Volume 10 - Issue 2

Issues for the church in a multi-racial society

By John Root

Over the past forty years Britain has become a multi-racial society.1 Insularity has often blinded British people from seeing how far this has been part of a much wider ‘south-north’ pattern of migration, with the old industrial centres of north-west Europe and North America needing to draw in low-paid labour from much poorer areas. Thus alongside of migration from the Caribbean and Indian sub-continent to Britain, there has been migration to France from North Africa and the West Indies, to Belgium from central Africa, to the Netherlands from the East Indies, to Germany from Turkey, to Canada from the Caribbean, and to the richer north from the poorer south in the United States and Italy. The earlier pattern of the metropolitan European powers administering their colonies for their own economic benefit was thus superseded by the importation of labour, often from those colonies, to maintain industrial profitability. In turn that pattern of drawing in labour has been now superseded, over the past two decades, by the exportation of capital to a new periphery of low cost industrial centres (especially in the Far East and Latin America), with growing unemployment in the old industrial areas, not least amongst those who migrated in a few decades earlier.

Britain, then, represents one particular pattern of a multi-racial society, which can be set alongside other patterns that have developed through different historical circumstances—either by conquest (as in the Americas), by colonization (as in southern Africa), or by commercial enclaves (as in South-East Asia or East Africa). This article will look at the issues raised for Christian faith and behaviour by Britain’s pattern of becoming a multi-racial society. Hopefully it will have considerable relevance for countries with a similar history, but less relevance for those with a different kind of historical experience. In approaching these issues we are reminded that Scripture also comes from societies that were well aware of the ethnic diversity of their world, yet whose situation (both for Israel in the Old Testament, and for the church in the New) had a quite different configuration to our own. Thus whilst Scripture certainly relates to questions of ‘race’, our questions by and large are not the same as the ones they faced.

What is ‘race’?

The first question raised by ‘race’ in societies such as Britain today is simply defining what it is we talk about when we talk about ‘race’. An inaccurate understanding of what is at stake is bound to lead to ineffective or even harmful responses. As it has been used in the past forty years race has tended to be identified with colour—‘race relations’ has been concerned with how people of different skin-colours relate to one another. One may well ask ‘Why?’. If people choose to regard someone’s colour as important, then to some degree it becomes so, but with the difficult consequence that even by attending to what others wrongly consider important—even to rebut them—one focuses attention on that issue.2 In fact colour has taken on importance in the minds of many because it has been seen as indicating a genetic make-up, leading to ‘scientific’ differences in matters such as temperament, character, sexuality or intelligence. The Jamaican writer, Joyce Gladwell, records the shattering effect on her of reading the 1910–11 Encyclopaedia Britannica’s entry on ‘the negro’:

The negro in certain … characteristics … would appear to stand on a lower evolutionary plane than the white man, and to be more closely related to the highest anthropoids.… The arrest or even deterioration in mental development is no doubt very largely due to the fact that after puberty sexual matters take the first place in the negro’s life and thoughts.… The mental constitution of the negro is very similar to that of a child, normally good-natured and cheerful, but subject to sudden fits of emotion and passion during which he is capable of performing acts of singular atrocity.3

Such statements are now generally in disrepute; the only remaining disputed area is that of intelligence, where the impossibility of screening out socially-given variables, such as the mother’s health and well-being, the child’s physical, mental and emotional experience in early years, and the projections that society places on a child because of its colour, make comparison and assessment of objective differences meaningless.

This attempt to compare and identify hard and fast differences between races is alien to the biblical understanding of peoples, where physical differences may exist, but are not given significance or seen to predicate other differences.4 The consistent testimony of Scripture is that the human race is one race—created as a unity by God (Acts 17:26), and all alike intended to be the recipients of the gospel (Mt. 28:19). To a society too easily disposed to make colour important, it is also worth noting that some contemporary societies take colour less seriously than Western Europe does.

