Reflective Report of the Conference: The State of Diaspora Mission in the UK

Written by Brenda Amondi, One of CMMW Directors. An African reverse missionary from Kenya and currently studying for an MTh at St Mellitus College, London

The state of diaspora mission in the UK conference was recently held at All Nations Christian College in Ware, Hertfordshire. It was well attended with about 60 participants representing Bible Colleges, church networks, mission agencies across Europe- with a huge percentage of people coming from the UK.

One of the visions for this conference was to gather missionaries, church leaders, students and practitioners seeking to be involved in diaspora mission in the UK, and across Europe. The goal was that these groups of people would enhance collaboration and learn from one another, with the hope of increasing the impact of evangelizing Europe with the Gospel of Christ.

The presence of Rev. Joel Edwards as a plenary speaker was a great blessing. He offered great insights on the issue of diaspora and what it means to be of a diaspora status. In his first session, he offered an amateur overview of diaspora experiences in the context of Christian missionaries within the UK. His presentation included the vexed issue of immigration and migration, relating this with the story of Daniel as an immigrant in Babylon (Daniel 1). Just like Daniel, you find that most Christian missionaries come to the UK or Europe, by default with immigrant status. With this, Rev. Joel also pointed out how this can serve as a disadvantage because the people from the host country may not be very receptive. They may see immigrants as people who come to change their country and cause economic decline. Issues like rampant nationalism emerge and politicization of the migrant becomes prevalent. This was an interesting angle to take, as at the end of the session he posed the question– ‘How do diaspora communities in the UK reach out as missionaries if the people they are reaching out to do not receive or accept them?’

In the same measure, diaspora communities face the challenge of identity and belonging, especially with the desire to balance out the mother culture and the current culture they are in. Many find themselves with a deep desire to create a place of belonging in the new culture without drawing largely from the host culture. As a missionary, this is particularly hard because one of the avenues of reaching out to people in the host country is by largely being immersed in that culture and almost do things the way they do- at least for a while.

As much as the diaspora discussions were interesting, the other sessions involved missionaries across Europe sharing their experiences and stories. The stories shared were not only encouraging to the Christian community, but they allowed us to celebrate what God is doing across Europe. We had Pastor Tani Omideyi of Temple of Praise church in Liverpool, share his experience of pastoring a multicultural congregation in the UK. From his story, one could see how he has managed to lead the church in such a way that the host culture is acknowledged, while at the same time the diaspora communities have an equal voice. One of his greatest tools has been Rick Warren’s circles of commitment- community, crowd, congregation, committed and core (see the link to the diagram below). The idea is to know where your congregation members fall in these five categories, and the challenge is to formulate processes that move people from the outside inward. One of the ways Pst. Tani has done that is through the celebration of each culture represented in his congregation- through food, music, dressing and language.

Image: http://webuildpeople.vpe.nl/leader_development/9801_buildingbridges.htm

 

Another fascinating story was from Pastor Peter Rong. Pst. Peter is a missionary originally from South Sudan to Romania. He has been in Romania for the past 28years and his passion for making Jesus known still burns brightly. He ministers at Spiritual Revival Baptist Church in Bucharest. His main message was that of sharing the Love of Jesus and truly making disciples of all nations. His stories include discipling and baptising people from Iran, Ethiopia, Romania and many other countries across eastern Europe. You can read more about Pastor Peter Rong’s story here https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/meet-sudanese-pastor-refugee-church-bucharest-180316002433075.html

One last story included that of Rita Rimkiene of World Café in Brunswick Baptist Church-Gloucester. Rita and her team have a heart for refugees and the homeless and one of the ways they show their love to these people is by building a community with them around food. Being a ‘stranger’ to this country herself, she understands the challenges of trying to navigate through so many things-including making friends and meaningful connections. One of the ways Rita and the team show love is by embodying hospitality, and that way they are able to bridge the physical and the spiritual needs of the people they reach out to. (http://www.brunswick-baptist.co.uk/the-world-cafe-gloucester/)

The conference also included group discussions (approximately 4 people in each group) and this created a bigger platform for everyone present to share their stories and network at a deeper level.

