Addressing the social injustice of racism is a vital way churches can work together to ensure the flourishing of all.
Churches are committed to working together on the journey of seeking racial justice – both within the church and in wider society. A number of ecumenical initiatives gathered pace in 2021, including the establishment of CTE’s Racial Justice Working Group.
CTE’s Racial Justice Working Group
This group brings together racial justice representatives from across CTE’s 52 national Member Churches, along with a number of CTE Trustees, a representative from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), and others with specialist skills and knowledge.
Explaining the purpose and vision of the Working Group, Shermara Fletcher, CTE’s Principal Officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multi-cultural Relations, says:
“CTE’s newly established Racial Justice Working Group gathers to provide support, share best practice, discuss theological and ecclesiological issues and provide the opportunity to implement solutions to ensure our Member Churches are beacons of racial justice best practice within their own structures. The vision is to foster deep relationships, ecumenically breakdown negative perceptions of the other and to ensure that global majority diasporas living in the UK find safe, equal and equitable spaces to flourish in British society. The church is committed to be being at the forefront of this change.”
Why it’s important
The mission of God (missio Dei) is about helping to bring relief from suffering, and racism makes both the perpetrator and oppressed suffer. The New Testament and Jesus’s sacrificial death reveal that the relief of suffering was a principal function of Jesus’s ministry, as demonstrated in his miracles; from feeding 5,000 hungry people to relieving the suffering of a homeless, afflicted man in a cave who was neglected and isolated from the community.
In 2020, the momentous murder of George Floyd brought to light the deep-rooted issues of racial tensions, disparities, inequity and injustice happening across the globe, and in particular to people of African descent. This global awakening also exposed the underbelly of racial divides and systemic injustice in the areas of health, housing and education to mention a few. It is in this context that churches have come together to denounce racism, lament and seek ways to ensure a fair, equitable and flourishing society for all, even in the face of uncertainty and discomfort.
Why is this important as Christians?
The story of the Samaritan woman reveals to us that racial tension is not a 21st Century social disease, but was one Jesus confronted, denounced and brought healing and justice to, enabling reconciliation.
Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John 4:9 took place in a context of deep historical, political and religious division between the Jews and Samaritans. This cultural story teaches us valuable and practical lessons about oneness and unity.
Picture this scene; Jesus is Jewish man who is breaking cultural restrictions by speaking to his cultural, political and religious opponent, a Samaritan woman. Not only is he speaking to a woman in public – this is a Samaritan woman who is even an outcast in her own Samaritan community; indicated by the fact that she is collecting water alone in the heat, outside of the usual hours, and has had multiple partners.
In this story we see that Jesus is more concerned about restoring his cultural relationship with this woman than upholding cultural assumptions and restrictions – the same assumptions and restrictions that racism upholds today. In choosing to speak with the Samaritan woman and remove all her cultural labels, he is able to share valuable truths with her to help make her whole.
So, what cultural assumptions could we leave behind to bring us into unity and wholeness?
Churches collaborating together to challenge the social disease of racism will have a tremendous opportunity to bring justice and healing into society, especially for those experiencing the brunt of racism.
Ways of working together
Churches can start by honestly speaking to their congregations and communities, assessing their leadership teams and demographics, and doing the difficult work of honestly assessing and challenging inner attitudes which mar the Image Dei of Christ in others.
Many national churches are already seeking to address racial justice issues internally – read more in this reflection from a number of our national Member Churches; the Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), The Salvation Army, and the United Reformed Church.
CTE’s Racial Justice Working Group seeks to help churches come together at the national level, sharing resources, insights and expertise with one another. We also work alongside CTBI in their work on racial justice.
On 25 May 2021, churches from the Working Group joined together to mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, committing to ongoing action against racial injustice. Many church traditions united at midday to light a #CandleOfJustice and pray the #CandleOfJustice prayer, and then joined CTBI’s national ecumenical service Doing Justice at 7pm online.
A diverse range of CTE’s national Member Churches also wrote daily prayers on racial justice, which were shared throughout the week of George Floyd’s anniversary, from 23-30 30 May.
On 25 May 2022, CTE encouraged Christians across the country to join together to commemorate the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and to renew the nation’s commitment to tackling racism. Read more about #CandleOfJustice 2022.
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) provide a range of resources on racial justice issues, including regular webinars – see more at www.ctbi.org.uk/racialjustice
CTBI also provide resources for Racial Justice Sunday – an annual occasion for Christians in Britain to collectively focus on racial justice. Having run since 1995, in 2017 a decision was taken to move the date to the second Sunday in February; the day having previously been marked on the second Sunday in September. Racial Justice Sunday resources are produced by CTBI’s sponsoring churches. These materials enable you to Remember, Reflect and Respond to racial justice matters:
- Remember the importance of racial justice;
- Reflect on human diversity and thank God for it;
- Respond by working to end injustice, racism and ignorance through prayer and action.
Share your story
At CTE we would love to hear your stories of how churches are working together to address and tackle racial injustice and inequality. Do you have a local story to share from your village, town, city or county?
We’d love to hear your story – simply fill in our story form.