Thirteen senior clergy this week completed the inaugural Bishop Wilfred Wood Leadership Programme, which aims to position experienced Black, Asian and minority (BAME), for senior roles in the Church of England.
Ven Amatu Onundu Christian-Iwuagwu is the vicar in charge of St Mary the Virgin Church, in the London Borough of Hillingdon and was persuaded by the Bishop of Wilsden to take part in the programme.
He told Premier why he initially questioned the nature of the programme: "The first thing that came to my mind was whether this was a patronising way of the institution trying to say 'the BAME people are not well equipped for senior leadership so therefore we need to beef them up with something else'."
However, he said Rt Rev Pete Broadbent told him that the course acknowledges that the Church has "problems within the system and the process in which senior leadership is appointed".
While the last census showed an increase in the number of people of BAME identifying as Christian, in the Diocese of London currently just 5 per cent of clergy and priests responsible for parishes are from BAME backgrounds.
The proportion is similarly low for senior post-holders across the whole Church of England.
The programme is led by the Diocese of London and this year's attracted participants from eight Dioceses across the country, and was run in partnership with the Dioceses of Southwark and Birmingham.
Bishop Sarah Mullally, the first female Bishop of London, addressed attendees on the programme's first ever residential.
"We all need to be more aware of the barriers faced by people of BAME backgrounds to entering leadership roles, and work together to break them down," she said.
"This is not only good for them but also the Church. I hope that the great success of this year's Leadership Programme will help to encourage new similar initiatives to start and flourish in our Diocese and across the entire Church."
Listen to Premier's Eno Adeogun speaking with Ven Amatu Onundu Christian-Iwuagwu:
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