This conference sparked many good discussions and left most, if not all present, to think through diaspora mission and the issue of immigration. All in all, we should remember that migration is to be viewed as an opening for the evangelistic dimension of mission. As missionaries to the UK, and across Europe, our allegiance ought to be first to God, and then be Christ-like by showing love to the people we have been called to minister and serve. That to some extent may require us to enter the host culture with a humble posture and a willingness to learn first, before we engage in matters of discipleship.

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A Brief History of Deeper Life Bible Church

 

Deeper Life Bible Church is one of the oldest and biggest Neo Pentecostal Churches (NPCs) in Africa. The founder of this church is William Folorunso Kumuyi, popularly known as W.F. Kumuyi. Pastor Kumuyi was brought up in a strict Anglican family but it was in the Apostolic Faith Church, a Pentecostal holiness church from North America at Ikenne, that he became born again in 1964. Pastor Kumuyi attended the famous Mayflower School at Ikenne for his secondary education and after completing his Higher School Certificate he went to study mathematics at the University of Ibadan. He later graduated in 1967 with a first class honours in mathematics. While he was studying at the University of Ibadan he was involved with Ibadan Varsity Christian Union (IVCU) and he also continued to attend the Apostolic Faith Church.

After graduation Pastor Kumuyi went back to teach at Mayflower School. It was while he was teaching at Mayflower that he became involved with the work of Scripture Union (SU). In 1971 he did a post-graduate diploma course in Education at the University of Lagos. In 1972 he was employed as a Lecturer at the same University and he retired in 1983 in order to serve as a full-time pastor. It was while he was a Lecturer at the College of Education, University of Lagos that he started a Bible study group for students and non-students in 1973.[i] As a result of Pastor Kumuyi’s exposition and interpretation of Scriptures more students began to attend and Pastor Kumuyi was also invited on numerous occasions to speak at seminars, conferences and other Christian gatherings.

In 1975, the Bible study group had its first retreat at Akoka, Lagos State, which later became a major landmark in the history of Deeper Life Bible Church. The same year the name Deeper Christian Life Ministry was adopted by the group. In 1976 Deeper Life had an Easter retreat which attracted around 2,500 people. In 1977 Pastor Kumuyi left the Apostolic Faith Church due to doctrinal differences.[ii]

Through Pastor Kumuyi’s publications and retreats the message of holiness and sanctification was spread all over Nigeria. This holiness code has become a defining feature for Deeper Life Christians in Africa and abroad. In 1983 Deeper Life experienced a dramatic growth through House Fellowships known as ‘home caring fellowships’, and by February of the same year 15,000 house fellowships were established all over the country.[iii] This became a concept that other NPCs started to use. In the early 1990s Deeper Life had more than 5,000 branch churches in Nigeria and many more branches all over Africa. The headquarters of the church at Gbagada attracts around 150,000 attendants during its five Sunday services. Deeper Life Bible Church started in Britain in 1985 through the pioneering work of Pre Ovia. The church now has about 65 church plants in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The church also have been planted in Bulgaria, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand.

The UK church recently purchased a former cinema building in St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction in London. The multi-purpose building has been fully refurbished into a modern auditorium with the capacity to seat 2,500 people.

 


[i] Musa A.B. Gaiya, The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria, a paper presented at a seminar of the Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen, 2002, p. 12.

[ii] Alan Isaacson, Deeper Life: The Extraordinary Growth of Deeper Life Bible Church, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1990, p.125.

[iii] Ojo, op cit., p. 168.

