Being Built Together
Racial Justice Unit Conference, October 2023
Written by Revd Daniel Tsoi – Curate at St Nic’s Nottingham
“Being Built Together” was the first conference hosted by the Church of England’s Racial Justice Unit, which happened on 12th and 13th October, soon after our Diocesan Conference, at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick. Revd Edith Iheama (curate at St Anne’s Worksop), Fola Sowunmi (LLM at St Stephen’s with St Paul’s, Hyson Green) and I attended the conference with more than 130 clergy and lay ministers from Global Majority Heritage (GMH) backgrounds of different dioceses. Although the two conferences followed very soon after each other, we were excited by the opportunity to network with others passionate about racial justice within the Church of England.
The Racial Justice Unit was established as a response to the Church of England Report on Racial Justice – “From Lament to Action”, and the conference coincided with Black History Month. The conference allowed discussions of various issues about GMH participation within the Church – reports from different ethnic networks, youth work, representation at different levels, ministry progression, and GMH clergy wellbeing. I found the discussion on intercultural churches particularly helpful in my context as a curate at St Nic’s Nottingham. Edith saw the conference as a good opportunity for fellowship with other ministers from GMH backgrounds at different levels in the Church of England, reducing the sense of isolation that can often happen to GMH individuals within the Church. Fola also found the space to meet together encouraging and it helped her to see her uniqueness in the Church as an individual with a GMH background.
The director of the Racial Justice Unit, Revd Guy Hewitt, reminded us about racial justice: “Our commitment as a Church to racial justice isn’t simply to reflect demographic trends, or to be socially responsive in the pursuit of equality, diversity and inclusion, both of which are commendable goals. But rather, we choose to stand against the evil and pernicious sin of racism. The racial justice mandate flows not from identity politics, but from our identity in Christ, reflecting the Image of God by being united in him.” In the final Holy Communion, people of different nations, tribes and languages gathered to participate in the feast – it was as if the image of Revelation 7:9 happened right there before us. We long to see this becoming the norm within our diocese and the Church of England.