The urban explosion of black majority churches : their origin, growth, distinctives and contribution to British Christianity / by Babatunde Aderemi Adedibu

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Adedibu, Babatunde Aderemi (2010)
  • Subject: Black Majority Churches | African | Caribbean | Culture | Ecclesiology | Britain | Migration | Missiology | Contextualization | Pentecostalism

British church history in the last sixty years is best described as a “coat of many colours”. This image is appropriate because of the growth and proliferation of Black Majority Churches in urban areas of the British Isles. The advent of these churches has contributed to the prevailing pluralistic theological landscape. This thesis aims to evaluate the current status of Black Majority Churches with respect to their origin, growth, distinctives and contributions to British Christianity. Historiographical research methods are utilised in this study, including a review of historical publications on Britain’s Black Majority Churches and evaluation of their liturgical practices, preaching styles, common ethos, training standards and generally accepted doctrinal statements. Hitherto, the general consensus amongst Black British theologians was that the Black Majority Churches originated in the Windrush migration era, beginning in 1948. However, this era is more appropriately seen as one of expansion, rather than the foundation, of Black Majority Churches. The foundation stone for the growth and proliferation of these churches had been laid with the establishment of Sumner Chapel, Peckham, in 1906 by a Ghanaian, Pastor Brem Wilson. Further impetus was given to this initiative with the emergence of the African Church Mission in 1931, led by a Nigerian, Rev Daniel Ekarte. The growth of these churches in urban areas was greatly accentuated during the Windrush dispensation, with the emergence of West Indian churches, which evolved not only as a result of racism but in order to meet the authentic social, cultural and religious needs of Africans and Caribbeans in Britain. The theological flavours of these churches are similar to those of global Pentecostalism, but are modulated by African and Caribbean cosmologies. Alongside their pneumacentric, experiential approach, there exists a strong resonance with the American Pentecostal “health and wealth” ideology. The socio-cultural and religious importance of these churches during the acculturation of migrants in Britain is pivotal, but at times these churches also limit the process of acculturation because of their minimal social interaction with the wider British communities. The political pragmatism of Black-led Churches is gradually evolving and is in sharp contrast to the political ideology of the Black Movement of America. The active involvement of various Black-led Church leaders, community groups and parachurch organizations is gradually shaping the political activities of Black Majority Churches. The missiological praxis of these churches seems suspect because many are “migrant sanctuaries”. The limitations are inherently due to a lack of retrospection on the missional tools of these churches and a certain disregard of the British context. The role and functionalities of these churches in terms of social and political relevance is gradually unfolding. The future relevance of these churches is totally dependent on proactive initiatives such as the planting of missional churches, development of articulate leadership, theological training and engagement with British culture. PhD (Missiology), North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, in association with Greenwich School of Theology, UK, 2011
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