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Review of Roots and Wings: Equipping and Empowering Young Diaspora Africans for Life and Mission By Rev Israel Olofinjana

Roots and Wings is a new book written by one of my friends and colleague, Dr Harvey Kwiyani. The book explores issues related to how to effectively engage in discipleship and mission second generation African migrants. These are children born in Britain of African parents.  As a pastor of a Black Multicultural Church (BMC) in London with half of the congregation being second generation Africans, this book excites me and is of paramount interest to me.  As an African Theologian researching in the areas of Diaspora Missiology, I am aware that essays, journal articles and book chapters have been written on the subject. An example of the latter is Caleb Nyanni’s chapter contribution in African Voices: Towards African British Theologies (2017). His contribution, based on his ongoing PhD research, investigated the pneumatology of second generation Africans within the Church of Pentecost. I am equally aware of a current doctoral student exploring the use of the Bible among second generation Caribbean Christians within one of the Caribbean Pentecostal churches. But no one has yet published a monograph on the subject in Britain, therefore the efforts of Dr Kwiyani is to be commended for pioneering such a work.

The central question the book wrestles with is, how can we best equip and disciple younger generation of Africans for mission in Britain? In tackling this question are the issues of identity which second generation Africans or others struggle with. Are they Africans or British? Can they be both at the same time? These are questions to do with hybridity and liminality. But the book goes further than just a sociological exercise on the hybrid nature of second generation as it proposes insightful and pragmatic approach in how we can effectively disciple and empower younger Africans to engage in God’s mission. In effect, the book is missiological, addressing the mission implication of younger Africans’ involvement in mission in Britain. The book sees reaching second generation Africans not only as a form of intergenerational ministry, but also a cross-cultural matter as it is possible for a father and daughter living in the same house to live by different cultural worldviews. In essence, the first generation must cross the frontiers as missionaries do when they travel to a different culture if they want their children to follow their faith.

The book, using the Hebrew saying of giving two gifts to children in roots and wings, explores how important it is for younger Africans born in diaspora to have a sense of belonging and identity, that is roots, but at the same time not be trapped by their parents’ cultural background so that they can grow wings to explore something foreign to their parent’s culture. The author argues that when roots and wings are not balanced, we have scenarios of younger Africans being global citizens at the expense and sacrifice of their Africaness. The other scenario is of course when African parents do not want their children to explore anything that is alien to their own cultural background and worldview. This, in the process entraps younger Africans and the result usually backfires so that they reject their parent’s faith and culture. The author went on to argue convincingly that the future of Christianity in the British Isles   is at stake if we fail to disciple second generation Africans. One can understand this assertion, because if the current growth of Christianity in the UK, with London as a leading example, is among Black Majority Churches, it simply means the future legacy of these churches is conditioned on how that faith is passed on to the next generation.

All the chapters in this book are excellent, but one that I find very helpful and know will be of use to youth pastors, leaders and church leaders in general is chapter six. The chapter addresses how we can build second generation friendly churches so that younger Africans and others feel a sense of belonging. One of the suggestions in this chapter was for African pastors and churches to ensure that the church is thinking intergenerational in its approach and outlook. This means the church cannot be run to cater just for the needs of the first generation, it has to rethink and give room to second generation Africans to operate in the church so that they feel a sense of ownership and belonging. This is not a question of how do we keep our young people in the church so that they do not run off to another church. It is rather a question of how can we empower and support our younger people in their faith and ministries?

Part of engaging younger Africans will mean African pastors and churches understanding the digital native culture, that is, how young people live and inhabit the digital space. This will mean African pastors interested in using technology not just to promote their self-help books and conferences, but understand how to habit it comfortably so that they can engage younger people. Younger generation appears to use the digital world for sharing life together and doing discipleship. This is different from wanting to use the tools of technology to promote sales of books or conferences. This means for African pastors to engage second generation Africans they have to themselves become natives of the digital world. This however is not a substitute for face to face fellowship which younger Africans must be encouraged to be part of.

