‘The Journey’ envisions a racial justice strategy for the future that we trust will move beyond words to concrete actions. The Journey’s vision is to set out practical steps to enable BUGB to become fully integrated in ways that reflect its rich cultural diversity and so live out its core value of being a culturally inclusive community.
The vision for ‘The Journey’ began in 2007, the year that marked the 200th Anniversary of the British Government’s decision to outlaw the Transatlantic Slave Trade Act. It is estimated that 24 million Africans were kidnapped and sold during the Slave Trade. On board ships from Africa to Europe women, men and children endured the most horrific of conditions, though the conditions endured by the slaves in the colonies were far worse.
Even after the trades abolition Britain grew very rich on the trade in slaves and quickly became the world’s leading power. Many argue that the Industrial Revolution was powered by the immoral trade: capital, banking, exports and imports, ship building and cities were burgeoning with wealth, power and influence.
The pernicious legacy of the slave trade challenged the Baptist Union Council to apologise for Transatlantic Slave Trade and at its 2007 November Council the members agreed upon the most remarkable resolution:
The BUGB Council November 2007 Apology for Slavery
As a Council we have listened to one another, we have heard the pain of hurting sisters and brothers, and we have heard God speaking to us.
In a spirit of weakness, humility and vulnerability, we acknowledge that we are only at the start of a journey, but we are agreed that this must not prevent us speaking and acting at a Kairos moment.
Therefore, we acknowledge our share in and benefit from our nation’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade.
We acknowledge that we speak as those who have shared in and suffered from the legacy of slavery, and its appalling consequences for God’s world.
We offer our apology to God and to our brothers and sisters for all that has created and still perpetuates the hurt which originated from the horror of slavery.
We repent of the hurt we have caused, the divisions we have created, our reluctance to face up to the sin of the past, our unwillingness to listen to the pain of our black sisters and brothers, and our silence in the face of racism and injustice today.
We commit ourselves, in a true spirit of repentance, to take what we have learned from God in the Council and to share it widely in our Baptist community and beyond, looking for gospel ways by which we can turn the words and feelings we have expressed today into concrete actions and contribute to the prophetic work of God’s coming Kingdom
The key areas, set out below, form the basis of recommendations for taking practical steps to further develop a culturally inclusive Union.
- Multicultural churches
- Establishing culturally inclusive structures
- Multicultural events
- Baptist House
The Racial Justice Working Group have recently identified three Project Coordinators, who between them will take responsibility for creating draft resources focussing on the first three recommendations. Their ideas will be presented to Council in November 2012.
We Belong was the title of an annual 24 hour residential racial justice training programme which all Baptist ministers were encouraged to attend. Now that a significant number of Baptist ministers have experienced the training, We Belong has become the title we give to our new initiative: an annual day conference designed to help ministers reflect on ways in which they might cultivate culturally inclusive churches.