Race and culture

Does this mean therefore that the Christian response should be to disregard differences of colour and appearance totally? In reality, most people’s experience is that colour does provide a rough and ready indication of other differences; for example it is far more reliable to presume that a brown-skinned Indian in Britain will be of another world faith than a black-skinned West Indian or white-skinned Briton. Such differences, however, are based on the loose and imprecise guidelines of ‘culture’, not the rigid determinants of genetics; the Indian may be a Christian, the West Indian prefer Bach, the Briton like curry. Culture is a much more complex phenomenon than ‘race’, as narrowly denned in terms of colour. As well as individuals not conforming to their cultural norms, culture also develops (the broad culture of young blacks in Britain differs markedly from that of their parents) and knows of distinctions that have nothing to do with colour. Australians often feel culturally different from Britons, Jamaicans from Barbadians, Gujeratis from Bengalis, and so on and so on. For most people what matters to them about their culture is fairly specific details of family life, food, music, art, values, religion and the like which are far more finely drawn than a crudely simplified canvas of ‘racial differences’ will allow.

Culture—both culture shared, and at times culture borrowed, or held in distinction to other cultures—provides much of the meaning and richness of everyday human life. Despite its potential for idolatry and bringing people into bondage, it can also be a part of God’s good gifts to us. Christians do well to take it seriously. It is not without significance that in the Acts of the Apostles Luke shows a sharp eye for all those minutiae of culture that made up the variegated world of the Roman Empire.5 He frequently records where people come from, or their ethnic background, or the political and social particularities of places. How sad the contrast with modern Britain where people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and places (including Britain itself) are lumped together with the hypocritically misleading term of ‘immigrant’ because of their skin colour. Recognizing a person’s particular culture is to affirm their dignity and humanity. Thus whilst Paul recognized that an undue degree of cultural pride formed an idolatrous barrier to the gospel (Phil. 3:5–11), he also saw that a Christian who would witness effectively in a multi-cultural world needed to be at ease in crossing cultural boundaries (1 Cor. 9:19–23). At the same time he owned a solidarity with his own fellow Jews which seems to go further than that of religious identity (Rom. 9:1–5); they are ‘my brothers, those of my own race’.

There is a powerful temptation, however, for Christians to let their understanding of what race means stay at the level of culture. This encourages a ‘live and let live’ attitude that creates few problems for the comfortable, though it can encourage a condemning attitude towards those whose experience of a multi-racial society is more painful. Most seriously, it is held in blindness to the social realities of multi-racial Britain and similar societies.

In reviewing a book which describes in detail the variety of cultures of those who have migrated to Britain (Between Two Cultures, edited by James Watson), the sociologist Daniel Lawrence writes:

I am concerned that (these essays) may encourage some of those who read them to continue to think of the relations between the indigenous population and ethnic minorities solely or primarily in cultural terms. Many decision makers have found this valuable but, in itself, quite inadequate perspective, congenial, not least because it tends to direct attention away from crucial political questions concerning the role which ethnic minorities occupy in our economic, political and social structures.6

The experience of many of us who have ministered in multi-racial areas for some time would confirm these comments: beginning from being primarily concerned with how different cultures could belong together in one church, we have found that the total situation could only be understood through recognizing ‘the role which ethnic minorities occupy in our economic, political and social structures’.

Race and power

Britain has not become multi-racial because of the free intermingling of equal people of different races (a false perspective which can be more easily acquired in student circles, where there generally is much greater equality between students of different races). As was stated earlier the case was rather that the powerful, prosperous, usually imperial ‘host’ societies of Europe and North America drew in a labour force from impoverished, economically weak, usually colonized countries with a crying problem of unemployment. The consequence was that immigrants to Britain in the 1950s and early 1960s came to do poorly paid jobs, especially in transport, hospitals and heavy industry, and not surprisingly settled in the areas of poorest housing, schools and other facilities.