One critique I will like to offer is that while the author mentions that the Caribbean churches somehow failed to pass on the faith to their second generation and that African churches must learn from this. I would have like to see a whole chapter possibly devoted to this looking at what led to the failures and what African churches can learn from those failures. Such a chapter can even compare through analysis and data collection African churches and Caribbean churches. Perhaps this is for further research and reflection.

In concluding, a succinct point that the author makes is that if African churches can seek to understand their children who are British perhaps this can in turn help them to understand the wider British public and their mission in Britain.

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Black Theology at the Royal Wedding!

Conversations are still ongoing about the preaching of Bishop Michael Curry at the Royal Wedding on Saturday. These conversations and debates cover the length of the message, the awkwardness of the message, the reactions of attendees to the message and the Blackness of the message! Normally at Royal weddings the Bride’s dress among other things always appears to be the topic of public conversation, but not this time as Bishop Curry’s message appears to be competing with Meghan’s simple yet stylish, elegant dress. So what is all the fuss about?

Firstly is the fact that white British people are not used to an African-American style of preaching with emotions involved, gestures and pacing.  A second point is that people somehow were expecting a five minute sermon ( although we have not been informed by the planners and organisers that this was supposed to be the case). Lastly and most importantly are the content of the message which I think made people uncomfortable. Here was a descendant of slaves speaking passionately about love in the symbol of fire among descendants of slave owners, using illustrations from slave narratives. Here is a very powerful and punchy articulation of Black Theology in exemplifying God’s love through redemptive history. But in addition, I also think Bishop Curry used the slave narrative possibly as a reminder of some of the racial injustices that black people still face today. He also quoted the Civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King, on several occasions, again possibly as a reminder that we commemorate his 50 years since he was murdered for the cause of racial justice. These are pointers to stir people’s conscience.

Bishop Curry’s message will be analysed for years to come by theologians, Bible scholars, social commentators, media, journalists, political editors and many more because it was historical, biblical, relevant, unique and bold. It is also a message relevant for the Church at a time when some aspect of the Church think we need to move away from sermons to conversations. Bishop Curry’s message reminds us the power of preaching and how inspiring and creative it can be if in the hands of the right vessel who is willing to be led by God’s Spirit to proclaim the Gospel and confront power with an uncomfortable truth.

I celebrate this message and how it has brought public debates and conversations about God and racial justice. This message comes on the back of the Windrush scandal and the youth violence plaguing the capital and other parts of the UK. All of these events cause me to reflect that God is bringing into the public consciousness issues that have been swept under the carpet. Now they have the public’s attention and can no longer be ignored.

 

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New mobile app launched brings thousands of new resources to African congregations (Press Release!)

 

Agencies including Tearfund, Christian Aid, CPAS, Westminster Theology Centre, Lausanne Movement, A Rocha, Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World and many others are supporting a new mobile phone app that has been developed and launched by African Pastors Fellowship (APF) – putting a mobile library of theological resources into the hands of rural pastors across East Africa for the first time.  The ‘eVitabu’ app, which is installed on solar-powered Android devices will help support pastors’ ministries with large church networks across East Africa, potentially impacting the Christian journey of over half a million people.

 

The eVitabu app includes content provided by APF’s partner agencies, giving pastors access to studies on personal, spiritual and pastoral growth; audio Bibles in local languages; theology courses from internationally renowned centres; video lectures by top Christian leaders; community development toolkits; and guides on family healthcare, leadership, advocacy, peace-building, and sustainable agriculture. It also enables African pastors to upload and share their own theological insights with their peers.

 

It is estimated that over 3 million churches in the developing world are led by people with little or no qualifications for that responsibility. In Africa, it is estimated that as many as 90% of pastors have never received even a single day’s training. eVitabu, which means books in Swahili, is a pioneering tool designed specifically to support the African church.

