slave along with his entire family to a North American slave owner. In his autobiography (The Life, History, and Unparalled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher published in 1815) he described his ordeal in details as a slave in North America. They would work in the summer from 2am in the morning till 11pm at night and at winter from 4am in the morning till 10pm at night. If they complained or murmur, they were beaten with a very thick weapon. If they complained of this punishment then they were tied to a four large pole and flogged until blood spills all over the place and bones break. If the slaves resist they were either killed or beaten to an unconscious state. After these sort of punishment the slaves were meant to thank their masters for the punishment he had been inflicting on them, quoting the scriptures, “Bless the rod, and him that hath appointed it”
John Jea’s master appeared to have used Christianity to his own ends whenever it pleases him. He often told the slaves that they were devils and that they were going to hell. They were not allowed to worship God or come near the chapel. John became curious of what kind of God they must serve and began observing his masters actions. He noticed that they mourned the death of another fellow master but rejoice when the Americans killed lots of native Indians. His observation led him to conclude; even at a young age that something was wrong with their religion and this made him to hate those who call themselves Christians. John Jea told his master and master’s sons that he hated them because they were Christians. To this he was beaten on several occasions and was ready to die. John thought when he is dead he will go back to his native country in Africa (This was an idea that was prevalent among the slaves then). Part of John’s punishment for saying he hated Christians was to attend a place of worship. This caused him to hate Christians the more and as he was continually forced to attend church every Sunday, he thought he was going to kill the minister one day.
After attending the church for a while John began to find his heart turning to God gradually. He began praying using the words he had heard the priest used on Sundays. John became very frustrated as he made no connections with God. This infuriated him the more and John gave God an ultimatum of one week to show up! John decided that if God did not show up he was going to kill the minister because he has been telling lies about God. Before the week expired, John had an encounter with God that would change the course of his life. He felt God in a way he had never before and suddenly became aware of his sins. John, not knowing what to do with this awareness was distressed. His master and his wife saw that he was distressed and asked him what was going on. John explained to them that he was a sinner and that he feared the consequences of being a sinner. At this the master began beating him to the point of death and told him he was possessed by demons. They stopped him from attending the church realising that John was now turning to God. This increased John’s pain as he did not know how to follow God and he feared God was going to kill him. He secretly found a way of speaking to the minister and asked him what he must do to be saved. John asked the minister to pray to God for him so that his sins can be forgiven but the minister told him to pray to God for himself. John became very confused not knowing what to do. He was in distress for about six weeks and whenever he asked his master to help him turn to God he was beaten until two of his ribs were broken and blood pouring from all over his body.
One day, at the age of fifteen, John found God and he felt the weight of sin left him. He began appreciating God and saw God as the provider of all things rather than his master. He became convinced that while his master’s family professed Christianity, their actions were far from that of a Christian. John began preaching to his master’s family and his own family as they were not converted. His family thought he was mad. At the age of seventeen John began preaching to everyone to the extent that he was sold to three different masters. While he was with his third master he was secretly baptised and joined possibly a Methodist society. When his master knew about it he was very furious and took him to the magistrate who questioned John about God. John told the magistrate his remarkable story of conversion. The magistrate was so pleased that he pronounced John a free man! But the master would not let John go. The master used the scriptures to convince John to stay with him arguing that it is his Christian duty to obey his master whether he was treated good or bad.
