“From Principle to Practice”

A Churches Together in South London (CTSL) debate on how to encourage a more diverse and inclusive leadership in our churches

This online discussion on 4th November sought to tackle some key issues central not only to CTSL, but to our own Church of England. Namely: how can we all be proactive in putting diversity and inclusion at the forefront of our planning and leadership of church projects, not least those where we combine resources and co-operate with other Christian churches in our area?

As might be expected for such an ambitious topic, the event was successful in raising awareness and spurring us on – but left it to us to navigate ways forward within our own communities.  There is a pressing need for us to seek God’s mind at a local level and to make issues of social inclusion and justice relatable in our lives together, so this in itself marked a significant way forward.  As lockdowns force on us new ways of living as a Eucharistic community, we are looking for signs of our times, for those moments of ‘Kairos,’ that invite us into God-being-ness, which, with prayer and collaboration, start to be the living stones of the Kingdom.

First to speak from her lived-experience was Chine McDonald, Head of Community Fundraising and Public Engagement at Christian Aid, author, and Trustee of Greenbelt, Christians Against Poverty and Christians in Media.  The quote, “from principle to practice” comes from her – itself a quote from Dr Elizabeth Henry, an anti-racism activist who has advised the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Her full quote speaks of the need to move beyond willingness to tackle racial inequalities to consolidating that goodwill in action and outcomes. 

We have to start where we are. We cannot be in that moment of God-given change if we are stuck in the past, or busy projecting forward our own expectations.  St John’s is part of Inclusive Church, and we are called to follow Jesus’ example of servanthood if our ministry is to bring life and healing to those around us and beyond our church community.  We are called to empty ourselves of what has gone before, and to listen to the “idle tales” of the marginalised that speak of resurrection life.

The second speaker was Richard Reddie, Director of Justice and Inclusion for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, author, commentator and researcher.  His word was one of unity, urging considered thought and positive action to promote inclusion, and building on Chine’s assertion that “diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice.”

These are the two questions the speakers left with us to consider together: What are the barriers to creating diverse leadership in our churches? Is racial diversity in leadership an afterthought or a forethought?

Claire Barracliffe 11/11/20

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