 

Dave Stedman, CEO of APF commented: “eVitabu has the potential to enable thousands of rural church leaders to access great quality training material possibly for the very first time. We are grateful to our partners for their support in launching this initiative and helping us to provide quality content. Excitingly the app also provides a unique platform for the voice of the Africa church. African leaders can use eVitabu to upload and share their own material with other church leaders, so everyone benefits.”

 

APF launched the eVitabu app at a three-day training conference in Uganda where the durable Android Tablets were given to 57 pastors from eight East African countries including Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, South Sudan and DRC. These pastors can now browse and download the searchable library of content before going into remote parts of the continent to teach and support other pastors and congregations. New content can be accessed and downloaded almost anywhere using a mobile phone as a wifi hotspot.

 

One of the pastors who was provided with an eVitabu tablet is Heavenlight Luoga who oversees a network of 60 rural churches in North West Tanzania. Heavenlight explains how it will support his ministry: “I have found many good materials on eVitabu from different contributors. I have mobilised a core team of five teachers and we will meet each month to study together. My wife, Kesia, will also use eVitabu resources when training pastors’ wives in Burundi. eVitabu will improve our teaching and help us address issues in the church and community such as theological error, farming and entrepreneurship.”

 

The eVitabu app was developed by a small group of APF volunteers who donated hundreds of man-hours to deliver this resource to impact the African church.

Partners supporting the eVitabu project by providing content include: Andrew Kane Partnership Trust, Biblical Frameworks, BUILD Partners, Christian Aid, CPAS,

Eagles Wings Ministries, Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World, Next Leadership,

Paula Gooder, Reconxile, Renew Outreach, Regnum Books, Foundations for Farming, Lausanne Movement, Tearfund, Tierra Neuva, Westminster Theology Centre, A Rocha, and Climate Stewards.

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For more information, or photographs of eVitabu please contact: Rachel Heald, PR consultant, 07985 424 084 / rheald@weareyeomans.co.uk

 

About African Pastors Fellowship

The vision of African Pastors Fellowship (APF) is to enable African Christian leaders, of all denominations, to minister effectively in thriving local churches that serve flourishing communities. APF works with church partners from across Eastern, Central and Southern Regions of Africa.

APF does this by coming alongside influential leaders to help them fulfil their visions for leadership development and pastoral formation. There are three strands to APF’s work:

  • Pastoring of Pastors – building long-term partnerships with African church networks to help them reach their own leadership development objectives, supporting training workshops for rural pastors, helping church leaders access essential tools such as Bibles in local languages, bicycles and solar panels.
  • Flourishing Communities – equipping African church leaders to serve their communities and tackle poverty, inequality and environmental challenges e.g. promoting sustainable development by addressing food insecurity and climate change impacts so that the whole community benefits.
  • Hearing African Voices – everyone needs an opportunity for their voice to be heard. By listening to African friends sharing news of what God is doing in their churches and communities, we can all understand more and be encouraged. In an increasingly interconnected world, it is vitally important to know how the choices we make every day affect those living in other parts of the world.

 

For more information visit www.africanpastors.org/   Twitter: @AfricanPF
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UK Orthodox and Pentecostal leaders in solidarity with The Persecuted Church (Press Statement 30 November 2017 For Immediate Release)

 

 

Leaders of Britain’s Eastern and Oriental Orthodox and Pentecostal churches meeting at The Raynors, Harrow, Middlesex on Monday 27 November 2017 reaffirmed their commitment to stand in solidarity with Christians suffering persecution, including martyrdom, in our world.

