Church of England's plans to double numbers of senior ethnic minority clergy welcomed

(PA)The Archbishop of York (l) is one of the few senior minority ethnic figures in the Church of England

The Church of England has launched an initiative to increase the number of ethnic minority clergy twofold within a decade.

The initiative, which has been entitled 'Turning Up the Volume', has been set up by a task group commissioned by the House of Bishops, and led by the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend James Langstaff. The group comprises 12 lay and ordained members of the Church of England.

The ethnic minority members of the Church of England's senior ranks include the Archbishop of York, one dean and three archdeacons.

The 2011 census revealed that England and Wales's ethnic breakdown was 83.35 per cent white British, 5.87 per cent Asian or Asian British, 2.81 per cent Black or Black British, 0.82 per cent Chinese, and 1.8 per cent mixed ethnicity.

Bishop Langstaff explained why he felt this endeavour was so important: "It is vital not only for the well-being of the Church of England, but also for the credibility of our mission to the nation.

"For as long as we have a senior leadership with such a low representation of UK ethnic minority clergy, we will not be seen as a church which is for all the people of our nation."

Reverend Canon Rosemarie Mallett, a member of the task group, agreed that the task ahead was difficult but she remained optimistic: "This may seem a tall order in a short time, but we believe that the people are out there.

She called upon the existing senior ranks within the Church of England to do what they could to expedite the processes.

"Those in leadership positions should be actively working to help identify them and offer them opportunities to undertake the necessary training to apply for such posts," she said.  

"The appointments process will then be able to choose from the best candidates on the day."

Dr Elizabeth Henry, National Adviser on Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns, who was also a member of the task group, described how the ultimate aim of the initiative was missional: "It is our hope that this and efforts to increase UK ME vocations to ordained ministry will result in much needed greater diversity in the Church at every level."

A 2012 study entitled "Church Growth in Britain from 1980 to the Present" showed that the majority of Church growth in the UK had in fact come from the ethnic minority sector.

The study concluded that the growth in black majority churches had been particularly phenomenal, from negligible numbers in 1960, to 500,000 members in 2012.

The researchers, who were based at Cranmer Hall in Durham University, also noted that the highly diverse Diocese of London was responsible for the majority of Anglican congregation growth in recent years.

Reverend Israel Olofinjana, a Nigerian-British Baptist missionary currently leading Woolwich Central Baptist Church, has praised the Church of England's new initiative.

"For far too long the Church of England has been happy with the appointment of the Archbishop of York that it has almost become tokenistic," he said.

Rev Olofinjana is one of the leading researchers in the field of 'reverse mission' where Christians from parts of the world traditionally thought of as mission fields come to the now more secular West to share the Gospel.

He said there was a need for Church leadership to be more representative in order to have the widest possible appeal.

"This new initiative is a step in the right direction as it points to the recognition that ministry in 21st century Britain has to take into consideration the many nations that are here," he said.

"In order to reach the many nationalities that is now represented in the UK, the church must have a leadership that represents those nations."