Black History-Themed Journal of Intercultural Mission features Leicester Diocese

The third issue of the Oxford Journal for Intercultural Mission, which features an article by Bishop Martyn on the diocese’s journey in developing intercultural worshipping communities, is now available to download. The theme for the issue is Black History, and includes the following contributions:  

  • Revd Naomi Hill, in her article ‘Black history is British history’, examines the relevance of engaging with black British history as a Christian who does not have African heritage. She highlights significant events that can change the way our history is perceived. 
  • Revd John Root asks ‘Why do we need Black History Month (BHM)?’ He explores the importance of BHM in celebrating overlooked black history while acknowledging potential pitfalls. He emphasises the need to recognise the stories of pioneers, migrants, and ordinary people in black history, going beyond celebrity worship. The article also stresses the importance of white people learning black history and focusing on what black people truly offer, while avoiding comparisons with white achievements and fostering an integrated society. 
  • Revd Daniel Odhiambo, writing on ‘Notable black Africans in our redemptive story’, highlights the presence of black Africans in the Bible, shedding light on significant figures such as Moses’ Cushite wife. He emphasises the importance of recognising these individuals as part of the biblical narrative and their contributions to redemptive history. 
  • Revd Canon Ned Lunn in ‘Improvisation as intercultural practice’, says the term ‘black history’ suggests a singularity rather than what it is: an often-competing set of multiple histories. He argues that the principles of improvisation can help navigate the challenges of telling and hearing conflicting accounts of historical events. 
  • Peter Tate in ‘Using art to communicate an intercultural Jesus’, advocates using mission as the ‘mother’ of church art and using multiple images to guard against exclusively my-culture Jesus mindsets.
  • Revd Dr Israel Oluwole Olofinjana’s article, ‘Black African pastors championing intercultural mission in Liverpool’ reviews how Daniels Ekarte and Dr Tani Omideyi developed their leadership beyond the four walls of the church to become community pastors impacting different ethnic groups in society. 
  • Revd Dr Godfrey Kesari, in his article, ‘Fighting for racial justice in the church is not an elective’, highlights the persistence of racism in the Church of England, particularly in the contrasting treatment of refugees from different regions. Kesari advocates for education, empathy, and intercultural gatherings to combat racism, stressing the importance of prioritising racial justice and deconstructing racially unjust structures. He concludes with a message of hope, emphasising the inevitability of racial justice and the importance of unity among all people.

In his article, Bishop Martyn writes: “I was hesitant when invited to write for the Oxford Journal of Intercultural Mission about my part in seeking racial justice. White allyship is a contested concept in many circles – can people like me truly jettison the privilege and the colonial mindsets in which we were raised? Can we ever really empathise with the experience of people of Global Majority Heritage? I think the answer is probably no. On this side of heaven, human egos, biases, and instincts for self-preservation cannot be fully conquered.

“But can justice wait for purity? Like any commitment – whether to Christ or another person in marriage – the longer you walk by it, the more it shapes you, and paradoxically, the more you appreciate what you do not know. This is the journey of sanctification, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that it is also my experience of seeking greater racial equality as Bishop of Leicester.”

He describes the appointments of Revd Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy (now Bishop of Willesden) as our first Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Mission and Ministry Enabler and of Bishop Guli as vital steps on our diocesan journey to becoming more inclusive of people from minoritised ethnic and racial backgrounds. Also important was the focus group research with Global Majority Heritage members of our churches and church leaders so they could voice their experiences of the Church of England to date and what changes they wanted to see in the future.

“There was much to unearth”, Bishop Martyn writes. “Stories of sidelining, segregation, silencing, and suffering racism as a daily reality. There was much to lament: grief untold and guilt unrecognised. The more I heard and learned, the greater my sense of the injustices faced by Global Majority Heritage people, and the more I recognised how I participated in and benefited from the structures which disadvantaged people of colour.”

Bishop Martyn goes on to describe his contribution to the debate on racism at the February 2020 General Synod and the development of the Intercultural Worshipping Communities programme in the diocese. But, he recognises: “Our journey towards interculturalism has not been perfect, and nor is it complete. Undoubtedly, there is more to do and learn for us and me. I do not share any of this because I claim to have done anything special or praiseworthy. I would be delighted if the story of what we have done in the Diocese of Leicester was overwhelmed by a cacophony of other such stories for tackling unconscious bias and raising up the gifts of all God’s people to be business as usual for the Church of England. So, I share our experiences in the hope that others will join us, and one day, it is business as usual.”

You can read the article in full here. Bishop Martyn’s book on the same subject, An Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World: Reflections on Gift Exchange, will be published by Church House Publishing in April.

First published on: 20th February 2024
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