John at this stage could not read or write but only speak English and Dutch. He realised that his master’s family could read the Bible but that he could not and so to this end John began praying to God for about six weeks that he might be able to read the Bible. During this period, John had a vision in which an angel came to him with the Bible and taught him how to read John’s Gospel chapter one. John not sure what had just happen to him went to see a minister and told him he could read the Bible. The minister knowing John was not educated at all and could not read or write gave him the Bible. John opened the Bible to John’s Gospel chapter one and read it to the minister’s surprise. The minister enquired how John came to be able to read the Bible. John explained that an angel taught him in a vision. The minister decided to give John other books to read but John could not read them except John chapter one. The minister was convinced that God had done something miraculous in John’s life and began to spread the word about. People came from all over New York to hear John read from John’s Gospel. John was taken to the magistrate as his master feared he will begin to teach other slaves how to read the Bible. The magistrate examined him by giving him the Bible to read and John read John chapter one as at other times but could not read any other book. The magistrate and the minister convinced that this was God’s work told John that he is now free to do whatever he wants. John became a freeman and began preaching the Gospel all over New York. Some listened to him and became converted while others mocked him. After a while John gathered about 500 people who had been converted from his preaching and started worshipping together in an open field. They will start their service on Saturday evenings after the slaves have finished work and end on Sunday evening. This church grew in numbers to about 1,500 people and some white Christians decided to help John buy a piece of land and build a place of worship. Some white preachers also visited the church sharing the preaching with John.
As the church continued to grow and having other preachers to lead the church, John decided to travel to other places as a preacher therefore he left the church in other hands and moved to Boston. He started preaching there as well and people were converted. He lived in Boston for three years and went back to New York. He got married in a Methodist church in New York but after two years of marriage, their relationship broke down. In the process they also lost their only daughter. After recovering from this trauma John continued preaching in different parts of the States. He travelled to Virginia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Maryland preaching the Gospel. Boston and New York became his head quarters as he always return to Boston or New York and travel from there to other places to preach. In order to survive, he became a seaman. This also enabled him to travel to other places and countries. He came to England and preached in Liverpool, Manchester, Sunderland, Halifax, Portsmouth, Southampton, Guernsey, Lancashire and Yorkshire. He had great success in his preaching endeavours as many people were converted filling many of the chapels he preached in. Many attempts were made to discredit him but John did not give up preaching. He went to Holland, Germany and France preaching the Gospel. He travelled to South America preaching at Buenos Aires in Argentina and possibly Venezuela. He had success in these places as well as people were converted.
John travelled to Ireland and preached in the cities and villages. He encountered Roman Catholics in Ireland who opposed his Protestant beliefs and wanted to kill him. He was protected by the Mayor of Limerick who had come to love John Jea. He also had arguments with Calvinist in Ireland who were trying to challenge him that God will only save those who have been elected. John refused to believe this and argued that all men deserved to hear the Gospel. While in Ireland he met another lady called Mary and they got married. This was his third marriage as his second wife passed away in Holland. From Ireland, John travelled to France leaving his wife behind at Portsmouth because she was ill. While in France he was caught in the middle of the war between America and England and was told to fight for America against the English. John refused saying he will not fight the English. John was a pacifist who believed in peace rather than war. He was put in prison in France and was there for about five years. He preached in the prison having about 200 converts! He was given opportunity on several occasions to leave France and go to America to fight England, but John argued that he was an African and that he will not go back to America nor will he fight England. After few years John was released through the intervention of a French mayor. John came back to Portsmouth and reunite with his wife after about five years. They settled down in Portsmouth and it appears that they started a church in their house. This church probably was the first black majority church in the UK! Nothing is known of John Jea after 1817.

