'partnering for justice' BAME Special Gathering Report

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BAME GroupOn the 29 and 30 of May, Global and Intercultural Ministries held their annual Special Gathering of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Ministers and Church Related Community Workers; Together Ethnic and Minority URC; and Cascades of Grace at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon. The theme for this year’s gathering was ‘partnering for justice.’ The conference participants included 20 BAME clergy and Laity from the URC and partner churches; including the Presbyterian Church of Ghana; the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana; and the Presbyterian Church of Korea. The gathering included time for discussion, worship, reflection, fellowship, as well as planning for how to work to be more inclusive of the entirety of the body of Christ in the coming year. 

The theme of ‘partnering for justice’ encouraged participants to think about intersectionality and how we as an intercultural church can engage with multiple elements of individual’s and communities’ identities to strive for justice. Intersectionality is a term that was developed by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and scholar. Intersectionality emphasises the multiple ways in which a community or individual can be minoritized or otherized in order to more meaningfully and critically evaluate the community’s or individual’s identity. Through embracing this framework, conference participants were able to consider how the URC and the global church can work together to seek justice. 

BAME GSOne of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to discuss the ongoing work of the church with the General Secretary of the URC—The Revd Dr John Proctor. This conversation covered a variety of topics; including The URC’s engagement with the Council for World Mission’s Legacies of Slavery project, the upcoming 70th anniversary of SS Empire Windrush, global relief funding, resolutions at this year’s General Assembly, international partnerships, Walking the Way, Retired Ministers Housing, URC pension schemes, and the role of the nominations committee. The opportunity to raise issues and discuss solutions with the General Secretary was greatly appreciated by all the participants. 

One of the final activities of the gathering was to brainstorm a series of actions that could be taken by all members of the Church to encourage inclusiveness and highlight the value that BAME Clergy and laity bring to the URC. These actions focused on four main areas—ministry, governance, children & youth, and representation. Global and Intercultural Ministries in partnership with numerous other offices of the Church will be making a conscious effort throughout the coming year to act on a variety of issues that have been brought up to intentionally work to be inclusive of the whole body of Christ.

 If you are interested in taking on this work with Global and Intercultural Ministries, here are a few suggestions for how you, your local church, and your synod can work to be more inclusive.

  1. Review policies at all levels of the Church to strive for inclusivity and inclusion of a diverse body of Christ.
  2. Encourage pulpit exchanges with clergy who have different identities, experiences, and theologies from the clergy with whom your church is familiar.
  3. Include imagery on your church’s website, social media, and print materials that honestly reflects the age, gender, ethnic and cultural diversity of the URC.
  4. Create opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to participate in the life of the church, including opportunities to serve in worship, be part of the leadership of the church, be mentored and/or have internship opportunities.
  5. Create opportunities to be in worship and fellowship with other denominations and congregations in your area.

 

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