Multi-ethnic Churches: A Gospel Imperative in a Post Brexit World

In the light of the EU Referendum vote that led UK citizens deciding to pull out of the European Union, there have been lots of conversations about Brexit and its implications for economics, commerce, trade and society in general. But what implications will Brexit have on the church in the UK, or to rephrase the question, how shall we do church in a post-Brexit world?

If Brexit is dividing people into us and them, migrants and British citizens, elite and uneducated, racist and accepting of others, how should the church respond and handle these differences?

In order to respond we have to comprehend God’s vision of Every Tribe, Nation and Language as articulated in Scriptures. This is why our Centre, Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World, in partnership with other churches and agencies in Bristol is putting together a conference with the theme of Every Tribe, Nation and Language: Growing Multi-ethnic Churches in Britain on Saturday 10th of June 10am-4pm.

The vision of a multicultural, multi-ethnic church is very essential to the Gospel; in essence it is a Gospel imperative that started with Creation itself and runs through the biblical narratives. The creation story is a witness to the fact that God loves and intentionally created diversity in all its beauty. The promise to Abraham that all nations will be blessed through him reveals that God’s plan in salvation history was to draw to himself people from every nation (Genesis 12: 1-3).

Paul in the New Testament expounded on this theme both in the letter to the Galatians and Ephesians. In Galatians he confirmed the acceptance of Gentiles (non-Jews) into God’s family by affirming that God’s promise to Abraham was not only meant for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.

One implication is that we are all one in Christ whether we are Jews or Greeks, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). Paul seemed to be saying that in Christ, culture, class and gender should not divide us. He pressed this message home in Ephesians 2:11-22, when he talked about how Christ’s work on the cross reconciled us back to God (vertical relationship with God), but that in addition, he pulled down the wall that divide sus as humans (horizontal relationships with our neighbours).

In the time of Paul and the other Apostles, this wall would have been the various separations that happened in Herod’s temple. There was the Holy place only for the High Priest, the court of the priest for the other priests, the court of Israel only for the Israelite men, the court of women for Israelite women and the court of the Gentiles for everyone who is not a Jew. These various separations were taken seriously, so that if a Gentile dared entered the court of Israel, it would have been at the loss of his or her life. To illustrate this, when Paul was arrested, one of the accusations against him was that he brought Greeks into the temple area (see Acts 21:27-29).

Paul’s theology of unity in diversity saw Christ’s death on the cross as putting an end to these artificial segregations, therefore uniting us together in Himself. Paul went further to say that this is why he, Paul, has been chosen by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1-7).

God demonstrated time and time again that His Gospel brings an end to whatever divides us. In Acts of the Apostles this was done through the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost, which brought Jews in Palestine as well as Jews in diaspora together.

It was the cultural diversity of the church in Jerusalem that led to one of the earliest tensions in the church, which emerged in Acts 6:1-7. The Holy Spirit also caused the disciples to scatter into Judea and Samaria, therefore bringing the Gospel to the Samaritans whom Jews would not accept as equals (Acts 8). As if that was not enough, God had to convict Peter first through a vision in order for him to accept and relate with Cornelius (a Gentile) and his household in Acts 10.

All of these Scriptures demonstrate that God, the creator of diversity, embraces cultural diversity in a way that it should bring us together rather than separate us. The implication is that whatever divides us today, such as race, culture, ethnicity, class, gender, and age, we should form one new body when we are in Christ, because it is in Christ that our identity is fully complete.

A multicultural, multi-ethnic church is one of the spaces where this diversity can be lived out in togetherness. Multicultural, multi-ethnic churches are signs of God’s kingdom on earth! How can we develop multi-ethnic churches and what are the challenges faced in these churches? These questions and more will be discussed at the conference on 10th of June. Below is the link to register for the conference:

Every Tribe, Nation and Language

 

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The New Black Consciousness

As the Western world continues to grapple with the issues and consequences  of both Brexit and Trump, there appears to be a sea of TV programmes on Black identity. Below are examples of these programmes

Blackish (E4): Blackish is an American sitcom following the lives of a middle class African American family. It is witty, clever , educational and entertaining. It shows you the various nuances of how an average middle class African American family tries to define or see their blackness

In the Shadow of Mary Seacole (ITV): This is a one off documentary on the life and signicance of Mary Seacole (1805-1881) a Jamaican born woman who funded herself to bring Western and traditional medical relief help to the wounded soldiers during the Crimean War (1853-1856). The documentary ended with a sculpture of her being erected in front of St Thomas Hospital in London

