AMEN to advise Renewal and Reform on inclusion

29 November 2019

Under-representation of BAME people to be a priority for the network

CHIGOR CHIKE

Some of those who attended the AMEN event in Durham, on Saturday

Some of those who attended the AMEN event in Durham, on Saturday

WORK to address the under-representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the groups advising the Renewal and Reform programme will be a priority for the Anglican Minority-Ethnic Network (AMEN) next year, the Revd Dr Chigor Chike, who chairs AMEN, said this week.

Speaking after a gathering of the network in Durham on Saturday, he welcomed the “new partnership with Renewal and Reform”. Inclusion was “important for its own sake”, he said. “No human being feels good about not being fully included within a group. But, from the resources perspective, including BAME people in the work of the Church means that the Church is making the best use of the talents available to it, and is therefore likely to be more effective in its mission.”

During his presentation, the project manager for Renewal and Reform, Gordon Jump, noted that BAME people were “under-represented” on the advisory groups guiding the work of the programme’s various work-streams. In addition to encouraging AMEN to help identify candidates with suitable exercise, he urged members to start “levelling honest criticism where required and telling us what we are missing”.

Outlining the connections between the work-streams and the push for greater BAME inclusion in the Church, he noted plans to establish a church on every estate in the country. While 19 per cent of such parishes (485) had a majority BAME population, only 40 members of clergy working on these estates were of BAME heritage.

He drew attention to two Strategic Development Funding grants specifically supporting engagement with BAME communities: £2.57 million for the diocese of Leicester’s project focused on developing mission and leadership in BAME communities (News, 20 January 2017), and the diocese of Manchester’s small church-plants project, which includes a focus on planting churches in areas where there is a high diversity of language and ethnicity (News, 14 December 2018).

Of the participants in the Strategic Leadership Development programme (News, 7 October 2016), ten per cent were of BAME heritage, while the Church had also set a goal to have 15 per cent of vocations candidates of BAME heritage by 2020 (News, 6 September 2019).

On Monday, Dr Chike suggested that this had become a “priority” for the national Church, welcoming the appointment of Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed as National Minority Ethnic Vocations Officer, and “intentional” work by several dioceses.

Mr Jump’s presentation also touched on the work of the programme Setting God’s People Free (SGPF), which focuses on lay discipleship (Synod, 12 July 2019).

“It is known that many BAME individuals and communities already excellently model faithful whole-life discipleship,” the presentation observed. “The cultures of many BAME communities, often notably different from that of white middle-class Britain, understand living out one’s faith as part of everyday life. The goals of SGPF can be lost on such communities, since continuous prayer, communal caring, sharing faith, and so forth, are already part of daily lives. The SGPF programme aims to use the wonderful stories and testimonies coming out of such communities to help the culture change [that] SGPF envisions.”

Dr Chigor said that, in general, the observation was accurate. Speaking of his own Nigerian heritage, he said: “We don’t make a distinction between what is religious and what is secular; we just know life and everything works together. . . Most families will then pass on that way of holding faith together to their children. . .

“I think the point isn’t so much that one way of doing it is better than the other, but that, in a society where there are diverse ways of doing things . . . the C of E, which has a lot of different backgrounds in it, has the opportunity of benefiting from the insight from the backgrounds and a diversity of experience.”

Among the priorities for the coming year was increasing AMEN’s capacity, given that members were currently carrying out its mission in addition to full-time work, and were continuing to meet in various locations across the country “as a way of energising more networking among minority ethnic people”.

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