By Babatunde Adedibu on The Missional Network website
The British social landscape in the last ten decades has undergone significant social and cultural change. Britain today is a melting pot of diversity and ethnicities. The 2011 Census reveals the role of migration in the ethnic diversity of Britain, with one out of eight people in the population being immigrants.
Another aspect of social and cultural change in late modernity is secularisation, which can be defined as the compartmentalisation of Christianity to the private space. A growing secularisation was suggested by the disparity between the 2001 and 2011 figures in the UK Census. Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, explained that it was likely that fewer people had identified as ‘cultural Christians’, that is:
…those who have no active involvement with churches and who may previously have identified as Christian for cultural or historical reasons. They indicate a changing pattern of religious life in which traditional or inherited identities are less taken for granted than they used to be.
In the midst of the social and cultural discontinuities in Britain, the last century has seen the advent of missionaries from the global South in migration to Britain. The main factors identified to trigger this migration include:
…economic transformation, political tension, and war that engulfed the continent [of Africa] during this period… lack of work incentives, disabling political cultures, and personal quests for meaning and self-development.
The migrants travelled with their religious backpacks. Christian diversity in Britain expanded significantly and exponentially, particularly in the last six decades, accentuated by the Windrush generation and migration from African countries since the 1980s. Black-majority churches (BMCs) have proliferated.
Mission without borders- the changing face of world missions.
It has been noted that the survival and spread of the Christian faith is aided by its ability to expand across cultural frontiers in a serial manner. This implies that there is no fixed centre for the faith as ‘each new point in the Christian circumference [is a] new potential Christian centre’. Christianity is a migratory religion. There have been three major shifts in the geographical location of Christendom. During the first one thousand years, Christendom was centred in the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
During the next millennium, Christendom was centred in the West and, in the third millennium, Christendom has shifted to the South. Christianity is now predominantly a non-western religion. David Barrett was quite prescient when over three decades ago, he observed that ‘Africa might well tip the balance and transform Christianity as a non-Western religion’. The imprint of African Christianity has gradually emerged as a transnational phenomenon across North America, Europe and the West in general. Jenkins refers to this as ‘the Southern Christianity’.
In secular Britain the African churches make a striking contrast with indigenous churches. The Pentecostal black-majority churches, profiting from migration and the vibrancy of African Christianity, have grown quickly. The ‘glocal’ nature of the British and North American contexts, have led to the emergence of religious diversities which constitute potential mission opportunities for these churches.