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Multicultural Kingdom: Ethnic diversity, mission and the Church, by Harvey Kwiyani

by
27 August 2021

No cultural segregation in this vision of church, says John Perumbalath

HARVEY KWIYANI has given us here a readable and interesting contribution on a theology of intercultural mission, with a light-touch academic approach, supported by storytelling. By exploring the causes and implications of cultural diversity on the British Christian landscape and placing that inquiry within the biblical and theological understanding of the Church, the author challenges us to embrace a multicultural missiology.

The basic problem that the author addresses has to do with the context of segregated Christianity as seen in the West. Christianity was born in many cultures, as we find in the Acts of the Apostles, and the final vision of the Church, in the Revelation of St John, is multiracial. Kwiyani, in his first chapter, compares the Kingdom of God to a mosaic. Yet the Church in the West is still largely segregated, manifesting the divisions that St Paul systematically demolished.

The next two chapters look at the historical development of cultural diversity in Britain, paying particular attention to the spread of Christianity from the West to the rest of the world, and to Christians from the rest of the world who make Britain their home. The next few chapters explore theology, missiology, and ecclesiology for a multicultural Church, in order to establish that being multicultural is a biblical and theological imperative.

The author does not write dry theology. He draws on his own experience of encountering different cultural contexts and the experience of Christian migrants in the West. His pragmatic discourse points to the possibilities of new ways of doing theology, new styles of worship, and new expressions of the faith when we are multicultural. This hopeful narrative is an antidote to the racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric that often invokes religious sentiments for support.

The last two chapters address the practicalities of a multicultural Church. Hospitality, willingness to listen, and ability to form cross-cultural relationships are essential requirements in building a multiracial Church. The task is not easy. What is easy for most of us is to be in a bubble where we do not need to worry about dealing with differences. We need a deep conviction that cultural diversity is a gift from God, who has called us to be hospitable to the other.

Kwiyani also highlights the danger of some of our mission growth strategies. Many church growth enthusiasts realise that churches grow faster if they are monocultural, and church-planters are encouraged to find their niche, people of similar cultural characteristics to them. There are white congregations that are dying while they rent their properties to other churches, oblivious to the obvious opportunity of blending something new.

The author’s concluding thesis is not radical or new: “where there is cultural diversity in general society, Christian churches must make the effort to reflect the diversity in their membership.” But the fact that this is still an argument in a book written in 2020 tells us about the sad state of the affairs when it comes to the nature and practice of the Church today.


Dr John Perumbalath is the Area Bishop of Bradwell, in the diocese of Chelmsford.

 

Multicultural Kingdom: Ethnic diversity, mission and the Church
Harvey Kwiyani
SCM Press £21.99
9780334057529
Church Times Bookshop £17.60

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