Black is the New Black (BBC): This is a series profiling various Black personalities in different professions and works of life in Britain. They all spoke about how their identity has been interogated and continues to be in their various professions

Will Britain ever have a Black Prime Minister? (BBC). This was a one off docmentary presented by actor and presenter David Harewood. He looked at how odds are stacked against Britain  having a Black Prime Minister. These odds starts from birth to University education

Black and British: A Forgotten History (A four part Documentary Series) (BBC). This documentary explores Black British History tracing the history of Africans in Britain back to the 3rd century AD with African Roman soldiers resident near Hadrian Walls in Cumbria. It also looked at how one of King Henry VIII trumpeters was a  moor from North Africa in the person of John Blanke. A plaque commemorating John Blanke was unveiled at Greenwich University in London.

One thing all these programmes have in common is Black identity. Could it be that the political and public discourses emerging with the new politics on both side of the Atlantic is causing migrants to visit their roots in order to affirm who they are? Perhaps a more pertinent question is as conversations continue on the implications of Brexit that African and Caribbean in Britain are asserting their dual identity as Black and British? If current rhetoric is almost saying that to be American is white or Britishness equal whiteness then it becomes very powerful for people to be reminded how far back black people have been around these shores and how much they feel part of their identity is rooted in these geo-political construct called America and Britain.

I think these various programmes on the TV and other media platforms are very good for the children and youth of African and Caribbean parentage in understanding who they are and that they belong, and have been part of British history for centuries. I can only hope that these will be translated into our education system at all levels so that Black British History is not confined to the margins but that it becomes mainstream.

 

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Re-interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount by Lucy Olofinjana

Having all our prayers answered.

Being healthy, happy and comfortable.

Seeing breakthrough and victory in all areas of our lives.

Seeing our struggles overcome and all our needs met.

Having what we need provided, without having to wait too long either.

That’s what it means to be blessed by God, doesn’t it?

But someone pretty important had a different idea about blessings.

Because this isn’t how it goes…

“Blessed are those who know they’ve got all they need and are quite-alright-and-not-in-need-of-any-help-from-God-or-man-thank-you-very-much…

Blessed are those who never suffer loss or tragedy or betrayal…

Blessed are those who never doubt themselves…

Blessed are those who know they’ve got it all sorted and have no more issues to deal with…

Blessed are the stingy and self-sufficient…

Blessed are those who cut a few corners because no one’s really looking anyway – and it doesn’t really hurt anyone, does it…

Blessed are those who get their point across no matter who gets in the way, because they really know best after all…

Blessed are those who never get teased or pointed out for their wacky ‘God-stuff’, or for going on about that Jesus guy again…

Blessed are you when people cheer you on, recognise you, praise you and say all manner of wonderful things about you, because after all you’re God’s blessed and highly favoured one…”

When we take Jesus’ famous teachings at the start of the beatitudes – the beautiful attitudes – of Matthew 5, and flip them on their head like this, I believe it challenges us to the core of what we mean when we consider ourselves ‘Blessed’.

When Jesus says ‘Blessed are…’ he’s talking about being in a state of true happiness and joy. But we don’t really associate true happiness with suffering and going without and experiencing tragic loss, do we.

Especially in our western culture, where the continual ‘pursuit of happiness’ seems to be something we’ve subconsciously allowed to creep in, and assume we are entitled to all of the time.

Because when we get real, it’s not just ‘those prosperity gospel churches over there which we all look down on’ who are founded on a belief that following God means only good, nice, lovely things will happen to us.

Even in the process of writing this, I’m challenged by what we really mean when we say statements like “God only wants good things for his children”, and “God blesses his children”. I believe they are true, but what are ‘good things’ and what are ‘blessings’?

Does it mean getting our way all of the time, and only having nice things happen to us?

I firmly believe that God is a good God, and a wonderful father. As Jesus himself teaches later in this same sermon on the mount:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

But the reality is we live in a fallen world, and being a follower of Jesus doesn’t exclude us from the consequences of sin and death.

We will experience pain and loss and insults and heartbreak.

But Jesus is saying, as Christians, we are blessed in these circumstances.

It seems Jesus is telling us – through his radical teachings – that he wants to bless us and show us something of his ability to give true, deep, inner joy, especially in those hard situations.

We may have been taught that our joy shouldn’t be dependent on our external circumstances – on everything going right all the time – but are we ever taught that it is actually through the really tough, awful, excruciating times, during loss, betrayal, hurt and confusion, that we are truly blessed by God?

