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UK News

74% UK Christians say their church has mentioned racism since death of George Floyd, survey suggests

by Cara Bentley

In a survey conducted by Premier, 74 percent of respondents said their church has mentioned racism since the death of George Floyd. 

The killing of George Floyd, a black American man, in police custody has led to protests in America and the UK over his death and has also spiralled into a public discussion about racism in this country, its depth and how we should react to our past. 

Several UK church denominations have made public statements on the death of George Floyd at a national level and pledged to do more to eliminate racism but Premier Christian News wanted to get a better understanding of how many local churches had responded; whether they mentioned it in a main service, in a passing prayer or even at all. 

The results suggest that three-quarters of Christians have heard the issue of racism mentioned in their church in the last fortnight. 

When that group was asked how racism was referenced, the vast majority said it was through a prayer or statement. 

Some said it was a specific segment of the service, an interview with a black member of their church or a session dedicated to talking about it together. 

In the poll of nearly 500 Premier listeners, 84 people said it was not mentioned at all (18 per cent) and eight per cent said they didn't know. 

When asked "Do you think church leaders should intentionally speak about racism from the front?" 85 per cent responded 'yes' and eight per cent 'no', with the remaining being unsure. 

Respondents were also asked what, if anything, their church has said it will do - or encouraged them to do - to help eliminate racism. Again, the vast majority were encouraged to pray. 

Other exhortations included: listening, learn more, read a book, petition the Government, be more open in discussion, confront racism when you see it and prayerfully examine ourselves. 

There were also many examples of personal challenges from the front rooted in the Bible, such as to 'love your neighbour', know that 'we are all made in the image of God' and variations of 'accept that we are all children of God whatever our skin colour and equally loved by Him'. 

A few were encouraged to support Black Lives Matter protests while 50 people replied 'nothing.'

One of the early UK responses, which has now got 24,000 views on YouTube, was by Pastor Tope Koleoso from Jubilee church in Enfield in London. 

Reacting to these figures, he told Premier: "I think I will say to pastors who haven't referenced it yet, first of all, you just want to ask yourself, why don't you? Is it a logistics problem? Is it a pragmatic problem - 'we have to wait for our diocese or headquarters to say something'? Or is it just that you just don't think it's a big enough deal?"

 

Pastor Tope spoke to his church before the UK protest got big, saying he "saw himself" in the video and knew other members of Jubilee church, a diverse congregation, would feel the same. 

"I thought even if this doesn't amount to much anywhere else, if it doesn't become the story it has now become, I felt that something needed to be said to the church.

"If I could feel like that there will be other people in the church that would have seen that and felt like that and I think it's the call of a pastor or a shepherd to care for the flock when they're going through a trauma then you've got to speak into it, you can't avoid it."

PA

 

Responding to the statistics, Bishops Joe Aldred from Churches Together in England, who works with many Pentecostal churches, praised the fact that three out of four Christians had heard racism mentioned and urged the other churches to do so. 

However, he also said that the encouragement to pray could be an easy response for pastors to offer: "We must always pray. Jesus says, pray always. But I'm afraid prayer has become, for many people, a bit of a crutch, a bit of a reason that we can 'leave it all in the hands of the Lord.' What we know from experience is that God works through us a very high percentage of the time if something's going to happen."

Bishop Joe encouraged listeners to support legal change, arguing that racial justice has only taken step forwards in other areas after significant campaigns and changes to the law. 

Pastor Tope's advice to church leaders was that clear messages were the most beneficial, such as saying "racism is a sin." 

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