Church Unity: What happened after ACEA?

Since around the 1970s till the present, there have been various organisations or agencies working towards partnership between black and white Churches. The first of such was the founding of the Zebra Project in 1975 by Paul Charman, a Methodist minister. This project functioned till around the 1990s when it was disbanded. The brilliance of the Zebra Project before its demise was the fact that it created platforms through meetings and conferences for black and white Church leaders to meet. Working in connection with the Zebra Project and also with the British Council of Churches (now Churches Together in Britain and Ireland) was the Conference for Christian Partnership (CCP) which was established in the 1980s. CCP’s work created a meeting place for black and white Christian leaders as well as encouraging the sharing of buildings between black and white Churches. The 1980s also witnessed the formation of Centre for black and white Christian partnership in Birmingham (now part of Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education). The first director was the late Bishop Patrick Kalilombe — a Roman Catholic from Malawi.

Perhaps one of the most significant developments in the 1980s relating to the working together of black and white Churches was the formation of the West Indian Evangelical Alliance (WIEA) in 1984. Through the visionary instrument of the late Guyanese missionary to Britain, Philip Mohabir and others such as Clive Calver, the then general director of the Evangelical Alliance and Dave Tomlinson, one of the key House Church leaders in the 1980s, WIEA was initiated to establish links between black and white Churches. One of the visions that led to the establishment of WIEA was the recognition that British Evangelicalism through the House Churches was growing at a time when the Black Majority Churches were also experiencing growth, but they were not aware of each other or working together therefore WIEA was established to seek to bridge the gap. WIEA worked with the Evangelical Alliance in doing this and to a certain extent there were partnerships that began to emerge between black and white church leaders. WIEA changed its name in 1989 to Afro-Caribbean Evangelical Alliance and finally in 1991 it changed its name to the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance (ACEA) to recognise the growing African Churches. ACEA was not only significant in building bridges  between black and white Churches working together, but was also important in  fostering relationships between the Caribbean and African Churches.

It was a shame that after about 28 years due to lack of finances and other factors, ACEA disbanded. For many practitioners and commentators, the question has always been what comes next after ACEA? Part of this question has also been what organisation or agency will continue the work of unity among black and white Churches? Obviously there is the work of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) but some evangelical Churches are not comfortable with some of the Church membership of CTBI therefore they might not sign up to be a part of it. Two organisations seems to have filled the gap for some of these evangelical Churches and these are, the Street Pastors initiative and Global Day of Prayer Movement. Both started in the year 2000s and have managed to attract black and white Churches working together. The reason for their success in achieving this unity in my opinion has been twofold, firstly, the cross-cultural skills of  the people that lead this initiatives. Both Rev Les Isaac and Dr Jonathan Oloyede are excellent leaders who are well equipped in bringing people of diverse cultures together. Secondly, is the fact that these initiatives are not operating as institutional ecumenism but are rather achieiving ecumenism through mission. This makes them very appealing to any Christian who wants to get involved in God’s mission.

It seems to me that this sort of missional ecumenism is the way forward for black and white Church partnership and this is increasing growing at grass root level through other mission initiatives such as foodbanks, school pastors and so on.  While missional ecumenism is definitely important, I think there is still the need for ongoing conversations between different denominations or in this case black and white Church leaders. One body that seems to be achieving the latter point and that have continued from where ACEA left off is the One People Commission of the Evangelical Alliance. The ecumenical credentials of its director, Rev Yemi Adedeji is that he is an ordained Anglican minister as well as an ordained African Pentecostal pastor (working within the Redeemed Christian Church of God). The vision of the One People Commission is to see the UK Church in all its vibrant ethnic diversity united as one and this is reflected in the Church leaders involved:

  • Rev Kingsley Appaigyei, senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church
  • Bishop Eric Brown, administrative Bishop of the New Testament Church of God
  • Bishop John Francis, founder and senior pastor of Ruach ministries
  • Rev John Glass, general superintendent of Elim Pentecostal Church
  • Pastor Argu Irukwe, Chairman of the RCCG UK and senior pastor of Jesus House
  • Dr Tani Omideyi, senior minister of Love and Joy ministries in Liverpool
  • Rev Siew Huat Ong, senior pastor of the Chinese Church in London
  • Manoj Raithatha, national co-ordinator of South Asian Forum
  • Rev Mike Talbot, vicar of Emmanuel Church Northwood

Other Church leaders who have been part of this journey includes Dr Tayo Adeyemi, senior pastor of New Wine Church in Woolwich, Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB), Rev Dr Paul Jinadu, General Overseer of New Covenant Church, Rev Dr Hugh Osgood, senior pastor of Corner Stone Christian Centre, Roger Forster, founder of Icthus Christian Fellowship, Bishop Wayne Malcolm, senior pastor Christian Life City, David Shosanya, regional minister of London Baptist Association (LBA), Rev John Partinghton, national leader Assemblies of God Britain and a host others. The work of One People Commission is a welcome idea and one hopes that it will be used to diversify the structures and governance of the Evangelical Alliance.

About israelolofinjana

Rev Israel Oluwole Olofinjana is an ordained and accredited Baptist minister and has pastored Crofton Park Baptist Church (2007-2011) and Catford Community Church (2011-2013). He is currently the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a multicultural church in south east London. He is Nigerian coming from a Pentecostal background. He holds a BA (Hons) in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and MTh from Carolina University of Theology (CUT). Israel is the editor of “Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK” and author of “Reverse in Ministry and Missions: Africans in the Dark Continent of Europe” and “20 Pentecostal Pioneers in Nigeria” He has spoken in a number of conferences regarding reverse mission and Black Majority Churches (BMCs) and has also contributed to academic journals and Christian magazines on the subject of Black Majority Churches (BMC) in Britain. He is an Honorary Research Fellow at Queens Foundation, Birmingham and a trustee and visiting lecturer at Redcliffe College. Israel is also one of the Directors of Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World an initiative design to train and equip pastors and missionaries from the South. He is a member of the Global Connections council. When he is not preaching or writing he is playing with Lego! He is happily married to Lucy who works as the Media and Communications Officer with Churches Together in England. She is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), earning a BA in Social Anthropology and International Development. Lucy loves baking and watching movies! They are blessed with one son, Iyanuoluwa (God's miracle)
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