This initial disadvantage was sustained and intensified by the prejudices already existing in British society. Britain’s imperial past had created its own rationale of racial superiority, a rationale that had permeated the whole society. It has been perpetuated particularly through the assumptions of a ‘Euro-centric’ education which has focused on white achievements (‘discovering’ Victoria Falls), and neglected white exploitation, for example in the tendency of text-books to attend to the abolition of slavery whilst neglecting the appalling brutality in its centuries-long imposition. These same assumptions are still popularly communicated through the media, which have systematically neglected both the suffering experienced by black people and their positive contributions to British society, whilst yet focusing on them as ‘problems’. Thus the press has been very largely silent on the racial violence experienced by black people, while giving front-page and misleading coverage to ‘black street crime’. Again, while the past two decades have seen a net outflow of migration from Britain, ‘immigration’ (which usually refers only to that minority of immigrants who are non-white) has been portrayed as a cause of overcrowding and in need of restriction. In view of the subsequent violence in Britain, the words written by Charles Husband in 1975 were sadly prophetic:

If the news media provide a definition of events in Britain in which the black population are presented as a threat whilst the realities of racial discrimination and the distribution of the vital social resources of housing, education, employment and welfare receive only superficial coverage, then we should not be complacent about the future welfare of what is already a multi-racial society7

This understanding of how racism is diffused in our society is vital, for without it the phenomenon will be misunderstood. Racial prejudice is then wrongly seen as the wilful and evil choice of individuals who behave in an offensive and irrational way, with criticism limited to extreme groups (such as the ‘National Front’). By contrast, recognizing the way that the mentality of the whole society is permeated by racist assumptions suggests that overt and militant racism is merely the tip of an iceberg upheld by more generalized attitudes and behaviour throughout the whole society. Racism is not simply a garment that people willingly put on, it is also an aroma that we unwittingly acquire. Simply to condemn extreme groups is ineffective; sin (as ever) is more subtle, complex and deep rooted than that.

Assumptions of superiority and exclusiveness towards non-whites generates behaviour that has far-reaching effects—there is reluctance or fear about the consequences of promoting a black person to responsibility; teachers have low expectations of black children in the class-room; neighbours are suspicious or uneasy if non-whites move next door to them. In a myriad of small ways what is inside people’s minds comes to be reflected in the sort of behaviour evidenced in society, and patterns of racism are built up. The evidence that black people are so discriminated against is clear and well-documented.8 The upshot is a continuing correlation between being non-white and being powerless and poor. Just as in a medical diagnosis a barium meal is used to draw attention to already present weaknesses in a person’s body, so in society the very visible presence of disadvantaged black people in particular areas has the effect of drawing attention to already longstanding injustices. Certainly such deprivation is not limited to black people, but black people do suffer unequally in British society from pressures that can contain them.

There is a wealth of theological material that applies to this understanding that ‘race’ is concerned with the way that distinctive ethnic groups are kept in positions of powerlessness and deprivation: there is the understanding of the Exodus as God’s work in liberating an oppressed and trapped people; there are those elements in the law which sought to contain disparity between rich and poor, the prophetic teaching that God’s concern for justice in society took priority over religious matters, Jesus’ ushering in of a kingdom that means ‘good news for the poor’, and the apostolic church’s efforts to promote practical equality of possessions and power amongst its members. All these speak powerfully to a situation where ‘race’ is very much bound up with the imposition and continuance of unequal relationships.9

Race and the church

Multi-racial societies such as Britain, therefore, point us to two separable issues. One is the co-existence of different cultures, where skin colour can be but is not always a pointer to such differences. The other factor is those differences in power, wealth and opportunity which can be summarized as ‘class’. Balancing the importance of these two factors in a multi-racial society is not always easy. As we have seen, for Christians whose own background is with the advantaged, questions of culture tend to be easier to handle, so that a multi-racial society is largely seen as raising issues of how different cultures relate, and how Christians operate across those cultural differences. But to ignore questions of power and social class is to ignore what is at the core of what it means to be black for many people in Britain.

