Church to force the priesthood and congregation to be ethnically diverse

I’m not a fan of Churches trying to force people to be clergy in order to boost the numbers of the ethnic minority within ministry. It’s quite frankly political correctness gone mad.

In the same way, I don’t like the idea of churches forcing a promotion to get ethnic minorities into a congregation for the sake of ethnic diversity. If ethnic minorities want to be part of the Church, then they can decide for themselves. Why do we think that we need to overly encourage them to come in when they are perfectly able to make their own decision? Shouldn’t there be equal encouragement in order to attract people to church?

Do we think that people who have an ethnic minority are unable to come to their own reasoned decision over what church they attend and whether they are called to be in the clergy? I should hope not.

The Guardian has published an article which states that the Church of England have prepared a report ready for the General Synod, which will be held in York next month. It stated that the “pace of change is very slow indeed” in widening participation among non-whites (in terms of clergy profiles and congregations)

The ME [minority ethnic] proportion in our congregations is still barely half the ME population as a whole, and the proportion of ME recommended candidates (for ordination) still lags behind the ME proportion of the congregations

says the report.  So what? Maybe they don’t want to be a part of the Anglican Communion? Maybe they feel more comfortable in Asian Churches or the Gospel Black Church?

The report has the key recommendation to address the racial imbalance is to introduce “positive intentionality” – recognising there are “missing faces and missing voices and actively seeking ways to enable them to be seen and heard”.

Some will perceive them to be a form of positive discrimination or even favouritism. Those not from a ME background may feel passed over and other groups that they are not being given the same encouragement. These drawbacks are appreciated but we have seen that ‘Positive Intentionality’ does work and has contributed to genuine progress in other areas.

“Practical steps could see bishops mentoring priests from ethnic minorities, asking for them to be included on their team or sending them on courses to improve their confidence.”

What a silly thing to say. All ordinands receive mentoring and support anyway, whatever ethnicity they are. Are ordinands of ethnic minorities not being asked to be included on a team? I don’t think so.

I’m all a fan of encouraging ethinc minorities to church and gearing specific ministries to suit the cultural needs of those people. I’m a fan of providing activities to help the integration of ethnic minorities into churches and the wider community. I think that the church has to do this. We have to be all-inclusive. I’m also keen on people giving churches guidance on how to do these things (hence the book as my post picture)

But this report just seems silly. Whilst there may be an imbalance of ethnic minorities in the church, that doesn’t mean to say that we get PC-tastic and create new measures to boost numbers artificially.

My main concern is with ordination. Ordination is something which God places on one’s heart. People feeling called into ministry must be given equal encouragement, but ultimately, it is down to the individual and God over whether a vocation to ministry is there within one’s heart. Why should we force a boost in numbers of clergy who are of an ethnic minority?

The issue is really about equality (again). If those of an ethnic minority want to be equal to others, then the Church doesn’t have to do anything to over compensate for the lack of clergy and parishioners who are within the ethnic minority. They will simply come of their own accord, by normal encouragement and invitation. Not by something that requires a church law to be passed by synod. Surely this will alienate and cause a ‘difference’ between the ethic majority and minority rather than promote sound, healthy integration? I understand that there will be churches and individuals who don’t encourage a diverse people profile, and that issue has to be tackled. But that can only come from correct guidance by priests and bishops (or any pastor/person in authority).

Should we really have to make church laws and spend money on reports which tell us things we already know? Should there be a report which, rather than promotes ethnic diversity, promotes political correctness? The whole thing seems to belittle ethnic minorities if I’m honest. Of course, this isn’t intentional. But if a law was passed at Synod to encourage and give extra support in particular to Welshmen in their early 20’s who liked music and spoke Welsh to go into ministry, I would feel that a bit of overcompensation was going on.

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • And just to say – I don’t claim to have the definite answer on this issue! And I don’t mean to cause offence at all. I’m also open to other perspectives.

    What is the correct way to encourage integration between ethnic minorities and others in the Church?