As we move into the new year, CTE is committed to keeping up the momentum in the campaign for racial justice, supporting the work of our 50 national Member Churches in this area.
Following the frank discussions between our Presidents and young black leaders, pastors and community workers, we have been able to bring young black Christians and senior leaders of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) together, each to hear the others’ concerns. Two online events were organised (in Nov and Dec 2020) and attended by senior leadership from MPS, including Commissioner Cressida Dick and those working most closely with black communities in London.
The events were productive, honest and hospitable, with police committed to listening further and taking action, while the participants from a range of churches had the opportunity to be listened to. The spirit of the conversation was epitomised for me by one young black leader assuring the police that they were prayed for regularly, and the police being keen to convene this group again.
‘Change is a must’
Senior Pastor of City Worship London, Emmanuel Akinfenwa, attended one of these meetings. He said “(It)… was very important for me in continuing the ongoing dialogue between members of the black community and police. As we know historically there is a huge wedge between our community and the police but as a believer I believe in restoration and reconciliation. This will not be an easy task and though I know Metropolitan Police may be trying, I think this particular matter at hand is one that they must be willing to sacrifice for and make great resource available for. Many conversations have been happening for years, but our conversations and strategy meeting must bear fruit and translate into something that future generations will benefit from… I am willing to help and support beyond meetings. Change is a must.”
The Chief Superintendent in charge of the Crime Prevention Inclusion and Engagement for the MPS, Jeff Boothe, said “These sessions were very important for the MPS. In order to provide a service to all sections of the community, we need to have conversations to understand each other’s perspectives.” He specifically asked for active involvement from our Member Churches with a recruitment drive to increase the number of females and Black and Asian and Minority groups within the MPS. He added “London and the MPS will be a better place if it has a police service which is truly reflective of the community which it serves.”
Here is ecumenical work translating speech into action, and illustrating why working ecumenically for racial justice adds such value to the task. We hope to convene similar groups with police in other English cities throughout 2021.
We will be drawing on our network of Ecumenical Officers across English counties and large cities to help bring change in their localities. This group of County Ecumenical Officers has begun meeting to discuss racial justice and has committed to hold each other accountable to ensure real change occurs. We are already hearing from them about examples of local action, for example church leaders across Birmingham signing up to a Racial Justice Charter and an aspiration to build more racially-mixed churches in Luton.
Our Trustees have also established the CTE Racial Justice Working Group, which meets for the first time later this month (February 2021). It draws together member church racial justice officers and others under the co-chair of two CTE Trustees, Rev Dr Lurliene Miller and Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere. It is hoped that this will provide a forum for racial justice officers to share work, good practice and collaboration, with the aim of ensuring that all member churches are racially-just places of work and worship, and ready to work across wider society to remove injustice and discrimination.
CTE will, of course, continue to work closely with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s Director of Justice and Inclusion, Richard Reddie, on shared initiatives such as Racial Justice Sunday, which is now in its 21st year. We were also delighted that two of our Presidents, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Pastor Agu Irukwu, head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God UK, took part in a televised discussion on justice and restoration as part of Tearfund’s Declaration week of prayer on TBN UK.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic rages through UK communities in the third wave, and we are working with black churches as they try to reach their communities with assurance that the vaccines are an essential part of the fight against the virus, especially for its more vulnerable members. Already over-represented amongst those who have died from the coronavirus, it is more important than ever that the same community is able to have confidence in the immunisation programme.
It is our prayer and hope that attention to racial justice will generate real and lasting change throughout every sector of British society.