How should the church face these issues? The New Testament church transcended all known human barriers. This was seen to be a necessary consequence of what it meant ‘to put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there can not be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all’ (Col. 3:10, 11). Thus in the new people that God has made differences of religious background, culture and social class no longer count. This present reality in the church points forward to the eschatological worship in heaven of ‘a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb’ (Rev. 7:9).

It would be quite alien to the relation of theology to behaviour in the New Testament to see this as something the first Christians could believe but not practise; rather we read of them taking difficult and costly steps to ensure their common life reflected these convictions. Thus the ‘cross-cultural’ conflict between Hellenists and Hebrews in Acts 6 over the distribution of food to widows was resolved, not by agreeing to follow separate paths, but by meeting the complaints of those who saw themselves as disadvantaged (the Hellenists) through appointing seven deacons to oversee the food distribution—significantly men who by their names all seem to have come from the disadvantaged group. In the same spirit, Paul, when faced with a residual sense of ethnic and religious superiority in Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles, faced the issue head on, and upbraided Peter’s insincerity over a divisiveness that was seen as denying the ‘truth of the gospel’ (Gal. 2:11–16).

This short theological summary10 should indicate the impermissibility of the ‘homogeneous unit principle’ that sometimes appears in Church Growth theories. New Testament Christians were not prepared to separate ethnically in the hope of pushing on faster with preaching ‘the gospel’; rather they saw that failure to achieve a practically expressed integration of believers quite simply destroyed the gospel they were commissioned to preach.

Given this clear witness of the New Testament, the failure of the church in Britain today to be robustly multi-racial is profoundly disturbing. In an early study of West Indian Migrants and the London Churches (1962) Clifford Hill claimed that 66% of West Indian migrants had belonged to ‘mainstream’ churches in their homelands, compared with 4% in Britain. On one level, of course, this was a form of integration—a conforming to the secularized habits of their English neighbours; and for many migrants the disappointing emptiness and lack of fervour of the churches, alongside the pressures of over-time and Sunday working, were sufficient to cause them to leave off church-going. But many West Indians can also speak of the positive rejection they received in British churches, either being ignored or pointedly asked not to come back again.

Such overt racism hardly exists now, and its damage has been done; but we have seen that such racism is by no means the main enemy of black people in Britain. In various other ways non-acceptance of blacks is perpetuated in the churches. This may take the form of avoiding ordinary fellowship with black church members—such as ignoring them in the street, refusing or not giving hospitality; so that in a number of ways white Christians can put their ethnic identity and the prejudices of their peers above their oneness in Christ’s new, multi-racial humanity. Less consciously it may take the form of undervaluing the abilities and contributions of non-white church members. Such attitudes are soon discerned by black church members, even if they rarely say so to white church members; with the result that what can seem a disappointing unresponsiveness by blacks to the well-meaning efforts of a church is lamented, but the reasons for it never exposed. Church members, in fact, will rarely differ from the prevailing assumptions of their own society unless specific steps are taken to help them see the effects of unconscious racism, and this sort of ‘Racism Awareness’ training is still in its infancy in the churches.11

Thus the burgeoning energies of black Christians have been increasingly exercised in churches with predominantly black leadership and membership. The reasons for this growth are manifold, and it would be wrong to see prejudice in the ‘mainstream’ churches as the exclusive cause; nonetheless overt rejection and unconsciously racist assumptions have played their part, alongside of the ways in which a ‘church of the educated’ excludes those without formal education.12

To see the emergence of black-led churches as simply ‘cultural’, as many white clergy do (that is, a preference for ‘their’ way of doing things in terms of music, preaching, organization, moral standards and the like), is to side-step a more substantial issue: black churches are in large part a response to the experience of racism and oppression in British society, and they provide one way of handling the ‘pressure’ that unites black people. Thus mainstream leaders should seek neither to undermine them, nor simply to tolerate them as ‘separate but equal’ manifestations of Christianity, but rather seek to remove those things in society and church that make it so hard for Christians of different races to have fellowship together. On the principle of working from where we are, it is important to develop local, national and international links between the different racial/cultural/denominational traditions: in fellowship between leaders, in common worship and celebration, in combining in evangelism and social concern. But these should be seen as interim measures whilst seeking the further goal that every local church should reflect the ethnic variety of its locality. This means all churches will need a measure of cultural flexibility; whilst the ‘mainstream’ churches, which are far more often located amongst the powerful, will also need to hear and own the experience and voice of the powerless.

