12 September 2023

Racial Inclusion Working Group: ‘There is still much to be done’

Jennifer Laurent-Smart speaking at Together 2022
Jennifer Laurent-Smart and Major Jonny Smith on a racial inclusion discussion panel

The Racial Inclusion Working Group concludes its work and introduces the territory’s Intercultural Mission Officers.

Two years after its inception, the Racial Inclusion Working Group has met for the last time in its current format. Acknowledging that small steps have been taken, no one denies that there is still much to be done before we see full racial inclusion within The Salvation Army.

In its final meeting, the group reflected on the journey that started during the Covid-19 pandemic in January 2021. Hoping to make a difference within six months, the reality was very different. Fulfilling the recommendations made by the Territorial Advisory Council has taken much longer.

When this very diverse group first met, it was saddened to hear so many stories of racial exclusion within The Salvation Army. Members of the group were pleased to have a voice to speak into this situation. There was a great desire to look through Kingdom lenses to ensure that ‘every nation, tribe, people and language’ were welcome (Revelation 7:9).

The group was very aware that not all people within this Movement acknowledge that racial exclusion exists, and the white British members of the group were regularly challenged to think of the white unconscious bias that is evident in many areas of the Movement. The non-white members spoke of how challenging it is to try to make a difference in a setting that is still majority white.

The group acknowledged the fact that Equality and Diversity Manager Jennifer Laurent-Smart (THQ) and Intercultural Mission Officer Major Jonny Smith (THQ), both of whom are members of the group, have been championing this agenda for a long time. The challenge remains to see the work continue and ensure learning and collaboration enables all people seeking justice in this area to bring their gifts and passion to work together.

It has been very encouraging to see some significant changes noticeably in Salvation Army publications and media, in events and programmes around the territory, in the official recognition of African Praise Fellowship Zimbabwe, and a noticeable move towards more inclusive thinking. However, it would be so easy for this to slip off the agenda and, as a Christian Church, there is still room for progress to be made in our processes, actions and inclusivity at every level. Racial inclusion needs to be embedded in the culture of all we are and all we do.

It has been a delight to see how people have become more courageous to speak out and to speak up, and this is to be encouraged in all settings whenever racial exclusion or discrimination is noticed in conversation or actions. We need to call people out and not just let it pass!

As nervous as the Racial Inclusion Working Group is to disband, it is greatly encouraged to know that the volunteer role of Inclusion Mission Advocate is now being rolled out across the territory and is having a small take-up; it is hoped this will gain momentum. It is also thrilled to know that the Mission Service at THQ has appointed 10 intercultural mission officers across the territory, under the direction of Major Jonny Smith.

In building the Kingdom of God here on this Earth, we recognise that we all have a beautiful part to play in this. As we journey forward together, as one body, we pray for immeasurably more, so much so that we see more and more glimpses of the Kingdom, around the UK and Ireland Territory, and the world.

Interested in becoming an Inclusion Mission Advocate?

email racial.inclusion@salvationarmy.org.uk

Discover more

Celebrating and embracing ethnic and cultural diversity within The Salvation Army.

Cloud Tembo explains the history and mission of the territory’s new official group.

Ivan Radford outlines new initiatives introduced by the territory’s Racial Inclusion Working Group.

Ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of everything we do.