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‘The world doesn’t have to be as it is’ (Press Release Statement by Churches Together in England)

Churches Together in England

Press Release

Date: 5th June 2014

For immediate release

For General Distribution

For Press, twitter, Member Churches, Churches Together Groups, church websites

RE Pentecost Sunday


The 6 Presidents of the 42 member churches of Churches Together in England offer a message for Pentecost

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Archbishop Justin Welby)
The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster (Cardinal Vincent Nichols)
The Free Churches Moderator (Rev Michael Heaney)
The Fourth President nominated by the other churches in England (Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga)
including Orthodox, Black Majority, Lutheran and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
HE Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain
The Pentecostal President (Bishop Eric Brown)

‘The world doesn’t have to be as it is’

On the day of Pentecost the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the Church. This same Spirit had brooded over the chaos waters at the time of creation, inspired the prophets, poets and kings of the Hebrew people, and descended on Jesus at his baptism. Now the Spirit fell like fire on the Apostles of Jesus so that his message of God’s kingdom of love, justice and hope might reach the ends of the earth.

On the Day of Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit brought understanding, for all found they could understand each other’s languages. In our divided world we pray for that gift, that there might be understanding between divided nations and conflicting ideologies, that the unreconciled might begin to walk the path of reconciliation.

Artists often depict the Holy Spirit as a dove. Doves have come to symbolise peace. This Pentecost, amidst conflict and tension in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and on the edges of Europe, we pray for all who are suffering, and for all who work patiently to lessen tension and fashion peace rather than war.

Pentecost is an announcement that the world doesn’t have to be as it is. God offers us a different way. The Bible speaks of the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22) – those are some of the qualities which create and sustain good societies. Christians don’t have a monopoly on those qualities, but they do know that they are evidence of the Spirit’s presence and activity. They also know that the power of the Spirit enables them to do the will of Jesus, so our prayer this Pentecost is that all Christians everywhere will live out their love of Jesus by working to build good and healthy societies where all may flourish as God intends.

To find out more about the Christian faith visit

To find out more about A good Society, visit

Archbishops of Canterbury and York launch Pentecost initiative

… End …


1.       Contact email and phone number: Jim Currin, Communications, Churches Together in England. 07837973214.

2.       CTE Purpose: ‘Churches Together in England unites in pilgrimage those churches in England which, acknowledging God’s revelation in Christ, confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures, and, in obedience to God’s will and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves: to seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another in the Church, which is his body; and to fulfil their mission to proclaim the Gospel by common witness and service in the world to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’

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John Wilson: An Apostle to Woolwich