And maybe true happiness and joy comes from not getting everything our own way all the time, but from learning more about who God is – how dependable, rock-solid, faithful and compassionate a father he is. And how he truly understands and walks with us, having been betrayed himself by one of his closest friends, and denied by another.

Maybe it all comes back to dependence, to realising that without being connected to the vine – to God, the source of life – we are nothing, and cannot have true happiness or that elusive peace we so often seek after.

This weekend the lightbulb in our toilet stopped working. So between us (and this is definitely the extent to which our DIY skills stretch), my husband and I managed to unscrew the exhausted bulb, only to have a small shower of debris fall on our heads. It looked as if a large part of the internal fitting had disintegrated, so while we weren’t convinced it would work, we got a brand new shiny bulb out from the cupboard under the stairs, and proceeded to try to screw it in and switch it on.

But that new, shiny bulb, full of all that potential to shine light and illuminate the darkness, wouldn’t even hold in place, because – as we’d suspected – the place to connect it into was no longer there.

And that got me thinking.

How can we expect to be shining in the darkness, to be used to our full potential, to be happy and fulfilled in life, if we’re not even connected to the source, to the one who supplies the power, to the one who created us in the first place?

And how often do we choose – very intentionally, or perhaps more subtly – to remove ourselves from connection and relationship with God when things just aren’t going the way we planned?

I don’t know about you, but in my school they encourage us to write a ‘five year plan’. But the reality of life is we don’t know what is around the corner, and none of us would include on our five year plan ‘this relationship is going to break up’, ‘I’m going to unintentionally hurt this friend, and the hurt and fallout will be huge for both of us’, I’m going to lose one of the closest people in my life to cancer’. It just isn’t in the plan.

But maybe Jesus is reminding us, in the greatest sermon of all time, that although we won’t plan it or want it, tough stuff will come our way.

But, in the midst of the struggles and questions and anguish and pain, will we choose to stay connected to the source of the blessings, to the one who alone can provide that deep, inner peace?

This article first appeared on the 22nd September on the Evangelical Alliance Threads. To view the article follow this link Threads

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Are we really Post-Racial in the West?

A question that seems to have been asked at least since Barack Obama became the president of United States in 2009 and one that in Britain we have been asking for a while is are we post-racial? Those who think we are post-racial considers certain events in our modern/post-modern world such as Mandela becoming the president of South Africa in 1994 and how politically blacks in South Africa were liberated (still not liberated -social-economically!). In Britain, John Sentamu became the Archbishop of York in 2005 making him, the second highest authority within the Anglican worldwide Communion. And of course the crowning acheivement Barack Obama becoming the 44th president and the first African American to hold that post was quite significant. These key markers in our shared history gives the impression that when it comes to race and racism we are making progress therefore the notion of a post-racial society.

However, recent events on both side of the Atlantic have raised tensions already discernible in our society. Lets start with Britain as that is my context. The Brexit campaigners used a very dangerous rhetoric bordering on stigmatising and demonising immigrants but of course when people are pushed on this point they always say they are refering to EU immigrants and not people from the Commonwealth. In essence, they are supposedly tackling white eastern European migration and not coloured migration such as from Africa or Asia. But now with all the racism  we are seeing on our streets and public transport, it is clear that that sort of separation of migrants along geopraphy and colour has not really work out as it has been people of colour that appears to have been suffering racial abuse. I am not saying that EU migrants have not suffered abuses as well, I am however commenting on the fact that the argument about people from the Commonwealth are more than welcome is not justified in the light of recent racial and xenophobic attacks we are seeing.

The notion of being post-racial is defeated when we see far right political rhetoric stigmatising migrants. It is also defeated when people act out their own personal prejudice which was already there may I say on public transport and in our streets. Britain is not post-racial and it has never been post-racial. This is a sad and uncomfortable truth we need to face if we are to deal with these issues in the near future.

In the context of America, the recent murder of black lives in the hands of white police officers whose  actions reminds us of that of  KKK has raised the debate. This type of killings is not new, America only seems to have moved from previously lynching black bodies to now somehow trying to justify it through police brutality. While police murdering black people in public is not a new thing as there were more than 100 of this cases last year alone, what makes the current one caught the public’s attention is the power of social media. That it was recorded and made public for all to see means that there is irrefutable evidence that racism is real and therefore we are not post-racial.

It is crucial to acknowledge on both side of the Atlantic that we have not moved on from racism. To do otherwise is to live in a virtual world that appears so real only because we are either protected or not affected by the events of the existential realities of  migrants, Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME), African American, Eastern Europeans, African Caribbean, Africans, Latin Americans, Asians and the list goes on…………………………………

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After Leave vote the Evangelical Alliance calls for unity and reconciliation (Press Release 24th June)

In the wake of the UK voting to leave the European Union, Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, has commented:

“While the UK has voted to leave the EU, the vote has exposed deep disagreement across our nations, cities and regions. The UK is not united.

