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Church to appoint bishop for BAME communities

WELCOME: Bishop of Woolwich Woyin Karowei Dorgu

THE CHURCH of England has unveiled plans to appoint a new bishop with the aim of connecting with black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

The move has been prompted by concerns that the church is viewed as too “quintessentially English” – although last month, in a move welcomed by many, the Nigerian-born Bishop of Woolwich, Woyin Karowei Dorgu, became the first black bishop to be appointed by the church in 20 years.

According to the Bishop of Leicester Martyn Snow, the new Bishop of Loughborough will be based in the Diocese of Leicester and will have the specific task of ensuring greater representation and engagement of BAME Christians and building relationships with other faith communities.

The post will be filled later this year following the retirement of the current Assistant Bishop of Leicester, Christopher Boyle, in May. As well as being the first new Church of England post created since 1987, it is also the first Church of England post to have a focus on diversity and inclusion, with the aim of engaging BAME Christians and ensuring that congregations reflect “cultural changes” in the area.

Leicester has a population which is almost 50 per cent non-white and 37 per cent Asian.
Bishop Snow told the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, in February that of 100 churches in Leicester which had a majority black and ethnic minority congregation, just three were Anglican.

He said: “If we truly want to be inclusive of all who live in our parishes, then we have to heed the cultural changes and challenges within our cities.” Speaking to The Guardian, Bishop Snow said that the Church of England was “quintessentially English” and needed to be more inclusive to- wards other communities.

He said: “In the 1950s and '60s, when immigrants came from the Caribbean and elsewhere, they did not get a warm welcome in the CofE. We have to hold our hands up to that. They went off to set up other churches, and we’re now facing the legacy.”

SUPPORT

The proposal received support from the Synod, and the Queen’s permission will now be sought.
Recent years have seen the Church of England looking at ways to broaden its reach. There have been efforts to attract younger and more diverse congregations amid concerns about declining attendance numbers and a lack of diversity among its clergy.

Official Church of England figures revealed that just 3.4 per cent of clergy were non-white in 2015, a figure which has remained the same since 2012. Just 1.2 per cent of Anglican clergy were black African or Caribbean.

In stark contrast, membership of non-Church of England Christian denominations has been increasing in areas where there are sizeable minority communities. Figures from researcher the Brierley Consultancy show, for example, that Nigerian church The Redeemed Christian Church of God grew by 64 per cent between 2008 and 2013, and smaller Pentecostal churches grew by 23 per cent.

The Church of England shrank from 1.44 million to 1.36 million members during the same period, a five per cent decline.

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