“When you want to build an inclusive church first tackle racism. It is endemic like sin. Nobody is free from it.” These were the words of David Wise who built a truly inclusive church in Greenford, London over the past 23 years. There are 25 nationalities represented in this church. Yesterday’s visit to Greenford Baptist church in London was extremely inspiring and of course made me think a lot about my own church but also about the situation of the church in Europe these days.
In big numbers they come
There have probably never been as many immigrants to Europe as today. And there has probably never been as much fear and fear connected responses to this influx of foreigners into Europe. In the Old Testament time and again the people of God are called to care for the widows, the orphans and the foreigners. How this was done was like a measuring rod which got used to see if God’s people were on the right path. And taking the commands to love our neighbours as ourselves of the New Testament is actually setting the same standard. And it starts with very simple actions. Have you had an immigrant guest in your home in the past six months? In Switzerland 95% of the people with immigrant backgrounds have never been invited into a Swiss home. This is probably true in other European countries as well. What hinders us to just do it?
Many brothers and sisters
Among todays’ immigrants we find many brothers and sisters. However, because they are culturally different it needs a conscience effort to break down barriers, to connect and to start living out the multitude which praises God as painted before our eyes in Revelations. There are some great examples of churches out there where this is demonstrated in various ways. There is no one size fit all solution. Each situation is different. But there are some principles to adhere to and the most important seems to be to break down the inherent racism which shows itself in subtle ways. And this is a problem across the board including the immigrant churches.
Many fall through the cracks
One group which is especially vulnerable in this situation are the second generation immigrants. They want to belong to the culture they live in but they have also strong ties to their culture of origin. They often do not want to associate with their parent’s church (most of the time within their own ethnicity) and yet they have a hard time to find a good connection with the churches of their new nation. This means they give up faith. As an Evangelical Alliance this should be one of our top priorities. Connecting with immigrants, finding ways to be inclusive is THE important contribution which we can and should make as Evangelicals. Looking at the demographic change it is probably also fair to say that it is the future of Evangelicals in Europe.
An ongoing effort
There are various topics on the agenda of the Evangelical Alliance. But it seems to me that helping to build truly inclusive churches will be one of the top priorities in the years to come. And as I write this I wonder if it should be the topic of the General Assembly 2015 and maybe even our topic of the year. As Evangelical Alliances we are in a great positon to tackle this and to also live it among ourselves. I am looking forward to a lively and inspiring conversation in the months to come. Yours Thomas Bucher