 

Stories of atrocities and suffering met by love and non-retaliation, of tragedies met by deep spiritual resolve were shared concerning the Middle East, Asia, Africa and elsewhere. In response the leaders encouraged Christians everywhere to:

 

Prayer

Generosity

Advocacy

Keeping the matter of The Persecuted Church alive

Speaking after the meeting the three conveyors, Bishop Angaelos, Pastor Agu Iruwku and The Rt Revd Maxim Nikolsky responded:

 

‘The second meeting of our Orthodox-Pentecostal Forum was a good opportunity to discuss our relationships here in Britain and how they can impact our surrounding communities. It was also a time to share news and experiences of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world and see how we can best collaborate to support them’ (Bishop Angaelos, CTE President for Orthodox churches)

 

Pastor Agu Irukwu, CTE President for Pentecostal churches said, ‘This was certainly a historic meeting as representatives of the leaders of the Orthodox and Pentecostal churches in the UK came together. Amongst other things, we deliberated on The Persecuted Church and the role we should play in praying and speaking up for them. We also discussed ways of supporting churches and organisations that are actively working with our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for their faith around the world. We committed to ensuring that this message of solidarity is communicated throughout the churches that we represent and that we can all work together to be there for our brothers and sisters who are suffering simply for loving the Jesus we love’

 

The Rt Revd Nikolski said, ‘The second meeting of its kind today between Orthodox and Pentecostal churches in which we shared common concern and pain regarding the oppression and persecution of Christians throughout the world. The killing, torture and exile of thousands of believers in Our Lord Jesus Christ stirred the meeting to consider what action, as well as prayer, the we should take. We all must take on the responsibility of helping victims of this tragedy and do all we can to prevent further persecution.’

 

Orthodox and Pentecostals will continue to raise awareness and encourage action throughout the churches and beyond, and to continue to meet jointly in the years to come.

 

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Notes:

 

 

 

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Pastor Agu Irukwu becomes new Churches Together in England Pentecostal President(Press Statement 30 October 2017 For Immediate Release)

Pentecostal members of Churches Together in England have elected Pastor Agu Irukwu as the next Pentecostal President.  A law graduate of the University of Warwick, a barrister and former investment banker, Pastor Agu is national leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in the UK, and Senior Pastor of Jesus House, London. Pastor Agu becomes only the second person to serve in this position following Bishop Eric Brown who was first elected Pentecostal President in 2013.

CTE Presidents provide spiritual leadership to the national ecumenical movement that facilitates closer working together by the churches in England.  The Pentecostal President is part of a six-member presidium representing the breadth of English Christianity, these are: Bishop Angaelos, the Revd Canon Billy Kennedy, the Revd Dr Hugh Osgood, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Justin Welby.

In welcoming the new President, the Revd Dr David Cornick, General Secretary of CTE said, ‘We are delighted to welcome Pastor Agu as our Pentecostal President and look forward to working with him to build on the foundations so ably laid by our first Pentecostal President, Bishop Eric Brown. ‘

The new Pentecostal President signed a joint covenant at a meeting of CTE presidents and national church leaders on 24 October 2017 at Lambeth Palace.  The covenant commits the presidents to ‘pray to God to lead us, with all our sisters and brothers in Christ, towards communion in faith, life and witness; so that, united in one body by the one Spirit, we may together witness to the perfect unity of his love’.

Commenting on his appointment Pastor Agu said, ‘I consider it an honour and a privilege to serve as one of the six presidents of Churches Together in England.  As the Pentecostal President, I have tremendous regard for the five other presidents most of them I know personally and are people whose ministries and lives I have admired. I am hoping that I can bring whatever graces God has given to me to bear as we serve the church in what I consider exciting times. Exciting because in spite of negative news that all abounds, I see tremendous opportunity for the church. I am believing that as we serve we will play our part in bringing to pass the revival that we so earnestly desire for this nation’.

The Pentecostal President’s term will run from October 2017 to September 2021.

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Notes:

 

  1. Press enquiries: Dr Joe Aldred 07775 632288 or joe.aldred@cte.org.uk
  2. Churches Together in England is established by the 45 national member churches to facilitate and encourage collaboration in mission and unity.
  3. The Presidents of Churches Together in England provide spiritual leadership for the churches together movement in England
  4. For further information about Pastor Agu Irukwu: click here
  5. For further information about CTE: click here

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