Today is exactly a year since the terrible murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. The world was shocked as it watched a soldier being hacked down in broad day light by two terrorists. While the perpetrators have been served life imprisonment, conversations still continue as to how we can stop our young people from being radicalised.
John Wilson Street, the major road connecting to exactly where the murder took place last year, was thrust into the media through this horrific event. While I am glad that justice has been served to the two perpetrators, I have been trying to find out more about the person the street was named after. Part of the reason for this search is because I recently became the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a church one could say was founded by Rev Dr John Wilson.
John Wilson was one of the most significant church and public leaders in nineteenth century England. As the pastor of Woolwich Tabernacle (which merged together with Conduit Road Baptist in 1969 to form my church, Woolwich Central Baptist), John exercised leadership influence across this country and particularly in Woolwich. And it was to recognise his immense contribution to society that the main street in Woolwich was named after him.
John Wilson exercised pastoral ministry and leadership over Woolwich Tabernacle for sixty one years (1877-1938), making him the longest serving Baptist minister in one pastorate. Before today’s mega churches in Woolwich (such as New Wine Church, seating about 3,000, and Woolwich’s own Pentecostal cathedral Christ Faith Tabernacle, led by Apostle Alfred Williams) there was Woolwich Tabernacle which sat about 2,500 people in the nineteenth. Who then his John Wilson?
John Wilson was born in May 1854 near Forfar in Scotland. His parents feared God and believed that their ten children were gifts from God to be trained for God’s kingdom. Although he was brought up in a Christian family, nevertheless during his teen years he had lots of questions. He was invited to a YMCA meeting where he listened to the stories of Christian young men and realised that they possessed what he wanted. He studied the Scriptures at the home of the YMCA manager and later described his conversion experience; “That morning I saw dimly as in the distance the light that led to the gate, the Cross, and the Kingdom of God.”
He began ministering by distributing books house to house and preaching. and was inspired and captivated by the preaching power and personality of the American evangelist DL Moody.
John attended Spurgeon’s new college in London, and after ministering in Chiswick and Launceston in Cornwall John was sent to a needy church in Woolwich, serving as their student-pastor while studying. Woolwich as an area was very different from his previous country-side assignments, and was much needier than he had imagined, with lots of slums, lodging houses and crowded bars. Their chapel was so dilapidated that one day the floor even gave way and a member of the congregation fell through into a grave! John continued ministering in these difficult conditions, and after finishing his studies in 1877 became the full- time pastor there.
An incident occurred in 1878 that became a turning point in John Wilson’s ministry at Woolwich. The S.S Princess Alice sunk, losing about 600 people including the captain. It was a national calamity and many members of John Wilson’s church were bereaved by the ship wreck. John conducted the mass funeral, young and inexperienced as he was (although on later reflection he realised he should have involved other ministers in the area). He had the tremendous responsibility as well as opportunity to conduct the funeral service for three hundred people. He prayed for the right words of comfort and hope to say and God helped him.
Since holding the mass funeral John became not just the pastor of the Baptist church at Woolwich but of the whole Woolwich Arsenal area, and people began to talk about him and attend his church. The church continued to grow until the chapel was overcrowded, and even in a new church building with bigger facilities they were soon also filled to overcrowding, having to build galleries and hold two services to accommodate the numbers.
John Wilson started a conversational Bible class which proved very successful. He invited politician as well as preachers to speak on different subjects, covering various issues facing people in Woolwich and London in general. This included Trade Unions, the family, economics, business, health, apologetics, missionary movements, church history and poetry. These lectures became a meeting point for the churched and un-churched, and became so successful that they moved to Woolwich’s assembly rooms which could seat about eight hundred people, though soon about nine hundred were attending! Many of these people later started attending the church and a number of them rose to influential positions in society.
The church continued to grow and planted other churches and mission stations in New Beckton (across the river Thames) and elsewhere. They soon outgrew another building and decided they needed to build a Tabernacle to meet the increasing numbers.
Members of the church as well as people from outside gave money, but it was not enough. A member of the church then miraculously inherited a large legacy and gave this large sum. In total the Tabernacle was built with £14,000, all contributed by members of the church as well as people in society who believed in the leadership and ministry of John Wilson. The new Tabernacle building was opened and dedicated on 8 July 1896 by Thomas Spurgeon (CH Spurgeon’s son).
John Wilson was very committed to Woolwich, to the extent that he rejected lots of lucrative positions in places such as Oxford University. He was also a prominent member of the Baptist denomination, but so great was John’s love and commitment to Woolwich as an area that when he was asked to be the principal of the Baptist’s Spurgeon’s College, he refused the offer.
John’s name became as synonymous with Woolwich as Spurgeon’s was with London. John Wilson was truly an apostle to Woolwich as he served the people of Woolwich Arsenal and the Dockyard. Beyond his church John engaged with various issues that faced an average working class person during the industrial revolution, of which Woolwich was an integral part.
John also worked with the Mayor of Woolwich and the civil authorities, and was awarded an MBE for services among the troops at Woolwich during World War One. In 1907, when he visited a friend in Texas, USA, Baylor University conferred on him the title of Doctor of Divinity.  In 1937, his Diamond Jubilee (60 years as pastor in Woolwich) was an occasion for joyous celebrations, with the council as well as the church celebrating for a period of sixteen days. Eminent theologians and ministers of the day attended the celebration.  During this occasion John was Wilson enrolled as a Freeman of the Borough of Woolwich.
In 1938, at the ripe age of 84, Rev Dr John Wilson passed away at his home in Charlton survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters.
John Wilson is an example of a public leader who engaged and connected with his community. The issues facing the society of his time became his issues and that of his church. He exercised an incarnational ministry that touched people spiritually, politically, economically and socially. Today we need more public leaders like John Wilson, prepared to move beyond church walls and meet the real needs of the communities around them, and inspire others to do the same.

Marguerite Williams, John Wilson of Woolwich, Marshall, Morgan & Scott Ltd, London, 1937.
The Glasgow Herald, 9th January 1939.

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