CTL AGM Ecumenical Commission report

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CHURCHES TOGETHER IN LUTON ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Saturday 14th May 2022

 Report on Luton Ecumenical Commission on Racial Justice

Commission Members

 

Vincent Cox New Testament Church of God Chair

 

Tony Thompson Hope Church Co-Chair

 

Charmaine Mhlanga Sundon Park Baptist Church

 

 
Olivia Lamptey Word of Faith Centre  

 

Dr Trevor Adams    

 

Linda Geevanathan Hope Church  

 

 

Background

 

Many people across the world were left shocked by events on the 25th May, 719 days ago, when images of a police officer kneeling on the neck of an African American man were beamed and streamed over many media and social media networks.

Perhaps it was the casual nature of Police officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department as he illegally knelt on the neck of George Floyd, the suspect in a possible forged note transaction for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

4 minutes and 45 seconds as Floyd cried out for help, 53 seconds as Floyd flailed due to seizures and 3 minutes and 51 seconds as Floyd was non-responsive.

It could have been the images of a man crying, calling for his mother and pleading for his life; pleading not his innocence but the fact that he could not breathe. A plea that was wilfully ignored culminating in his death before our eyes.

These images shocked the world, brought to prominence the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and fuelled protests throughout the world.

Here in Luton, the Churches Together in Luton Executive reflected on these seismic events and examined our responses within our communities and congregations.

How did events 3984 miles away in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA have any relation to our lives in Luton, England?

Isaac Borquaye, better known as Guvna B, is a UK gospel rapper, author and broadcaster. He spoke to Christian young people and gave them this message, “If your church is not talking about the events surrounding George Floyd, your church is part of the problem.”

After some soul searching, the CTL Executive decided not to issue a standard statement of their position but instead to initiate meaningful conversations between black and white pastors in the town.

On Tuesday 20th October 2020, nineteen Christian leaders from a range of denominations gathered online for an honest, open conversation. Five black pastors shared their experience of racism within Christendom in this country and five white pastors responded.

In this first meeting, we learnt that several churches in the town were built or refurbished from funds that were derived from a prominent Luton family’s transatlantic slave involvement.

This open approach proved cathartic and inspired two further meetings on 1st December 2020 and 27th January 2021 where we were joined by other pastors.

From the meeting on 27th January came the request for the launch of a Luton Ecumenical Commission for Racial Justice.

We agreed that the journey should involve the following:

  • Open dialogue – what we have done at CTL and in previous meetings
  • Desire for real actions – expressed in these meetings.
  • Take responsibility for change – intergenerational transmission of racism, internalisation of blackness and whiteness.
  • Not quick fix – research; training; need to understand past to enable us to be able to shape and determine the future; investment of time. NEEDS A STRATEGY.

 

SUMMARY OF THE COMMISSION SO FAR

Mission Statement

‘That we all may be one so that the world may believe’

We undertake to Explore, Value, Promote, and Celebrate.

Aims of the Commission:

To challenge and facilitate all Christians living and working within the town of Luton.

Recognise the presence of Christ within them and to live out their lives as fully as possible within their church and community.

The commission exists specifically to:

  • Build deep, meaningful, honest relationships between ourselves, something that was repeatedly mentioned as key to racial reconciliation.
  • Identify how we can look at history, even the painful parts so that we can build a new future together.
  • Identify the spiritual forces at play, and how we can deal with them through forgiveness and defeating strongholds (negative ways of thinking) that have existed for generations.
  • Bottom line, as a smaller group seeking to learn from each other, then sharing that learning with the larger group and eventually our congregations and the society at large.
  • Empower ecumenical life of the area in which they live, so that together the whole church can witness to the world, especially to those who yet do not know Christ.

Our goal is redemptive change leading to racial reconciliation. Redemptive change is about changing from something to something. It is about God’s kingdom coming on earth as in heaven.

There are at least two distinct elements about this.

Knowledge and understanding of racism need to come from Godly revelation:

  • Of the history of racism
  • Of its consequences, which is pain for all and associated trauma
  • Of the kingdom perspective that includes the resources we have of prayer; relationships; the word of God and forgiveness
  • Of the need to break the silence we keep regarding this subject
  • Of listening to stories of lived experience
  • Of racial stereotypes
  • Of the cost of change
  • Of the power structures that need to be challenged
  • Of the Lion and the lamb – cost to the lion to give up power; to the lamb to trust the lion.

Who needs to take ownership of this?

  • Church – leadership and laity (We all do)

To then seek change within churches and between churches to then seek change in the world.

Our prayer is that you will keep us in your prayers and support this work for the kingdom’s sake.

 

Vincent Cox

Luton Ecumenical Commission for Racial Justice

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