THERE is only so long that the Church of England can delay making “significant changes” to address its lack of ethnic diversity before people start to “vote with their feet”, the Bishop of Loughborough, the Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, has said.
“My worry is that if we don’t really grapple with it in the C of E, people are going to vote with their feet, and the few we do have are going to start looking elsewhere,” she said last week. “There is a limit to to how long we can talk about it without making significant changes.”
Dr Francis-Dehqani, whose ministry includes a specific focus on supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) worshippers, spoke in support of a new survey designed to explore their experiences in churches. The Exploring Minority Anglicanism project is being conducted by the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, at the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with the diocese of Birmingham (News, 22 March). The online survey is open to all Christians in the UK over the age of 18.
In common with work under way in the diocese of Leicester, the project represented “a gear shift — at least within parts of the C of E — in terms of the sense of responsibility that we have to increase ethnic diversity”, Dr Francis-Dehqani said. She agreed with the project’s lead, Dr Sanjee Perera, that “we don’t have a full understanding of how BAME people experience the C of E. . . We are not even halfway up the ladder: we are quite low down in trying to see what the picture is, understand why it is like that, and what might some of the features be to help us change and create churches that reflect much more accurately wider society around us.”
She continued: “Just talking about it isn’t going to be enough, and some of those changes will be uncomfortable for congregations and dioceses, because they involve looking quite closely at culture we take for granted, and patterns that we set, and being open to changing some of those things.”
The vocations development and intercultural mission enabler and Dean of BAME affairs in the diocese of Birmingham, the Revd Dr Sharon Prentis, said that the survey used “an extremely sophisticated methodology to measure the sense of belonging within and between various groups”.
“The Church is a place where all should be welcomed, and this should be reflected in every aspect of our communal lives together,” she said. “Sadly, that is not always the case, and many feel marginalised. In Birmingham, we are committed to creating a church where the sense of belonging is not only reflected in who we are as diverse people, but runs through everything we do.”
To complete the survey, visit https://birminghamcoaal.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9oTtoaJ8l9MjbJX.