I have recently found several blogs from my friend Adrian Warnock very encouraging; he has walked a similar path to myself. I have shared some on my own personal Facebook page. His recent blog on racism, explaining the guilt we share and then outlining some tentative steps towards repentance is especially helpful.
The full article can be accessed below, which also will give access to more of his blogs.
His headlines on what repentance might look like are worth reflecting on. I have put my own experience below each of them.
Repentance is not mere words but includes action.
- Intentionally meet and befriend people different to yourself
Whilst this has been true over the years, from my early days I refused to just have friends within the church, it is in the last few years that I have enjoyed friendship with a wider group of people than ever before. People from different socio-economic backgrounds and racial backgrounds. Whilst initially challenging I have found spending time and building friendships with Muslims especially rewarding.
- Try to understand and enter the experience of rejection many feel
This seems to be the experience of so many in our society, however it takes time and trust to fully grasp it. However, hearing of the impact of racism and islamophobia on people I have got to know within and without the church has been so helpful and I would say even lifechanging.
- Find a wise tutor from a different racial group to yourself
It is so helpful having a small number of people who can explain things you don’t understand. What is culturally expected in different circumstances.
- Forge deep life-long friendships that allow real honesty and openness
This has been a real joy and so important. The weekend after the death of George Floyd one of my friends told me how shocked they were that I had not alluded to it on the Sunday. They were clearly upset and helped me see how I had missed how important what had happened was. I needed someone to show me my blindness, thank God I have friends who will.
- Build multicultural churches lead by multicultural teams
Moving to Luton this was my plan, however it has taken many years to even get close. It has taken many people to make the costly decision to be part of a predominantly white church, pioneers who made great sacrifices which others have benefited from. I would not want to be part of any other sort of church, however we have still so much to learn about building diverse teams. As the culture gap between those in the church and those outside the church grows, unless we can relate and work with people different than ourselves, we will become increasingly irrelevant. We desperately need multicultural churches lead by multicultural teams. It must be a priority.
- Learn everything you can from leaders from different church groups to your own. Refuse to remain in your echo chamber
Most books are written by white British or American authors, it makes is exceedingly difficult to get a different perspective. I have started to go out of my way to find and read books by authors from other backgrounds. I have also found it enriching to work with Black Majority Church leaders and those from more traditional backgrounds to my own.
- Actively campaign for societal justice and take steps to lead real change
As I have sought to do this, sharing articles and thoughts on social media, being engaged with those in power locally I have received criticism. In doing so I am challenging the concept of privatised religion. That a church leader should just be involved in caring for his flock and reaching the lost. I have concluded that I as a white educated man have power that others do not have due to our system. It is crucial and Biblical that I use the privilege I have to help others, to seek to create a fairer system.