Speaking Truth to Power:

A Dream of the ‘African Majority' Churches' as Agents of Reconcilation – Olu Ojedokun, Ph.D.

Some weeks ago I felt something remarkable and significant being ignited in the basement of Woodbridge Chapel, a small historic Church in Clerkenwell, the North of London.  The incident occurred at a meeting which included representatives from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, CAPRO, Friends International, AIM, Rayners Lane Baptist Church , Crosslinks and others.   There was a feeling that struck me like a bolt of lightening, in the middle of various contributions.  These contributions were from black and white ministers at a planning meeting of the ongoing consultation of some ‘African Majority' Church leaders in Britain .  It was the pervasiveness and insidiousness of impact they were seeking to make that struck me.  What enthuses me even more is the real potential of being ‘light and salt' to the community in which we as blacks and Africans find ourselves.

I found it very remarkable that a layman, like me, with many a sense of failings and inadequacies amongst people, Ministers of God, people of integrity from various Church backgrounds, and a privilege this was.  But what was more impressive was that these busy men of God were and are willing to subordinate their various denominations, time and agendas to speak something profound to the community, bothering on truth and the prophetic.  ‘Something' I hope I can manage to address bit of in the paragraphs below.

Another recent experience worth recalling was that of a quiet Sunday evening at home in our bedroom.  Whilst relaxing and listening to some iconic speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. on you tube (the internet), I had a dream, one encapsulated in the paragraph below.  A dream that refuses to be mesmerised or limited by conflicting agendas. A dream, that does not understand the limits placed by time pressures of its participants but is motivated and sustained by a goal.  A dream that recognises that every nascent movement strains to be heard by the established media.  A dream that desires and has ambitions to be taken seriously by those who should matter.  A dream that is not global in the sense of structures or organisations that support it but is served by simple minded uncomplicated folks who just want to do God's will.   That is the dream we are part of, that we desire, one that allows us to be cross-cultural in our evangelism and to undertake it in the context of faithful bible teaching. That through this we may reach the 66% unchurched in Britain and break down walls existing amongst the various races even in the Church.

The media and the British society in general expect our Black community to organise annual carnivals, to act as back up choirs, to be gospel singers and provide medals in athletics and other sports.  And yes we are also expected to bring intensity in our form of ‘religiosity' and Church going. And of late we are expected to impact the landscape with magnificent sanctuaries.

However, we are not expected to impact societies as igniters and initiators of change.  Particularly when the ignition and the initiation is one of a movement that could transform Britain , reaching the 66% unchurched in the Britain . For such an expectation from and of Africans would be something out of the box, unorthodox, something that is surely considered beyond the means of such a small group of ministers.  It would raise questions whether anything good can emerge out of Africa ?  Can they move beyond the flamboyance of promise into fulfilment of clearly stated goals?   

Oh yes! Some might find it safe to assume that beyond the fervour of our prayers and the beauty of our worship we are still lacking in the capacity/understanding of a systematic approach to biblical exposition. A lack which they feel limits the tools we have to deliver on a far reaching transformative agenda. And maybe there is some truth in this, but I am not convinced that ministers are in this because they have all the answers but because with their humility they seek some of the answers.  It is my belief that under God they have begun by framing the appropriate questions.  We might stumble, we may experience setbacks, and our pace may not be at all uniform but it offers promise of a genuine movement that will, given time transform.

These ministers, I have found are motivated not by the belonging to any big structure or organisation or by the access to ready made finances.  They are motivated by the need for a grass root movement to transform and reconcile Britain .

Just imagine a small minuscule movement of up to 85 Church ministers attempting and straining to interest the Christian media in this motivation with limited success.  For you may ask: what gives these African ministers the audacity to believe and hope that as a collective from diverse backgrounds, they can make a break through where many others have not succeeded, what motivates them to consider themselves better placed in a time such as these to tread where many have feared to tread?  

I might respond by stating it is because our time has come and our time is now.  I will shout Yes!  It is because we can dare to hope and have the audacity to believe.

In our audacity to believe we are driven forward by the substance of a two fold question: ‘How can we better engage contemporary British Society and does faithful bible teaching provide the tools to do so?'  We are seeking to involve a mass of African Church Ministers beyond the 85, in these key questions on the 23rd of May 2008 in London .  We invite you to join us on this journey, for our destination is assured, our goal is certain and our hope is in God. 

Our context remains the celebrated the growth of 18% that Black Majority Churches' have experienced in the past few years and the decline of 5% amongst the wider UK Church.[[1]]  The concern, however, is the growth we celebrate does not appear to come from the conversion or engagement of people from the majority indigenous UK population.  It is a growth that primarily comes from the immigrant Africans and Black Christians re congregating themselves into Churches.[[2]]  The extent of this growth already shows that Black Majority Churches account for 7% of the worshippers in the UK.[[3]]  And whilst many of these Churches profess and desire to be truly international and integrationist in their vision statements, there appears to be a conspicuous absence of the White majority population and of other nationalities amongst them.  We hope the ongoing consultation will help us address this question.  

The writer, is a Member of the Boards of Evangelical Alliance UK and the African and Caribbean Evangelical.  He currently works as a Field Director for Friends International. 

 [1] John, Cindi  ‘Black worshippers keep faith' Downloaded on 1st March 2007 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4704925.stm

  [2] Ibid.

 [3] Ibid.


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