We are living at a time of significant cultural shifts in western society. One of these involves questions around humanity and race. This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Windrush generation’s arrival in the UK. The term ‘Windrush’ comes from the name of the ship that brought Caribbean migrants to these shores in June 1948, and has come to denote a generation of Caribbeans who arrived between 1948 and 1971.

Their experience of racism is well known, and their agency and resilience in flourishing in British society in the face of it is a story to celebrate. But as we mark seventy-five years of the Windrush generation, questions around the issues of race, especially those raised during the pandemic, remain very pertinent for society and the Church – do ‘Black Lives Matter’?

Some people view the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ as controversial because they believe it implies other lives do not matter. But, of course, they do! Scripture affirms that everyone is created in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26-27), irrespective of colour, nationality, social status, ethnicity, religion or culture. Our humanity is rooted in God. We all bear God’s image because we are the signature stamp of His creation, and therefore all lives do matter.

I believe this is the essence of the idea that ‘Black Lives Matter’ – if we agree that all lives matter, and that we have a shared humanity rooted in God, then it should concern us all when Black lives, or, indeed, any lives, are counted as less.

Worldwide, many people of African descent suffer from various forms of injustice, and their pain matters. Will our collective humanity seek to understand this pain and respond, or will we neglect that part of the human family? For the Church, this is crucial, because if we fail to address the hurt in God’s family – that is, the body of Christ – we are inadvertently neglecting ourselves. ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it’ (1 Corinthians 12:26 NRSVA).

But more than this, the Church cannot afford to engage with questions of racial injustice from arm’s length if it is to reach millennials and Generation Z. The Windrush generation shows us what will happen if we don’t. As a result of its unwelcoming attitude towards the Windrush migrants, the UK Church lost a generation of African Caribbean youth. They saw how the Church mistreated their parents, and consequently many turned away from the faith. If the UK Church does not engage with current and ongoing concerns, we could lose another generation, which would of course be tragic.

The national service held at Southwark Cathedral to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Windrush, on 22nd June, inspired some hope and offered crucial reflections on how we could tackle racial injustice together. I suggest there are two things in particular that are important for us to act upon.

First, we need to develop a strong theology of racial justice in our churches. In order for this to happen, we need our theological colleges to develop modules and courses that can enable pastors to stay abreast of current thinking. This also means having the right people in our colleges to teach these courses. An excellent current example is the Black Light Course run by Ascension Trust and Urban Expressions. It features eight sessions that focus on cross-cultural issues, including Black presence in the Bible, Black influence on Church history, African Christianity in Western Europe, among others.

Second, we need to rethink and reshape our discipleship models to integrate racial justice concerns. Does racial justice have a place in your discipleship framework? To begin to change this, we need church leaders to preach regularly on the topic. This is not only for Black Majority Churches but also for White Majority Churches, as this will enable them to advocate for people of colour. We also need our worship songs and liturgy to include lament on racial injustice. Our theology and discipleship strategies need to change – and they can change – so that we can move forward together.

The Windrush generation has learnt to thrive in the UK, but the urgency of racial justice questions remains. Together, the Church can show wider society the way to a positive, redemptive and constructive future.

This article is an edited excerpt from my book, Discipleship, Suffering and Racial Justice: Mission in a Pandemic World (Oxford: Regnum Studies, 2021).


Rev. Dr Israel Oluwole Olofinjana (PhD) is the Director of the One People Commission of the Evangelical Alliance. He is an ordained and accredited Baptist minister and has led two multi-ethnic Baptist churches and an independent charismatic church. He is the founding director of the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World, a mission network initiative that provides cross-cultural training to reverse missionaries in Britain. Israel is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical, and has notable roles with a number of other organisations including Tearfund and Lausanne Europe.



Discipleship, Suffering and Racial Justice: Mission in a Pandemic World

This book explores the subject of discipleship, suffering and racial justice and what the UK church can learn about these themes from the experiences and theologies of Majority World contexts. It argues powerfully that suffering is relative (relativity of suffering) and develops this as a discipleship theory needed during the pandemic and post-pandemic context. The book therefore examines post-colonial contextual theologies rooted in pain and how they can serve the Church during and post pandemic. 

Published September 2021 (Oxford: Regnum Studies), £6

Photo by Glodi Miessi on Unsplash


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