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‘We failed ’60s immigrants’

25 October 2013

PA Archive

Wrapped up:  heads muffled against the cold, migrant men from Jamaica arrive at Victoria Station, London, on 3 January, 1955 

Wrapped up:  heads muffled against the cold, migrant men from Jamaica arrive at Victoria Station, Lon...

THE failure of the Church of England to welcome immigrants from the Caribbean in the 1960s, noted by the Archbishop of Canterbury this week, had consequences still felt today, the national adviser for the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC), Dr Elizabeth Henry, said on Wednesday.

Dr Henry said that the failure had resulted in the loss of not just one generation of churchgoers, but subsequent generations, which was the result of "broken links".

Preaching in Nairobi on Sunday, Archbishop Welby said: "The Anglicans in the UK did not trust the newcomers, and when they came to church they were not welcomed. The result was that they formed their own churches, as did people from Africa when they came. And the African- and Caribbean-led churches today in England are the strongest in the country.

"In those days in the Sixties, we did not recognise that we belonged to one another. That we were called by Christ to love one another. And so the Church of England lost the new life that they brought and that God was trying to offer us through them."

On Wednesday, Dr Henry said: "At that time, we had mass migration from Commonwealth countries. People came here following the call to come and help rebuild the 'Mother Country'. Having attended Anglican churches in their own countries, they came here ex-pecting a warm welcome, and to continue with that fellowship. What they experienced was, at best our Church discouraged them from attending, and at worst refused them admission. Since that generation moved away from us, as a Church, so did their future generations."

The 2012 ministry statistics, published on Friday last week by the Archbishops' Council, show that the proportion of stipendiary clergy from minority ethnic backgrounds increased from just over two per cent in 2005 to three per cent in 2012. The publication cautions that "there are high proportions of clergy who have not disclosed their ethnicity, and so these figures and any changes need to be used with caution." Nationallly, there are six clerics from minority ethnic backgrounds in positions of senior leadership, three of whom work in the diocese of Chelmsford.

Dr Henry said that this information suggested that those from minority ethnic backgrounds were "severely under-represented". This was "an area that the Church has been grappling with for a long time". She was "very much in favour of positive action".

She said: "We know already that people have a greater sense of belonging when there are people who look like them both within the congregation and leading worship. "

Within London, many churches had a congregation in which the majority of members were from minority-ethnic backgrounds.

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