Statement about BAME Ministers Peaceful Protest
Recent events have, rightly, brought to the fore God’s heart for justice and his call for us to participate in challenging injustice and oppression. This has caused us all some heart searching as I am sure that you, like me, have been reflecting on the extent to which we reflect God’s heart in our character and actions. The fruit of our reflection is working itself out in all sorts of different ways. Our President, Yinka Oyekan, himself felt moved to open up an invitation via social media to BAME friends from across the churches to come together virtually and ask the question, “What shall we do?”
As you would expect, he made me aware that this was planned and kept me updated. This grass-roots gathering enabled a deep sense of injustice to be expressed and a desire to demonstrate their solidarity with their kids and young people by speaking out. The weight and depth of feeling around this was so evident that there was a desire to act quickly so as not to miss this moment. Plans for a peaceful protest which would focus around delivering a letter to Parliament have been made. The aim is to ask that rather than a fresh enquiry being launched, the Government would appoint a group to implement the many recommendations from the 5 previous reports and enquiries that have already been carried out.
This plan was shared with the Baptist Together Core Leadership Team1 on Wednesday morning and was then shared more widely. Following this, various concerns have been raised in response and this has given me the opportunity to continue the conversation with Yinka Oyekan. If you know Yinka as I do, you will not be surprised to hear that feedback and concerns have been exchanged with much love and grace. These will be reflected back to the organisers for further consideration. It remains for me to clarify a number of things.
Firstly, it is important to recognize that this has arisen from a grass-roots initiative of friends from many different churches. Baptists Together is very definitely a movement that seeks to enable voices and action in the public sphere and is completely committed to sharing God’s heart for justice and righteousness. Baptists involved in this initiative are clear that they are acting in their personal capacity and it is much wider than a “Baptist” event. It is clear, however, that the speed of unfolding events and the informal nature of this initiative has unintentionally caused misunderstandings both within Baptists Together and with colleagues from other churches and streams.
Secondly, whilst fully supporting the desire to call the government to action about injustice, Baptists Together, as a group of charities, could not encourage others to be part of this planned protest in ways which breached Government guidelines. We would like to actively encourage our members to engage with the aims of this protest by taking appropriate action to highlight racial injustice and to call for the implementation of recommendations from Government reports.
Thirdly, I have been assured by the organisers that any protest will be done in liaison with the Police and in a Covid safe way and that anyone who is concerned about the risk to their health, or the health of others, or the NHS are being asked NOT to attend.
Fourthly, I believe that we need to hold two risks in tension here without devaluing either. On the one hand we need to act wisely in a pandemic, on the other hand we cannot ignore the real historic and immediate impact of racial injustice in the lives of many right now.
Please continue to pray with me and Yinka in all of this that God’s Kingdom will come more fully among us as we seek to be faithful in following Christ in these days.
General Secretary of The Baptist Union of Great Britain
29 June 2020
1 The Core Leadership Team (CLT) is an expression of covenant and interdependence for us as Baptists. It draws together many of those offering leadership across our Movement (Regional Team Leaders, College Principals, Specialist Team Leaders, President, Treasurer, General Secretary, the Moderators of Council and the Trustee Board, together with a leader from each of our current priority areas) and its purpose is to perceive what God is doing, to encourage flourishing local churches and to model together what it means to be a Kingdom Movement.
CLT is a new team that has been created recently in place of the Baptist Steering Group and is part of our exploring of a 'dual operating' approach for Baptists Together.