Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: 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
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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