“We have entered a time of enormous uncertainty, not only as we renegotiate our relationship with our European neighbours, but also as the governing Conservative party begin the process of selecting our next prime minister.

“This has to be a time to pray.

“As we look to the future the priority must be building unity and modelling reconciliation. We have taken a significant decision and in the coming years many more will need to be taken.

“Although we have chosen to leave the EU we remain part of Europe and need to remember our responsibilities to support and care for our neighbours. In the months and years to come we have to model with generosity what a difference love and friendship can make.

“As Christians we follow the Prince of Peace, and we are called to be peacemakers. This has been a bruising campaign and now is the time to take our political passions and channel them to practical action.

“The vote was the demonstration of the political freedom we enjoy, but it also exposed the fragility of our democracy. We saw participation at levels not seen for decades, but we also saw cynicalcampaigning and honesty marginalised for political gain. Our energies must now be directed towards building bridges within and between communities across the UK.

“We follow a redeemer who reconciles, and we are called to the ongoing work of reconciliation. In our churches and in our neighbourhoods we live and work alongside some who will be celebrating and others who will be disappointed. Reconciliation requires honesty and hard work, it requires that we show respect and openness to those who we disagree with. We cannot ignore the differences  that this vote has exposed, but we cannot let the differences define us. Our hands of friendship must do the work that voting cannot.

“We have confidence in God who holds the nations in His hands, who is the creator of all things. We have confidence that though the pundits and pollsters may be flummoxed, God is not fazed.

“Today I am praying for the UK, I am praying for the European Union, and I am praying for Europe. I am also praying for David Cameron and his family and the Conservative party as it begins the process of selecting its next leader and the country’s prime minister. I’m praying for wisdom for our leaders as they navigate the uncertain waters that lie ahead. I am praying for comfort for those disappointed in the outcome, and I pray that we renew our commitment to work together for the good of all.”

Media enquiries:
Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing  Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared  mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to  Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, more than 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of i  individual members. And we’re not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global  network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org

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Every Tribe, Nation and Language: Growing Multi-ethnic Churches (Press Release)

A day conference for church leaders of all Christian traditions who are seeking to integrate people from different ethnic backgrounds into the life and mission of their church.

 

Key note speakers will offer British and African perspectives about the challenge of growing multi-ethnic churches in the context of contemporary British society. Steve Hollinghurst will explore the impact on Christian mission of secularism, individualism and consumerism. Harvey Kwiyani will share insights as an African missionary and theologian who has lived in the West for many years. There will be opportunity to reflect in groups on the questions they raise. We will ask whether ethnically diverse congregations are counter-cultural?

 

After lunch Tani Omideyi will share his experience of growing a multi-ethnic church in the Anfield area of Liverpool and Gale Richards will help us respond together in a conversation with key note speakers about questions raised during group discussion.

 

This unique collaboration between Birmingham Churches Together, Queens Foundation and the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World will attract delegates from across the Christian traditions of Pentecostal, Anglican, Free Church and Catholic Churches.

 

The Conference organisers are excited by the prospect of a diverse group of Christian leaders gathering from across the midlands (and beyond) to explore together the challenge of growing multi-ethnic fellowships and sharing the Christian Gospel across ethnic and cultural boundaries. They hope the day will bring about new relationships between churches as partners in God’s mission.

To register and book your place follow this link Queen’s Foundation

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Tani Omideyi becomes first ethnic minority chair of Alliance board (Press Release)

(First released by the Evangelical Alliance on 22nd of March)

Dr Tani Omideyi has become the first ethnic minority chair of the Evangelical Alliance board, succeeding Rev Mike Talbot.

Tani and his wife Modupe started a house group in Liverpool in 1980, having moved there from Nigeria the year before. The house group was the foundation on which they formed Love & Joy Ministries Association of Charities, which includes Temple of Praise congregations.

He is also a director of Together for the Harvest – an Evangelical Alliance local evangelical fellowship (LEF) made up of evangelical churches in the Merseyside region. Tani is also ecumenical canon at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

Tani has become more involved with the work of the Evangelical Alliance over the years, having been a member of the Council since 2008 and then joined the board in September 2014 and being part of the Alliance’s One People Commission – a body of key national church leaders from across ethnic minorities.

