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UK News

Church should follow suit and drop 'BAME', says church leader

by Cara Bentley

As the Government is said to be considering dropping the term BAME, a black church leader says God sees his people as one family but also as individuals with different experiences, meaning the church should use 'BAME' as infrequently as possible. 

Church leader Bishop Joe Aldred says the term 'BAME' - which stands for Black, Asian and ethnic minority - doesn't reflect the complexities and experiences of the people it seeks to refer to. 

Dr Joe Aldred is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy, a Pentecostal denomination, and has a PhD in Theology. He was born in Jamaica and raised in England, working for Churches Together in England and now a Trustee for the National Church Leaders Forum, which aims to facilitate the black Christian voice in the UK. 

Speaking to Premier, he explained how he feels about the term: "Personally, I took it in the same way I took 'ethnic minorities' and the predecessors before that - as a shorthand way of categorising pretty much everybody in the country who's not white and for that reason I have not been a great fan."

He explained: "Why must we function on the basis of comparing everybody to white, when what you're comparing are groups on different levels? In terms of their journeys, for example, in this country, their status, social, economic, political - I just think it's an unhealthy way to divide the country into white and the rest."

Bishop Joe Aldred said the church would be wise to use language that is more dignifying: "Once something becomes couched in 'official' language, as government papers, government bills and stuff, it tends to trickle across society, doesn't it? And that would include church as well - although I can't tell you the last time I heard 'BAME' used in a black church...and then if you are associating with officialdom you are almost having then to use it whether you're in church or out of church. 

"So the call, I think, is for a greater sense of dignity and respect for people from various walks of life, in terms of their ethnic and national groupings and that applies in church as much as it does out of church."

The Black British Labour MP David Lammy has criticised the term as "lazy, impersonal and a piece of jargon" but also questioned what will replace it. 

Sarah Teibo, a British-Nigerian gospel artist, told Premier she believes the motive behind the term wasn't initially bad, "I think there would have been good intentions around creating that grouping at the time, which would have been to identify a large group of people who may have been marginalised at the time. 

"But then we get lost in the mix in the sense that each subgroup within that blanket terminology would have their own unique lived experiences, their own unique challenges, which, if not identified, could easily get overlooked."

When asked if there were occasions were a term was needed, albeit a different one, for circumstances such as quotas (as the Church of England is planning to introduce) - Bishop Joe Aldred replied: "I can well see that there may be times when we want to - if I may say so - 'lump everybody together' who are not white to compare. 

"We know that the white hegemonic group is there - how does everybody else compare with the experience of that group? But the experience that group is also diverse...we need to find better ways of showing respect to all of us who live in society and use shorthand as infrequently as possible so that we are making clear identity within groups and across groups including those who are described as white."

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