Partnership in Mission

“A black majority church perspective on mission and church unity”

Israel Oluwole Olofinjana

ISBN: 9781909728356

118 Pages

Published Oct 2015

Mission and Leadership

Paperback £7.99 Kindle £4.99
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What is the Black Majority Church? How heterogeneous is the movement? What opportunities are there for partnership with the wider church?

Black Majority Churches have played a significant role in the history of the British church, encompassing a wide range of theologies, structures, missiologies, cultures and ethnicities. This heritage and rich diversity mean they have an essential contribution to make to the church’s future mission in Britain.

This book challenges us to rethink our missiology in light of Britain’s fast-changing social landscape. How can Black Majority Churches and other groups partner to effect institutional change in our culturally and ethnically diverse society? Israel Olofinjana offers case studies of partnerships in action and explores practical methods for how we can come together to respond to the needs and opportunities we see, overcoming challenges and finding common ground.

  • One of the starting points for this book was the presentation Israel gave to CafŽ ThŽologiques in Walworth and Putney. These gatherings were organised by Churches Together in South London as a way of encouraging debate on "creative and divisive ecumenical issues" and also as an opportunity for ministers and lay people based in South London to try out ideas among Christian friends in an informal setting. Israel was one of the first I invited, partly because he was – and still is – a man willing to think about and act upon key ideas and partly because the presence of new black majority congregations can be seen as both "creative and divisive".

    Israel's presentations then and his book now display a wide knowledge of the history of Black Majority Churches, a keen awareness of where they are and what they are doing today, a good discernment of the issues they face and a challenging assessment of what those of us in the long-established churches could do. I am as ever grateful for what he has written and I warmly commend the book.

    John Richardson, Ecumenical Officer, Churches Together in South London
  • In this short but significant volume, Israel Olofinjana documents developments and initiatives among BMC and highlights some of the encouraging projects that involve both BMC and Historic Churches. It becomes abundantly clear that Israel's claim that "It will now be impossible to write the history of the church in Britain without proper reference to Black Majority Churches" is both true and important, and needs to be heard. This book matters for those who share Israel's conviction that multicultural churches are a manifestation of God's kingdom on earth as a sign of a new humanity. It gives us stories of hope that this is happening even now. However, it is also an irenic and prophetic call for those in the Historic Churches to honour their brothers and sisters in BMC as equals where, tragically, this has not always been the case. As such, this book should be read by all.

    Dr Lucy Peppiatt, Principal, Westminster Theological Centre
  • This is a timely and much-needed contribution to the British ecumenical landscape, and Israel Olofinjana is ideally located to be the one to make this contribution. As a member of the African Diaspora in the UK, Olofinjana is aware of the challenges faced by "migrant churches", the growth among what is known as Black Majority Churches (BMC), and the dynamic ecumenical intercultural trends on the ground – especially in London. Olofinjana's contribution will certainly mean that any current and future writing of the history of church or ecumenism in Britain must reckon with the presence of BMC! This volume will certainly help kick-start fruitful conversations on unconventional grassroots ecumenical partnerships, the complexity of the history and intra-diversity of BMC, and open up opportunities for churches to move out of the "transit lounge" of a tired kind of ecumenism. There is much here to build on and take in multiple directions!

    Rev Dr Michael N. Jagessar, writer, theologian and former moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
  • Israel Olofinjana has a vision for a British church enriched by multicultural relations for the glory of God. Here he tells the story of pioneer BMC leaders and ecumenical relations over the last century in order to develop those partnerships in the future. Engaging and succinct, this book will encourage us all to play a part in achieving this vision.

    Dr Emma Wild-Wood, Executive Director, Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide
  • Scarcely a week goes by without me receiving a research or book proposal, a manuscript or new book by a person of African and Caribbean heritage. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of A Time to Speak by Paul Grant and Raj Patel that bemoaned the prevalence of external "exponents and apologists" interpreting "Black faith". They called on black Christianity to "speak" for itself. This short work is part of a developing prophetic literariness based on self-articulation from within the Black Church in Britain and I warmly welcome Rev Israel Olofinjanas latest work. I have been involved in the field of "intercultural ecumenism" for almost 20 years and it is good to see some of the developments at the intersectionality of Christian history, cultural diversity and ecumenical engagements brought together in one place. Some view the super-diversity of the Christian church as a problem, especially when that diversity has to do with culture and ethnicity. This book may help us to view such diversity differently; as an expression of God who comes to us in the persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and has created a church in God's image that is also diverse by nature. The challenge this work makes evident is common to any large family as it sets about living in integrity and in community. Each expression of Christianity has God-given legitimacy and we are challenged to love our sisters and brothers from expressions other than our own; because it is good and pleasant when siblings live together in unity of the kind that is so countercultural that the world believes in the source of the power that makes it possible. Rev Olofinjana has done us a great service by this exposŽ of the histories and intercultural activities of the British church.

    Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations, Churches Together in England
  • I warmly commend this latest book from Israel Olofinjana. It offers a very helpful and readable overview of multicultural ecumenical partnerships and their development and will be valuable to all Christian leaders as we sense God's call to proactively embrace diversity for the sake of the kingdom.

    Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain
  • Contributions to world Christianity by Christians in and from Africa have been immense. These contributions benefit all Christians, no matter where they live. Theological and ecclesiastical questions that engaged the minds and experiences of Christians in ancient Egypt and Roman North Africa occupy the concerns of successive generations of Christians. They have interacted with the insights of the African Christians and adapted them to the immediate needs of local contexts. The unending varieties of Christian thoughts and expressions have also influenced African Christians through the presence and services of missionaries from outside of Africa. The modern diaspora movements of people from Africa, however, have brought back certain African elements to countries like Britain. Pastor Israel Olofinjana's present work explores how some of these elements can enhance unity and partnership between non-African Christians in the mainline churches and African Christians in Britain. It invites the readers to jointly experience the riches of multicultural Christian expressions in faith and practice. I recommend it warmly to all concerned readers and practitioners.

    Reverend Professor Daniel Jeyaraj, Professor, World Christianity & Director of Andrew Walls Centre for the Study of African and Asian Christianity, Liverpool Hope University
  • Recently someone asked me what the future of the UK church looked like. I responded instantly, and with a single word: "Black". The rise of the Black Majority Churches, and their spread and growth and life and vitality, is the great untold story of British Christianity in the last three decades, and is vital to understanding the current and future shape of the church. In this book, Rev Olofinjana proves himself again one of the most capable and lucid interpreters of the BMC scene. Here he turns to ecumenical relationships, particularly to the good things that have happened between BMC and Historic Churches over the years.

    Dr Stephen Holmes, Senior Lecturer in Theology, University of St Andrews
  • Not many people have been able to explore and articulate the distinctiveness and peculiarity of Black Majority and ethnic churches as Israel has clearly done in a practical and simplistic way in his book. The book could be classified as high definition that helps leaders who are dreaming of integration and how to get along with people, churches and para-churches that are vastly different from them. Israel himself has helped define integration in person, lifestyle and ministry. His experience and passion is felt throughout the book as a leader who lives a multi-ethnic life before leading a multi-ethnic church and writing a multi-ethnic book. I recommend the book both for personal and institutional enlightenment.

    Rev Yemi Adedeji, Director, One People Commission, Evangelical Alliance UK
  • When I started out as a Baptist minister, nearly 30 years ago, the UK church landscape differed vastly from what it is today. Many people within church circles were and still are unaware of the monumental cultural changes taking place around them, sometimes in the same geographical community and even, sometimes, within their own churches. In the early days of my ministry, there were few people seeking to translate or interpret the diversity and significance of so-called Black Majority Church movements in and around the UK.

    The UK church continues to experience almost exponential levels of change as new communities and fresh perspectives join and contribute to the wider church scene. Thank God for people like Israel who have committed themselves to documenting the growth and impact of many of the diverse expressions of black Christianity. His work, together with that of others, dispels forever the notion that "Black Majority Churches" are on a similar evolutionary trajectory to that of White Majority Churches or that their main or sole contribution to the UK church is vibrancy, prayer and worship. This is borne out neither in theory nor in practice, and their influence is and will continue to be distinctive.

    Israel's latest offering goes the "extra mile" beyond documentation, by proposing insightful and pragmatic ways that UK Christians can further express the prophetic nature of what must inevitably be increasingly creative and diverse expressions of mission and ministry in the unfolding history of the United Kingdom.

    I look forward with anticipation to the many fresh opportunities this will surely bring about to grassroots church life.

    Rev Dr Kate Coleman, founder of Next Leadership, Baptist minister, former Chair of the Evangelical Alliance Council and a past president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
  • African and Caribbean faith communities are now a permanent part of the British religious landscape. In these communities, church attendance is increasing rapidly while declining in many of our mainstream churches. Olofinjana's book focuses on some of these churches, outlining their history, theology and experience of ecumenism. It makes fascinating reading for those interested in understanding the growth and development of Black Majority Churches in Britain, as well as getting to grips with the diversity that exists within these churches.

    The book provides critical insights and case studies on the journey traversed by some of these churches from being "migrant sanctuaries" to churches now actively engaged in a range of social action programmes and new forms of political activism. I commend this book, not only because it makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of African and Caribbean Christianity in Britain, but also because of what the Spirit might want us to "hear", learn and do as BMC and the more established churches engage in missional partnerships and wrestle with intercultural ecumenism as authentic expressions of Christian unity.

    Dr R. David Muir, Lecturer in Ministerial Theology, Roehampton University, and Co-Chair of the National Church Leaders Forum
  • It is a blessing to have this kind of book that will draw the attention of the world at large to the Black Majority Churches ecumenical involvement in Britain. I am sure that many will be blessed by this excellent historical and educational book.

    Many books have been published with biased and incorrect narratives or data, but this book is thoroughly researched and excellently and factually presented. I therefore commend it to anyone who is keen and interested to know what ecumenism means to the Black Majority Churches and their involvement.

    I pray that the content of this book will further remind its readers about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's prayer for the unity of His church and help us to accept and embrace one another in love. Amen.

    Father Olu Abiola, General Superintendent of Aladura International Church and President of Council of African and Afro-Caribbean Churches UK

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