Tears Shed For Racism 65 Years Ago

Tears were shed during a service where a church minister publicly apologised to a member of the Windrush Generation who, 65 years ago, was told not to come back after attending a service at St Paul’s in Clapham, south London.

Pentecostal minister The Revd Carmel Jones, then a 17-year-old boy recently arrived from Jamaica, went to the local Anglican Church. At the end of the service on his third visit to the church, the minister thanked him for coming – but asked him not to return.

When the current vicar of St Paul’s, Jonathan Boardman, heard what happened he decided to publicly apologise for the racism Jones experienced 65 years ago.

Mr Boardman said he was glad he was able to publicly apologise to Mr Jones and hear his views on the incident that occurred 65 years ago.

Carmel Jones founded the Pentecostal Credit Union which is celebrating its 40th Anniversary. In a letter from Justin Welby in connection with that anniversary, the Archbishop had apologised for the historic acts of discrimination experienced by The Revd Carmel Jones and others. Mr Jones comments were read out by his daughter Elaine Bowes: ‘This letter represents a heartfelt expression of support for the Pentecostal Credit Union and a sincere apology for the historic racism perpetrated by the Church of England.

‘I am deeply moved by this desire for absolution. I wholly accept this apology reflecting the grace and sincere spirit with which it is offered. And I conclude with Proverbs 17:9 – Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends’.

St Paul’s is a church that, historically, has played a major part in the fight against social injustice. It is a stone’s throw away from sister church Holy Trinity, Clapham which is most famously associated with William Wilberforce and The Clapham Sect. This group of Church of England social reformers campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade. They lived around Clapham Common and worshipped in both the churches.

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Photograph: The Revd Jones’ daughter, Elaine Bowes, reading her father’s words

Evangelicals Together

One of the great strengths of events such as the Keswick Convention, Word Alive, Bible By the Beach and so on is that they bring together evangelicals regardless of denomination.

As the classic Keswick banner reminds us, we are ‘one in Christ Jesus’. Of course, we then go home and resume being Independent Evangelicals, Grace Baptists, Anglicans or whatever branch of the church we are in.

This that the issue of  en  reminds us gospel is greater than our denominational allegiance. What a joy it is to read of Presbyterians (p.5), the Free Church of England (p.3), the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion (p.3), the Welsh Evangelical Alliance (p.2), the FIEC (p.3), Affinity (p.2) and the Evangelical Alliance (p.32).

The travails of the Church of England (p.2) will rightly raise, for some, questions of whether it is possible to be an evangelical in that denomination – as Stephen Kneale very reasonably asks a couple of pages on from here.

Writing recently, one woman who began life as a Gospel Standard Strict Baptist, then joined the FIEC, and is now an Anglican evangelical, wrote: ‘I have seen the Church of England from the outside as well as within. There are some dire things about it but, I can honestly say, I have also seen how it offers unique opportunities to proclaim and share the good news of Jesus…’ She encouraged non-Anglican evangelicals to ‘stand behind your [CofE] brothers and sisters. As they face forwards with the armour of God firmly in place, you can be watching their backs’.

We will all have our own views on these things, and quite rightly so. But, as you turn the pages of this month’s  en  and see the gospel challenges and encouragements of evangelical life in varied denominations and organisations, do give thanks – and pray.

France: Evangelicals Respond To Attacks

The National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF) has responded to the government’s plans to strengthen state secularism in a December Bill by reiterating that evangelicals in France ‘respect the laws of the republic’, and seek a ‘transparent’ relationship with the national, regional and local authorities.

The efforts to preserve French values was outlined by President Macron prior to the Islamist attacks on French citizens in the autumn, which included two beheadings. In early October he had planned to ‘combat Islamic separatism’ in light of ‘extreme hardening’ of some Islamic groups in France.

CNEF noted that if the government’s plans against Islamist extremism would have side effects on the ‘freedom of religion, thought and expression’, then CNEF would take a stand.

‘The expression of diverse opinions’, including matters of faith, ‘is a condition of any plural democracy and of any collective intelligence of society’.

In the last years, the body representing evangelicals has ‘observed, with regret, that evangelical Protestants sometimes are used by the authorities, and by certain media, to apply a kind of “egalitarian guarantee’’ ’. The CNEF called on the French authorities not to implement widespread and unjust restrictions of religious freedom to all faith communities only with the aim of giving an impression of equal treatment of all religions.

Romain Choisnet of CNEF said: ‘Some state representatives continue to try linking Salafism and evangelicals, but the fruits of evangelical presence in neighbourhoods are very positive and peaceful.’ (Salafist are fundamentalists who believe in a return to the original political and moral practices of Islam. Rather than being a distinct branch of Islam, Salafism is an intellectual current of Sunni Islam. The beliefs have inspired movements including the Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafi Jihadism forms the core belief of Isis.)

In contrast with radical Islam, evangelical churches have the chance to ‘show how a new and fast-growing religious movement can help the common good and be positive for a city, and a whole country’.

Evangelical Focus / The Week / en staff