Introducing Visions of Colour
Visions of Colour is a new racial justice training programme for Baptist ministers. A filmed resource, it was commissioned by the Sam Sharpe Project in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and a request by Baptist ministers for compulsory equality, diversity and unconscious bias training.
Course developer Eleasah Louis explains more
What is 'Visions of Colour'?
Visions of Colour is a racial justice training programme that has been designed to aid the process of Baptist ministerial formation in its engagement with justice and society. The ultimate goal is to help Baptist ministers develop action plans suited to their local church and community. The Sam Sharpe Project initiated Visions of Colour in partnership with the Baptist Union of Great Britain. Baptists Together Justice Enabler Wale Hudson-Roberts sought the advice of theologian Robert Beckford, the Professor of Black Theology at The Queen's Foundation, who helped bring the concept to structured reality – a course centred around decolonising theology, culture, worship, mission, the Bible and preaching.
There were two crucial catalysts for Visions of Colour. One was an open letter from around 250 Baptist ministers to the General Secretary, Lynn Green, and the former Baptist Union President, Yinka Oyekan, that equality, diversity, and unconscious bias training become a compulsory part of both initial Ministerial Formation and Continuing Ministerial Development. Visions of Colour seeks to fill this gap with a robust, instructional and developmental approach to racial justice training with concrete action plans resulting from the training.
Another was the killing of George Floyd, which triggered an enormous amount of public uproar. The revolutionary and passionate protest led by the Black Lives Matter movement brought further fuel to the public fires and served our churches with further challenges as it prodded at British churches’ historical complicity to the destruction of black lives. Visions of Colour seeks to give Baptist ministers the tools to respond to this socio-political climate meaningfully and theologically.
Following the initial conversations, I (Eleasah) was commissioned by The Sam Sharpe Project to develop the resource and produce a learning module that would be supported, supervised and distributed by the Baptist Union Ministries Team.
How has it been put together? (Theology and Method)
There are some basic theological principles that undergird the shaping of Visions of Colour:
All are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27): we understand this to mean that God sees all people from all ethnicities as equal. With this in mind, we believe that churches should be places where people are recognised and treated as equal to others.
Racism is a sin: any action, thought, deed and structure that denies the dignity and freedoms of another person based on their ethnicity is sinful as it is contrary to God's Word and the example we see of Jesus' ministry in the New Testament. (1 Timothy 5:21, Galatians 2:11-16)
As Christians, we must reflect the heart of God (to the best of our ability) and seek justice for those who are not afforded dignity, opportunities and freedom because of prejudice against their ethnicity. This process must include repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and reparation. (Isaiah 1:17, Luke 17:3 and 19:10)
All theology is contextual – some are just not ready to admit it. Our history, geography, experiences (both collective and individual), language, culture, and self-interests all play a part in the way we interpret and apply scripture. These factors have an impact on our theological imagination. Our theological imagination informs our teaching styles, hermeneutics, biblical emphasis, our churches' cultures and structures, and in some cases, our bias against those who are different.
Visions of Colour seeks to challenge racist attitudes, perspectives, and infrastructures still at play regarding our approaches to mission, the local community, teaching and preaching, the way our church looks, and our responses to social justice issues.
Decolonisation is a theoretical tool that can help us reach our practical and theological goals for ministerial formation. The basic idea behind decolonisation is to rebuke, resist and replace the legacies of colonialism (attitudes, structures, laws and policies) that undergird our societies’ collective thinking and present new and/or reformed realities that are not prejudiced against non-white peoples. The era of European colonialism and the surviving legacies depend on the false idea that those of European descent are superior and therefore must parent, manage and carve out societies’ development for the sake of all others. Although many argue they do not wake up each day fuelled by an overt sense of superiority over others, whatever the case may be, decolonisation demands that everybody intentionally rejects these ideas and follows through with action to realise justice.
Silence is complicity; ignorance is complicity, ‘colourblindness’ is complicity.
We seek to realise decolonisation in theology and ministerial formation with Visions of Colour. We hope that this course will help ministers develop sacred Christian spaces where all people can engage, flourish, and participate equally as brothers and sisters in Christ. Diversity of ethnicity will be recognised as an opportunity to understand God more deeply through the breadth of perspectives rather than a challenge to find a cultural baseline for knowing God.
People may get worried about bringing social and political theories too closely to ministerial formation as they spark confrontation and often can be emotionally charged as the boundaries of various ethnicities, classes, genders, abilities and experiences collide. It seems people still underestimate how much these human processes have always played a significant role in how we have come to understand God. Progressive and radical movements often dominate 21st century conversations about racial justice; this generates pushback from more conservative Christian communities as their most basic theological premises are called into question. Visions of Colour recognises this as a challenge that requires transparency and further exploration on all sides.
In the spirit of Baptist principles, Visions of Colour leans on the principle of democracy which recognises each church's autonomy and liberty; to be led by the Holy Spirit and discern ways forward for the congregation. As a result, Visions of Colour looks to a variety of contributors situated along the conservative-progressive spectrum regarding their theology and method.
Each session (in video format) includes thoughts from a cross-section of ministers in the UK, a focused learning point (background and theory) and a lecture that explores the theme and considers actions that the ministers could employ.
Overview and objectives
On completion of Visions of Colour, we hope that the participants will:
Gain insight and inspiration from specialists in the field of anti-racism and decolonisation, and theology
Be theologically inspired to begin developing an anti-racist church
Build confidence and core skills in key areas, so that course recipients can begin the journey towards developing anti-racist churches
Beyond exploring the theory, the core aim of this course is for each participant to have a clear direction for designing an action plan that is suited to their local church:
What can we do on Sunday?
What can we work on throughout the year?
What is our long-term vision for the church on matters of justice and anti-racism?
This is an overview of what the course looks like:
Session 1 – Is racism real? //What is Critical Race Theory, and what does it have to do with theology? // Decolonising theology.
Session 2 – Is there a Baptist culture? // What is anti-racism? // Decolonising culture
Session 3 – Difference, redemption and scripture // Baptist tradition: dissent and democracy // Decolonising worship
Session 4 – The challenge of social politics for Baptist churches in Britain // Baptist policies for ministers and churches // Decolonising mission
Session 5 – Challenges in theological education when considering anti-racism and decolonisation // Interpretive methods on the conservative/progressive spectrum // Decolonising the Bible
Session 6 – What does the word decolonisation mean to you? // Decolonisation // Decolonising preaching
Date of delivery
We hope to have this programme completed and ready to be delivered by Easter 2022.
Eleasah Louis is a researcher and resource developer. She completed a PhD with Canterbury Christ Church University in 2021
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