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UK churches respond to George Floyd death and UK racism problem

by Cara Bentley

As the protests campaigning for justice over George Floyd's death grow in the UK, churches have been responding to his death and the ongoing problem of racism. 

George Floyd died in Minneapolis last week after an officer knelt on his neck and refused to listen to Floyd's pleas for breath. 

His death has sparked anger, upset and demand for change in America and Britain. 

On Wednesday there was a large protest in central London organised by Black Lives Matter. 

Churches have also been responding to the news and to the cries for greater awareness of conscious and subconscious racism in the UK. 

One video which has been viewed over 4,000 times is from Pastor Tope Koleoso, the leader of Jubilee Church in London. He said he is always careful never to use the pulpit to talk about political issues and only the gospel of Jesus Christ "but that same gospel compels speak out on account of injustice." He added: "Racism is not a minor issue."

The most senior clergy in the Church of England, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (Justin Welby and John Sentamu) issued a statement, saying: "Recent events in the United States of America have once again drawn public attention to the ongoing evil of white supremacy. Systemic racism continues to cause incalculable harm across the world. Our hearts weep for the suffering caused - for those who have lost their lives, those who have experienced persecution, those who live in fear. God's justice and love for all creation demands that this evil is properly confronted and tackled. Let us be clear: racism is an affront to God. It is born out of ignorance, and must be eradicated. We all bear the responsibility and must play our part to eliminate this scourge on humanity."

Pastor Agu Irukwu, senior pastor at Jesus House London, chair of the Redeemed Christian Church of God UK and Pentecostal President of Churches Together in England, released a video on Wednesday saying he understands how frustrations can boil over and "I believe with every fibre of my being that prayer works. Our response as Christians to the challenges and issues of life should be to approach a gracious and merciful God to intervene in any situation that we face. Our response should be to pray for others, stand in the gap for others...that is one of the most effective things I can do."

Pastor Agu Irukwu has also written a blog about how Christian can respond here

President of the Methodist Conference, Rev Dr Barbara Glesson responded to the news saying: "I start by saying I am sorry. Sorry for being silent when we should have spoken out against the everyday injustices that affect BAME communities. I am sorry that, despite our efforts, we have not done enough for those who feel excluded and we need to do better. We know this includes people of all ages from the Windrush generation to the very young. I am sorry when we have not listened carefully enough and not challenged the assumptions of white privilege and bias.

"Repentance can lead us to change, to embody a gracious, loving spirit of inclusion and understanding. There is no excuse for racism. All people are made in God's image. We are one body in Christ Jesus.

"I hope we can listen more carefully to the voices of BAME members, especially younger people, who face racism, discrimination and violence on a daily basis. Then our Church must be brave, speak out, speak up and challenge racism wherever we find it, especially when we find it in ourselves."

Baptists Together have published reflections and items to read to help Christians respond, commenting: "The authentic response of a people who follow a God who delights in justice and righteousness is to stand together in solidarity and protest in the face of such insidious evil.  The death of George Floyd must also drive us to some serious heart-searching of our own. The spotlight is not simply shining on 'them over there' but also on us here in our own context."


Many individual churches have also organised specific conversations around the topic of racism or prayer points for their members. 

Christian rapper Guvna B wrote on Facebook on Sunday: "did your church mention anything about racial injustice today in their main service? (I say main service ‘cos that’s where most people watch and often some issues get relegated to the youth or student services.)

"If they didn’t mention anything, why do you think that is?"

Many British clergy, as well as the former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, have also criticised Donald Trump's photo opportunity in front of St John's Episcopal Church this week, where he held a Bible and spoke against the protests. 


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