As regards the activities of a local church in a multi-racial area, the temptation is always to seek to be positive, in terms of promoting integration, whilst sidestepping the negative, that is the need actually to eradicate racism amongst its own members: and yet which will, if left unattended to, always frustrate positive measures to build a truly multi-racial church—that is, one which is multi-racial not only in attendance, but in leadership and the style of its activities as well.

That is not to decry the value of the positive: that is of a Christian fellowship that rejoices in its diversity, and where people of different races together offer themselves to God, love each other, and increasingly share their lives. It is my experience that such unity in the Spirit grows best when the church simply does what it is supposed to do—prays, worships, hears God’s Word, and extends open-hearted love to all its neighbours. Gradually God draws together people of different backgrounds who are hungry for the spiritual reality found in Christ. By contrast focusing on people’s ethnic identity rather than their common humanity, can lead to artificiality, awkwardness and self-consciousness. Occasional exceptions, when one particular group celebrate their ethnic identity, may have their place, but probably ought not to be institutionalized, except where a major dividing line occurs, such as language or background in another faith. Thus the tendency to be too concerned about techniques of drawing in ethnic minorities ought to be resisted: occasional practical hints about what churches may find effective (like having Watchnight services in areas of West Indian settlement) has some value, but preoccupation with technique can lead to a manipulative attitude.

More important is for church members, and leaders in particular, to have that cosmopolitan concern about the whole world and its peoples that we have already noticed characterized Luke’s writing. Lack of curiosity and regard for other cultures is a form of racism. Only as we immerse ourselves in the world of others do we relate freely and easily. Clifford Hill’s judgment on the church’s failure to hold the loyalty of the first generation of West Indian migrants, that it could only be reversed by ministers who were at home with the traditions, family patterns and outlook of West Indian migrants, still has much to teach the church today.

In building a multi-racial congregation, where people of different races offer their personalities and share their gifts, much is being done to overcome racism. The negative, often media-induced stereotype, that the mixing of different races is a recipe for violent conflict, can be gloriously contradicted by a racially mixed fellowship of Christians. White superiority or condescension is muted by appreciating the contribution of black Christians; people cease to be ‘immigrants’ or problems and take on Christian names; the experiences and sufferings of others start to be taken seriously.

But alongside of all this must go the demanding work of removing the negative forces against integration—of helping white church members see and repent of their own attitudes of superiority, exclusion and unconcern. As with any encounter with sin, this can arouse resistance and hard-heartedness in people. Love, prayer, a clear understanding of God’s word, the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and a growing trust that we are sinners made right with God through Christ alone, are the means by which people are helped to turn away from prejudiced attitudes and behaviour. Amongst other enemies, a particular danger evangelical Christians need to guard against is the complacency that because we are born again we will not be prejudiced—we need to see that because of its subtlety and because of the pressures of our world, racism will be the norm for white Christians unless they work hard at recognizing and countering it.

Church and society

Given that the church’s first responsibility is to set its own house in order in promoting just race relationships, what responsibility does it have to the whole society, and how should it discharge it? Wrong attitudes in society inevitably seep into the church and whilst as far as possible they should be resisted, there is rarely a clear demarcation between church and world; inevitably and rightly so if the church is to encourage seekers and build up those who are immature in their faith. Thus racism in the church will be reduced in part only by reducing it in society; conversely if society experiences tensions between different racial groups, this is likely to be reflected by tensions and failure to relate in the church.

