History and Diversity of Black Majority Churches (BMCs) in London

The history of Black Majority Churches in London is very phenomenal because within a short period of 60 years they have grown from rejection to influence, that is, from Windrush to Jesus House! Their historical development is rich and diverse in nature, however the generic term; Black Majority Churches is problematic as it does not address the diversity that exists within these Churches.  Black Majority Churches are diverse in terms of ecclesiology, theology and missiology. Some of them are Churches while others are Para-Church organisations or agencies. Some of them are independent Pentecostal Churches while others are part of Historic Churches. Some are from Pentecostal, Holiness and Evangelical Tradition while others are Sabbatarians. Some of them are Unitarians while others are Trinitarians. Some of them have embraced Black Liberation Theology while others do preach Prosperity Gospel. Some of them have grown to become Church denominations while others are still independent Churches. Some are Church plants from their denominational Churches back in the Caribbean or Africa while others are Churches that have started here in London. These are examples to illustrate the richness of their diversity.

The unique role that London plays in the history of BMCs includes the fact that the first BMC in Europe was founded in London. This was Sumner Road Chapel founded by Rev Thomas Kwame Brem-Wilson in Peckham in 1906. Rev Brem-Wilson, a business man and school master was born into a wealthy family in Dixcove, Ghana around 1855. He migrated to Britain in 1901 and later founded Sumner Road Chapel known today as Sureway International Christian Ministries in Herne Hill South East London. Rev Brem-Wilson’s Church was an African Pentecostal Church and he was also involved with the origins of the Pentecostal movement in Britain. This was because he was friends with the likes of Alexander Boddy (the Anglican priest that is recognised as the father of British Pentecostalism), Cecil Polhill (one of the pioneers of the Pentecostal missionary movement in Britain), D.P. Williams and W.J. Williams (founders of the Apostolic Church in Britain).

The 1940s and 1950s saw the influx of Caribbean families into the UK due to the invitation of the British government asking them to come and help rebuild the country after the devastations of the Second World War. Many people from the Caribbean responded to this call but to their surprise and dismay they were rejected by the society and the Church. This rejection with other factors such as loyalty to Church brands, coldness of British Christianity and mission to the UK led to the formation of Caribbean Pentecostal and Holiness Churches in London and the midlands. One of such Churches is the Calvary Church of God in Christ which started in London in 1948.

The independence of African countries from around 1957 onwards led to African diplomats, students, tourist coming to Britain. When they discovered like the Caribbeans before them that they were rejected by the British Churches and society at large, this led to the founding of African Instituted Churches (AICs) in London. The first of such Churches to be planted was the Church of the Lord (Aladura) planted in 1964 by the late Apostle Adejobi in south east London. The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of a new type of African Churches known as Newer Pentecostal Churches (NPCs). The 1990s also witnessed the birth of independent Caribbean Pentecostal Churches in London. It is the explosive growth of these African and Caribbean Churches in the 1990s that has drawn the attention of scholars and currently the media to BMCs. In conclusion the proliferation and diversity of Black Majority Churches in London will continue so long as there is migration (This is becoming difficult in the UK) and London remains a global city. But in addition, God’s creative Spirit will continue to stir the hearts of people to mission!

 

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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 currently co-opted as a member of the Baptist Union Council. 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 an administrator and research co-ordinator for the Evangelical Alliance. 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!
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