“we should think long and hard before we endorse immigration policies that will only put the cohesion of our public services at risk.” – Bishop of Southwark, 6/7/15
On Monday the 6th July 2015 the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke in a debate about the contribution of Britain’s ethnic minorities to faith communities and public institutions in the United Kingdom. The Bishop spoke about the role played by the Church, his congregations in Southwark and the public debate on immigration.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for securing this debate, as it enables us rightly to recognise the vast contribution made by Britain’s ethnic minorities both in public service and in faith communities. It was good to hear the noble Baroness speak of south London. In view of the time constraints I wish to make a brief observation and a broader comment.
In my own diocese of Southwark, comprising most of the south London boroughs, there has been considerable numerical growth in our ethnic-minority population over many years. In the diocese of Southwark this means up to 25% of worshipping Anglicans are from such communities and I rejoice in the diversity this brings to our churches, a growing number of which are now black-majority.
This is something of which we are rightly proud and it is good to see a growing confidence in people from our minority-ethnic communities, which contributes much to church growth. I also note that many of our inner urban churches also provide hospitality to Pentecostal black-led churches. However, there is much to do to further encourage those in ethnic-minority communities to take a place in leadership and governance roles. Indeed, I have recently instigated a review of the diocese’s work in this area, which is leading to a fresh vision of ensuring that those in our churches find their way into leadership and ordained roles.
At a national level the Church of England’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns is working hard to encourage and foster black and Asian minority-ethnic vocations, as well as developing senior leadership in the church.
What consistently strikes me and humbles me about the contribution of our ethnic-minority communities in the life of the church is that the faithfulness exhibited in worship follows through into the way lives are lived and service offered elsewhere. Indeed, many such worshippers also find their way into working in the public sector and our public institutions—often in healthcare of one form or another, or local government. This is a vocational response and a living out of faith. Certainly in south London, our minority-ethnic communities are increasingly the backbone of our NHS and public services. We need to pay attention to this–to recognise fully this contribution and the sobering reality of where we all would be without it.
The ongoing public discourse about immigration—which is rarely conducted in a fitting manner—must pay attention to this fact. Indeed we should think long and hard before we endorse immigration policies that will only put the cohesion of our public services at risk.
Our ethnic-minority communities have a valued and valuable place in our religious and public life. Both churches and public institutions continue to have much to learn but importantly, given the journey we have been on in recent years, something to teach about building communities that celebrate their diversity and are at ease with themselves. Such communities are something we should all strive for.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): [Extract]… I also welcome the commitment among many Christian groups to social action. This includes the black majority churches that do excellent work providing welfare services for the elderly and for ex-offenders. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to welcoming the first female Lords Spiritual in the autumn. I also commend the work of the Church of England’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns on the subject of diversity in church leadership and I warmly welcome the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark this evening….