However it is not good order (in the sense of good race relationships) in the church that we should be primarily concerned about. The church is to be salt and light in the world: part of its stewardship is to set before men the blessing that comes from following the ways of God’s kingdom. It is arrogant for Christians to talk as though nothing good can be achieved in the world outside of the saving grace of Christ; since they are made in the image of God, people without Christ, though fallen, are nonetheless able to do good. It is an observable fact that people who are not Christians can show a higher commitment to racial justice and harmony than those who are; so we do not waste our time in calling upon all men to seek these things, even if we also preach that in Christ our capacity to love and care is immeasurably deepened.

The tragic consequences of a theology which makes a rigid distinction between the church and the world in this respect can be seen in Richard Gutteridge’s study of the German churches’ feeble and ineffective response to Nazi persecution of the Jews, Open Thy Mouth for the Dumb. He summarizes the pietistic reaction to the ‘Crystal Night’ of 9 November, 1938, as follows:

Such warfare was necessary, and it could well lead to the liquidation of the Jews. It was inadmissible to judge or condemn it by reference to the Word, or to the spirit or the thought of the New Testament, since New Testament standards were valid only for the regulating of relationships between believing Christians.13

How then, can Christians work for a more just multi-racial society? One way is by communicating their knowledge of what is happening in their society. Referring to the urban riots in Britain in the summer of 1981, one writer has spoken of the ‘comprehension gap’14 that they revealed between the majority of British people and the media on the one hand, and those who actually live in inner urban areas on the other. The churches have members across this gap. It is vitally important that they communicate with each other, and in particular that the voice of those who suffer is heard and relayed by the church. The churches have their own communication networks, and often have access to national, secular networks; it is important that they are courageous in using these to relay experiences of life that many will find uncomfortable and prefer not to listen to.

Listening and communicating will lead to acting. There is a right modesty which should prevent Christians being too sure that they have got the definitive answer to a particular social question, and there needs to be a humble readiness to take seriously other points of view, whether coming from inside or outside the church; but as with any other moral question, an agnosticism which never leads to a principled stand is to deny the concreteness of Christian morality, and ignores the urgency of a situation which involves so much human suffering. Just as the complexity and variety of opinions about matters of sexual morality has not inhibited Christians from making specific moral stands, so too on questions of racial justice Christians must be prepared to commit themselves publicly to positions which will not command universal assent. Thus the Nationality Act introduced by the British government in 1981 was widely opposed by Christians as imposing discrimination against non-whites in an unjust way. Similarly current government proposals which diminish the resources of inner urban boroughs to meet educational and other needs, which surely intensify the disadvantages of ethnic minorities and others, ought to be opposed.

These issues need to be tabled as legitimate questions of Christian concern, just as abortion or pornography are. How they are dealt with will vary—by specific Christian pressure groups supported by individual Christians; by congregations or denominations discussing issues and publicly advocating policies; by Christians allying themselves with more broadly based groups. No one model of Christian social action should be applied exclusively.15

Race and other faiths

One major question a multi-racial society often raises for Christians is when ethnic differences broadly coincide with religious differences; in many parts of western Europe over the past forty years people of other major world faiths have migrated into traditionally ‘Christian’ countries. This is not the place to look in general at interfaith relationships, but the understanding of race put forward in this article does have important implications for understanding these relationships.

We are warned against the false innocence that neglects the social situation in which a relationship with a person of another faith takes place. Such a relationship comes at the end of a long history, the effects of which need to be recognized for both sides. If the evangelist is white he needs a humbled awareness of his own complicity in racism, an awarenes that can become more acute as we listen to what the other has to say. The New Testament norm was for the weak to evangelize the strong (1 Cor. 1:18–2:8); so often we are working the other way round. We will need to be aware of the way we are perceived as the representatives of a more powerful and wealthy culture and one that has often been arrogant and overbearing. Until that is worked through there may well be a hidden response of subservience and resentment. Part of this process will involve sharing in God’s indignation against all injustices, and letting the other person see this aspect of the Christian faith. We talk with the ‘sinned against’ as well as the sinner, and such preaching only has integrity if it comes out of a deep-seated desire to put wrongs right.