“There are so many things I love about the Alliance,” Tani said. “Its strong drive for unity among evangelicals and the extent of the Alliance’s advocacy work is impressive. It’s remarkable that the Alliance has been able to retain its relevance and value for 170 years.”

Tani will bring to the role more than 30 years of overseeing congregations that include Africans, Europeans and Asians not only in the UK, but in other nations.

“I see this very much as a God appointment. As the first non-white person to take on the role, there will be perspectives I hope to bring to carrying out this awesome task. I’m also looking forward to working more closely with general director Steve Clifford, for whom I have the greatest respect. His leadership of the Alliance has been inspirational and mould-breaking.”

Speaking about the OPC, Tani added: “It’s been my dream for many years to be part of a national Church that is not referenced by the skin colour of those that worship in it, but rather by their love for Jesus Christ, our saviour. Thanks to the Alliance, it is fast becoming a reality. In the OPC, you see just that. I see it as a vision of what churches all over the UK will look like in the next 10-20 years.”

Rev Mike Talbot ended his tenure as chair of the Alliance board this month after eight years in post. With almost 30 years of ministry experience, he was the vicar of Emmanuel Church in Northwood for 14 years until his recent appointment as God for All evangelism enabler for the Diocese of Carlisle.

Speaking about his time as the Alliance board chair, Mike said: “It has been a privilege to serve as chair of the Board over the last eight years, and to see how God has been using the Alliance to strengthen and encourage the witness and impact of the Church across our nations. As I step back, with deep gratitude to God and to the team at the Alliance for all they are doing, I am delighted to hand on the chair to Tani, who is a wise, godly, experienced church leader, and well-placed to ensure that the work continues to flourish even more fruitfully in the years that lie ahead.

Alliance general director Steve Clifford said: “Mike Talbot has been an amazing gift to the Evangelical Alliance: a strong and committed chair of board, as well as a personal friend and wise counsellor. After several years in the role, we will be sad to see him go, but we are convinced God has put Tani in position for such a time as this.

“The face of the UK Church is changing, as we become an increasingly multicultural society, and at the Alliance we are passionate about reflecting that diversity in all its vibrancy. As well as Tani bringing a different cultural perspective, he also brings with him 30 years of experience in church and charity leadership. He symbolises a commitment to unity for mission and a passion for seeing local areas flourish. He’s absolutely the right person for the job and I’m looking forward to working with him more closely.”

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

First released on the 22nd of March by the Evangelical Alliance website

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. Dr Tani Omideyi and Steve Clifford are available for interview.
  2. The Board is the group of trustees of the Evangelical Alliance and is made up of up to 25 members of the Council, appointed at the Annual General Meeting. The Board meets five times a year to discuss the vision and direction of the Alliance and ensure that the affairs of the Alliance are conducted properly.

Biography: Tani Omideyi

Tani was born in Lagos Nigeria, came to the UK in 1979 to study Chemical Engineering at Aston University in Birmingham and later obtained a doctorate at the University of Salford.  He and his wife Modupe started a house group in Liverpool in 1980, the foundation of what is now Love & Joy Ministries Association of Charities which includes Temple of Praise congregations, Liverpool Lighthouse Ltd, Harmonize Academy, an AP Free School and Bright Park, a 5-acre wooded land currently being redeveloped as a valuable community resource.   LJM’s work now extends to other UK cities, Uganda, Gambia, Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan and Myanmar where it supports churches and ministries.

As chair of Trustees and Senior Pastor for Temple of Praise congregations, he works closely with his wife Modupe who acts as Rector and CEO for the Association and Chair of Governors for the school.  The Association’s transformational work through Liverpool Lighthouse regularly engages with thousands of vulnerable people every year, providing housing, education, training and jobs and improving health, all these contributing to improving community cohesion, safety and wellbeing of communities.

Coming from a musical Christian family, Tani’s passion invariably includes music.  He has written or co-written over 150 worship and gospel songs, a number of which have been performed by his choir on BBC and other national radio and TV networks.  He is an adviser to GMIA (the Gospel Music Industry Alliance).

Tani is a director of Together for the Harvest, a local network of Evangelical churches in the Merseyside region, and represents the region on the national council of the Evangelical Alliance for England & Wales, currently serving on its ‘One People Commission’.  He was invited to join the EA board as a director in September 2014 and becomes the chair from March 2016.  He is currently an Ecumenical Canon of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts (RSA) in recognition of the community transformational work he has pioneered in Anfield, Liverpool.

Tani and Modupe have three beautiful daughters of their own, other children and a grandson.

The Evangelical Alliance

We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we’re not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.

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