LONDON - The Church of England says that African and Asian clergy are making up an increasingly significant minority in dioceses across the country. The Church of England Newspaper has carried out a nationwide investigation recently in which over a quarter of dioceses were surveyed, and it was found that over 100 priests from the Global South are estimated to have arrived in parishes over the last couple of years.
These figures are not just as simple as numbers but they have revealed a gradual spiritual change happening in England.
Jenny Taylor, a spokeswoman for mission agency, Church Mission Society (CMS), said, “They [African and Asia clergy] are coming because they hear about the terrible state of this country and its spiritual needs and they want to give something back. They are very thankful for the missionaries that came to their countries.”
England is the origin of Christianity in the west. It is the home for a number of major denominations in the world such as the Methodists, Anglicans and Baptists. Especially for Anglican, who have dispatched missionaries over the past several centuries to bring the Gospel to the unreached people as far as the Global South down to New Zealand.
Nowadays, Christianity in the western world is declining in the midst of increasing securalisation. The Church of England is worried by the decline in church attendance. The trend is spreading in other denominations and across Europe.
In contrast, the lands of Asia and Africa where English churches once sowed the seed of the Gospel, have experienced great spiritual revival and have emerged into the world as a leading position in Christianity. Some theologists have compared the spiritual status of different countries to the time in a day. It is commented that if the spiritual situation in Asia is in the morning, Europe is just like 9 o’clock at night.
Taylor said that the trend is being called “reverse mission”. Now the Gospel is being brought back from the East and the South to the West of the world. While priests from foreign countries have been coming to work in the Church of England for years, more are being encouraged to leave their countries to save England.
CMS explained that through this mission trend, the global mission can be advanced and churches can grow together as a whole. Taylor said, “We must get out of our heads the idea that mission is about imperialism.”
CMS is helping to support the overseas clergy by providing them with link churches who give funding. “We are helping churches in their mission by bringing in the global mission.”
So far, at least 20 African and Asian clergy have been posted to minister in parishes in the London diocese and around six have begun work in the Chelmsford diocese. Out of the clergy who have moved into Southwell diocese this year, a fifth of them have come from Africa.
Although the proportion of African and Asian clergy remains small, they are having an increasing influence on shaping the Church of England as it tries to adapt to the multi-cultural dimension of the country.
The Rev John Root, Vicar of Alperton in London, however, commented on and highlighted the potential difficulty that can sometimes be experienced by the Asian and African clergy due to racism and cultural differences.