A white person will also need to recognize how far racism may have clouded his perception of the other person’s faith, along with other aspects of his life and culture. For example, faced with the resurgence of Islam, the popular reaction in the West has been to portray it in the most unfavourable light, seeking out the worst examples, which can malign what Islam means to many of its believers. There is a sharp contrast between the picture of fanaticism, arrogance and violence that is depicted through the secular and Christian media and the reality of meeting the friendly, open-minded and courteous imam who lives down our road.

It is unfortunate that the church in Britain has too easily been caught in a dilemma between a ‘hit and run’ evangelism that is seen as threatening and intrusive and a social concern that has been embarrassed about pressing Christ’s call for personal discipleship. Such a dilemma can only be avoided by an evangelism which is an integral part of long-term commitment to a multi-racial area. Short-term visits to preach or distribute literature, especially if with only shallow roots in a local church, run the risk of reinforcing the impression that Christianity is alien and is bound to detach people from their culture. Only over time can relationships be built, commitment to working for racial justice be established, and confidence built up. It is in this context of whole-hearted commitment to sharing the life and the experience of a multi-racial area that we can bring life and reconciliation to others.

1 In saying this I am aware that Britain was in many ways a multi-racial society for the preceding four centuries, with a substantial black presence; but (partly because it was largely male and not self-reproducing) one with a different relationship with British society. See James Walvin Black and White: the Negro in English Society, 1555–1945 (1973).

2 A clear parallel is with the way protests against pornography also publicize it.

3 The quotation is taken from Brown Face, Big Master (IVP, 1969), pp. 53–54, referring to the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, pp. 344–348. It is interesting to contrast this with statements produced by UNESCO-sponsored conferences of academics on the subject of race and racial prejudice, both in Paris, September 1967, and Athens, April 1981. The former states: ‘Current biological knowledge does not permit us to impute cultural achievements to differences in genetic potential.’

4 Nu. 12:7; Ct. 1:5; Je. 38:7; Acts 8:27; 13:1 all most likely refer to people who were dark or black-skinned, usually with little or no attention given to the fact.

5 Acts 4:36; 6:1; 8:27; 10:1; 11:20; 16:14; 18:2; 18:24; 20:4.

6 In New Community, vol. 6, nos. 1 & 2, p. 168.

7 In White Media and Black Britain ed. Charles Husband (Arrow, 1975), p. 15.

8 There have been many such surveys in local areas; David J. Smith’s Racial Disadvantage in Britain: the PEP Report (Penguin, 1977).

9 Ex. 3:7–9; Lv. 25:13–17, 35–38; Is. 1:10–20; Amos 5:21–24; Lk. 1:46–55; 4:16–21; 2 Cor. 8:13–15.

10 For a fuller account, see David Bronnert’s chapter on ‘Culture’ in Obeying Christ in a Changing World, vol. 3, ed. John Stott and Bruce Kaye.

11 For further details: Ecumenical Unit for Racism Awareness Programmes, 56 Camberwell Rd, London SE5.

12 As happened in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century England, with the exclusion of working-class evangelical nonconformity from the Church of England. See in particular Religion and Society in Industrial England: Church, Chapel and Social Change 1740–1914 by Alan D. Gilbert (Longmans, 1976).

13 In Richard Gutteridge, Open Thy Mouth for the Dumb: The German Evangelical Church and the Jews, 1879–1950 (Blackwell, 1976), p. 190.

14 Kenneth Leach writing about the 1981 urban riots in Britain.

15 The Evangelical Race Relations Group in Britain seeks to be a forum for Christians working at these issues. Their address is 12 Bell Barn Shopping Centre, Cregoe St, Birmingham B15 2DZ.

John Root

John Root is vicar of a London church and a former chairman of the Evangelical Race Relations Group.