LONDON – Delegates representing some of Britain’s largest Black-led churches have agreed a plan to radically change the relationship between the Black Church Movement in Britain and the British political process. Speakers at the meeting in London Tuesday 17 July 2012 included Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote, Reverend George Hargreaves of the Christian Party, and academic and documentary presenter Dr Robert Beckford.
Meeting under the aegis of CTE’s Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs, the group committed itself to write a Black Church Political Manifesto within six months – well ahead of the next General Elections – after engaging in a wide-ranging consultation process. The Manifesto will map the challenges faced by the Black community in Britain along with other disadvantaged urban dwellers, the actions the Black Church Movement itself will take, and the demands it will make in return for the votes of the Black Christian community.
Speaking at the meeting Dr Beckford said, [quote]The Black Church in Britain is bewitched by the curse of Colonial Christianity that has rendered it politically docile and un-prophetic. This demonic influence that discourages engagement with oppressive political structures that lead to more black people in prison than university must be exorcised. As well as being a plan for action this Manifesto will represent an apology by the Black Church in Britain to the Black Community for being politically silent for too long’.[/quote]
A second commitment is to partner with Operation Black Vote to launch a national Voter Registration Campaign. Simon Woolley, Director of OBV said, ‘Approximately 50% of African and Caribbean people in London are not registered to vote, while 50% of Black young people are unemployed. The Black Community in Britain must rise up and make its votes count because there are over 100 seats in this country where the Black Vote can determine who wins; and the Black Church has a pivotal role to play in changing the current situation’.
The meeting also called upon the Black Church and community to engage in political resistance where appropriate as well as ensuring they vote at elections, join political parties, run for local and national elected office as counsellors and MPs, seek to become JPs, school governors and chaplains, in greater numbers.
The call for the Black Church in Britain to become politically mobilised is expected to receive warm welcome around the country by politically minded members of Black Churches, especially second and third generation of African and Caribbean heritage Christians.
For media inquiries contact: Dr Joe Aldred, Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs, CTE
07775 632288, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Church and Political Mobilisation
Black Christian Political Action
The Christian Church, it has been said, was not designed for its own ends. In stead, as worshipping and missional communities of the people of God, the church exists in the world as its light and salt; an illuminating and redeeming agency. The Church’s prophetic presence has Old Testament antecedents as well; such as, inter alia, Prime Minister Joseph of Egypt and Moses speaking truth to power in the form of the Pharaoh. No surprise then that there is an expectation that today’s church rises to its intended raison d’être as speaker of truth to power, participator in shaping liberative and redemptive policies, pursuer of justice and peace. This eight-point plan then is a clarion call for the Black Church in Britain to assume a prophetic leadership role in the political arena for the benefit of the poor and oppressed and the flourishing of all. Political participation takes many forms and so what is suggested here is intended as a basis only upon which to build for the future. Each national and local church is encouraged to disseminate this plan and encourage action among its members, leaders and wider community.
1) Voter registration
You may be eligible to vote but unless you are registered to vote you cannot vote in local or general elections. A high percentage of Black voters are not registered to vote. This needs to change, and change now! Each individual over 18 years of age needs to ensure you complete a voter registration form which usually drops through your letter box from your County, City or Town Council – actually you are required by law to do so! Whenever you change address you should ensure you are registered to vote with your new voting administration. Contact them if in doubt. Only you can register yourself to vote, so sort it out today.
The right to vote is a privilege hard won that should never be wasted. Having registered to vote, be sure to vote every time the opportunity presents itself – it is your democratic right. Always consider prayerfully and rationally which candidate or party best matches your aspirations by studying their manifestos and questioning them in person, by letter or by other means of communication. Politicians should know that you will be voting, but your vote is not cheap and they will have to earn your mark against their name in the polling boothe. Whether your chosen candidate or party wins or loses, having voted for them you have a right to hold them to account for delivery of the policies you voted for.
3) Join a political party
Every political party has members who operate the party, contribute to shaping its policies, elect officials and choose those who represent it at elections. You should prayerfully consider joining a political party that matches your political philosophy and convictions. Having become a member of your chosen party you are eligible to participate in the machinery of party politics bringing to bear your faith-based beliefs upon the political process. Some prefer to operate independently of party politics and where that is a considered decision, that is fine too. However, many find that although there are certain constraints being a member of an existing party creates opportunities and structural support for political action.
4) Become a Councillor
Counties, cities, boroughs and towns elect counsellors to run them. Being a counsellor is an excellent way to serve the good of your community being part of the decision making process at local level. Many people of faith find this a good way to answer the vocational call upon their lives. This is also a good place to prepare for running for national political office. Having joined a political party, make your intentions to run for office known so you can receive the necessary advice and support. Existing and former counsellors can be a great source of mentoring. Don’t think this is for others, you can make a difference, so consider becoming a counsellor.
5) Become a Member of Parliament
The laws of this country are made, regulated and repealed by the houses of Parliament: the Lords and the Commons. More people of faith need to become Members of Parliament, and you could be the right person with a passion for righteousness to prevail in this nation. Being an MP calls for a high level of dedication and knowledge of people, politics and power. An organisation like Operation Black Vote can be of help in supporting your aspirations to become an MP.
6) Become a Justice of the Peace
The Justice system seeks to work for the benefit of all citizens. However, for the system to have the necessary corporate cultural competence, the individuals who dispense justice need to be a reflection of the make up of the people coming before them for trial and sentencing. More people of faith and a greater ethnic diversity need to be present among the cohort of JPs. If you have a passion justice and redemption, why not consider becoming a Justice of the Peace! You can start by contacting your local Justice Board’s office.
7) Become a School Governor
Education is about more than certificates, it is about shaping character. Schools therefore are an important pillar in our society and need the support of more people of faith as they seek to contribute to the character building of our children. Even if you don’t have children, or don’t have any in school you can still seek to become a governor to contribute to the well-being of your local school. Governors have key roles to play alongside teachers and parents in the way schools are run. To become a school governor, contact the school or local education authority.
8) Political Resistance
Not everything can be addressed by working through established systems and procedures. Some of the greatest achievements that have changed the world such as Civil Rights Movement in the USA and the dismantling of Apartheid in South Africa needed direct resistance action long before normal political action occurred. Christians need to ask where in the interest of justice can one alone or with others take a prophetic stand to make a change?
There are other ways in which Christians can contribute to the religious, civic and political well-being of society such as by becoming chaplains in hospitals, prisons, education and industry; prison visitors and by volunteering in various capacities. Each person, group or organisation needs to find their own mission and pursue it in the power of God and in response to the call of Jesus to be salt and light in the world the church has been placed.
Bishop Dr Joe Aldred
Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs: email@example.com