Issues Lurking Beneath the Surface of a Multi-Cultural Church
Why don't white people go to black churches? And why do some black people go to white-led churches?
These are some of the questions that will be addressed at a Baptist-led conference on Saturday.
The Re-visiting Mission event in Bristol aims to shed a light on some of the areas which might affect mission across different cultures.
The conference has been organised by the Revd Var Smallwood, who is developing the idea of a new multi-cultural church in partnership
with West of England Baptist Association in East Bristol, and was minister of St Mark's Baptist Church in Bristol.
He explained that a tour of community churches during a sabbatical in the United States opened his eyes to the hidden issues lurking beneath the surface of a multi-cultural church.
'As we travelled, the issue of 'race' came to the fore again and again,' Var explained on the WEBA website.
'Everything went smoothly until we spent an afternoon with an African-American lady called Anne Stewart. She belonged to a very progressive church in Chicago who shared all their income (Acts 4:32) and were thoroughly committed to being multi-cultural.
'But in passing she said, 'You've no idea how white you've got to be to belong here'. CRASH. BANG. WALLOP.
'Suddenly, that one throw-away line opened our eyes to the hidden issues lurking beneath the surface of 'multi-cultural' church.
'Who's in charge? Which culture dominates? These are the real questions that need to be faced.'
The conference will therefore look at both context and culture with speakers and participants discussing the challenges and opportunities they present for mission. Other questions include: What is Black theology? Is there such a thing as White theology? How is our common mission affected by these questions?
It is a partnership with the West of England Baptist Association, Baptist Union of Great Britain, Bristol Baptist College and the Church of God of Prophecy.
The speakers are Dr. Anthony Reddie, the Revd Dr. Rosalyn Murphy, and the Revd Israel Olofinjana, and the conference moderators will be Revd Dr. Stephen Finamore (Principal of Bristol Baptist College) and Pastor Raymond Viera (Regional Overseer, COGOP South West England).
As well as organising the conference, Var is now working for a Black-led church.
It takes place at the House of Praise Church in Easton.