No easy way to integrate

UK Christians must make a direct intention to integrate with those from other ethnic minorities a Nigerian Pastor told visitors to the Christian Resources Exhibition.

Pastor Yemi Adedeji, director of the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission, and Steve Clifford, general director of the EA, spoke of the great strides taken by the EA in the last five years.

At a conference Steve was challenged to do more to shift the EA’s representation in all areas to give a greater representation to minority churches.

“I spent a year to 18 months spending time with and meeting leaders of many nationalities and listening to their hearts and hearing their pain,” he said. But that period demonstrated to him that “The EA must change” and “Yemi became a key figure in that change.”

Yemi pointed out that changing to adapt to meet the challenges of integration

“are not that easy – there will be challenges along the way but it has to be a deliberate intention. A church must intend to appoint those from minority groups into the leadership, the prayer leadership and the worship team.”

Pointing out that:

“people from different ethnic backgrounds think and act in different ways”

He explained that as a Nigerian pastor he has met the Archbishop of Canterbury

“and I can call him Justin. But I could not do that to the Archbishop of Nigeria – he would be horrified not to be addressed by his full title.”

Yemi explained that Christians in BME contexts honour to elders and the first name is not always a respectful way of addressing others.

“We believe we have to honour the position in which God has called people.”

He also spoke of the generosity of the black majority churches who believed it was their duty to provide food and gifts to others.

“I have been to Anglican churches in the UK and been given a cup of tea but told if I wanted a sandwich there was a supermarket over the road. I would have to get a sandwich myself.”

E- mails were another subject which caused problems, he said.

“Many BME leaders might not look at such messages for 18 months. They prefer a face-to-face visit. They feel that a relationship is built on food and fellowship. “If I can eat with you I can talk to you, and if I can talk to you I can do business with you.”

He also made the point that while traditional UK Christians tended to like a sermon to begin with an intellectual approach and move on to the emotions, black majority churches were the opposite

“we start with emotion and move on to intellectual things.”

But, both speakers were convinced that there were enormous benefits to churches and organisations which made the effort and began the journey of integration.

CRE 2018 has 210 exhibitors from sound systems to stained glass specialists, chair manufacturers to church textile designers. More than 50 seminars cover everything from transforming community engagement to communicating to young people in a digital age.

 

Dave Hall

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