Successfully Building Multi-ethnic Church

A report on the conference organised by the Baptist Union to explore the challenges and opportunities

On Thursday 12 January 2023, the Successfully Building Multi-ethnic Church (Listening, Theology and Equipping) conference took place in West London. There is a recognition that many churches are committed to becoming multi-ethnic but struggle in the process. This is not surprising, building multi-ethnic churches is a complex and challenging undertaking.

The aim of the conference was to provide church leaders with theological and practical support based on recent doctoral research by some of the conference contributors. The conference drew together practitioners and academics, experienced in the field of the multi-ethnic church. Contributors included Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed, Wale Hudson-Roberts, Dr Usha Reifsnider, Dr Israel Olofinjana, Dr David Wise, Dr Arthur Brown, Sharon Shek and Sarah-Jane Nii-Adjei.

Usha Reifsnider outlined a theology of multi-ethnic church drawing on her research into the experience of Gujarati Christians in the UK.

David Wise presented some of the findings from his research into the transition from an all-White British to a genuinely multi-ethnic congregation that took place in Greenford Baptist Church in West London. His four main headings were:

  • Thinking that Enabled Transition: De-Centring Whiteness
  • Attitudes that Enabled Transition: Hospitable and Vulnerable
  • Structures that Enabled Transition: Sundays
  • Training and Leadership that Enabled Transition: Learning and Serving

(Email David Wise for his conference paper)

Israel Olofinjana, drawing on his research, presented some of the Intercultural Challenges within the African Diaspora. Arthur Brown talked about his experience of being involved in the establishment of a multi-ethnic church in Lebanon and Sharon Shek talked about the current experiences of some of those who have newly migrated to the UK from Hong Kong.

There was very positive feedback from those who attended the conference. Planning for follow on conferences later this year is already underway with Birmingham and Yorkshire being likely locations.