Working to increase representation and inclusion of minority ethnic Anglicans at all levels in the Church is not only about redressing an imbalance, it is essential to church growth. How do we make a place for everyone in our church?
Why do fewer minority ethnic (ME) people pursue a calling to lay ministry or ordination?
There are many reasons why ME people may be deterred from pursuing a calling to ministry. Some may relate to the structures and dynamics of the Church, some to a lack of representation and role models and some may not have realised their calling and may benefit from support and encouragement to help them recognise it.
Here are some questions to help think through encouraging ME people in pursuing their vocation:
What does minority ethnic mean and who do we understand to be minority ethnic?
Minority ethnic as a term means a group within a larger community which has varying cultural heritages. In England there are many different people present in society and significant numbers of minority ethnic Anglicans. Within the Church of England the representation of ME people in lay and ordained ministry is approximately 3%. When we use the term ME we may be referring to people of the following descent (including people of mixed heritage): African, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Asian, Chinese, Romany Gypsy or UK minority ethnic.
Why are minority ethnic people not represented?
There may be many varying reasons why minority ethnic people are not represented in ordained ministry but are present within congregations. A lack of representation of lay/ ordained ME people (of all ages) could be interpreted as a lack of suitability for ministry. Different cultural values and a lack of common understanding within both majority and minority ethnic people may be preventing full integration of all ethnic groups.
What might be the barriers to those from a minority ethnic group pursuing ministry; and what can you do to bring more minority ethnic people into the life of the church?
- Differing theological traditions and practices in churches plus theological material that doesn’t include theologies from around the world. Could you include more diverse hymns and include different traditions in your sermons to help all those in your church experience God’s love?
- ME presence within a less diverse congregation could be daunting. How can you welcome and include them in the life of your church and wider church related work? Be conscious of any use of language (including church terminology) that could be exclusive when welcoming people to your church.
- A lack of inclusive Church imagery/ iconography and ME representation in church websites and printed media. Are you including a diverse group of people from your community/ diocese within your church media?
- Be aware of your own cultural limitations and try to widen personal knowledge of other cultures. This will help increase understanding and break down barriers.
- Use the CMEAC (Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns) trained mentors who are available to people at any stage of the discernment process. In addition there are leaflets for both CMEAC and CBML (Centre for Black Ministries and Leadership) which signpost candidates to events and resources that they may wish to access.
What resources are available to help bring more minority ethnic people into the life of your church?
- World theology book list
- Inclusive worship hymns
- Everyday People booklet
- ME Mentors
- CBML (Centre for Black Ministries and Leadership) support
- CMEAC (Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns) support
- AMEN (Anglican Minority Ethnic Network)
What does it mean to understand and be a part of a multi-ethnic church?
Acknowledging difference on the basis that as the people of God we are one body and that unity is blessed by God can be a useful way to open discussions within diverse congregations.
Here are some points to consider to develop a multi ethnic congregation:
- In order to demonstrate the values of each culture could you include listening sessions for the majority ethnic group in the church to determine if their culture is included, how it could be improved and how they can contribute to making sure their culture is represented? This feedback could then be used to create new traditions to honour different cultures.
- Could you facilitate dialogue in small groups to discuss issues of ethnicity and cultures? Give people the chance to process, whether in writing, with a partner, or in conversation with a small subset of people what it means to be them in the church.
- Using a book or article on ethnicity as the basis for conversation a simple prompt like “Describe your earliest memory involving ethnicity,” can help others understand barriers and experiences from different perspectives.