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A union that transcends differences

Celebrating ethnicity while promoting unity in the UK church.

The director of One People Commission, Yemi Adedeji, explains that although he's seeing barriers between the people of God disappear, we must continuously look to our shared heritage in Christ to celebrate ethnicity while promoting unity in the UK church.

Chapter 17 of the gospel of John, where Jesus prays for all believers before He goes to the cross, is at the heart of the One People Commission (OPC), as well as the Evangelical Alliance, through which the group was formed. Anyone who’s been to the Evangelical Alliance’s offices in London will have seen John 17:20 – 24 in extra-large font on the wall. It wasn’t a surprise, then, that within minutes of my chat with Yemi, he pointed to those verses and said he wants to see all evangelical Christians across the UK unified without being uniform, for it is in our unity that we celebrate and honour the kingdom of God”.

Now, those who have met Yemi will know that he’s practicing what he’s preaching. He often rocks up to the Evangelical Alliance’s offices in floral prints, bright blazers, skinny jeans, fancy shoes and, if my memory serves me correctly, cravats. So, when he says without being uniform”, he means it! But, on a more serious note, he explains that our unity is so much deeper than a shared culture or language; it’s our shared heritage in Jesus Christ. Yemi emphasises during our hour-long conversation that he wants us to remember that, because in doing so we’ll be a healthier church that glorifies God.

The OPC was formed to make the evangelical church in the UK more effective, by bringing together key national church leaders from all ethnicities to promote unity and collaboration. We can glorify God in our differences and uniqueness,” says Yemi. When we at the OPC pray, we pray for complete unity in our Lord. We pray that different nations across the country will come together as one — of one accord and purpose, jointly thanking and worshipping God, and thanking each other.”

In his role at the OPC, as well as in his ministerial work and personal life, Yemi sees the barriers that separate us disappearing. When the leaders come together for meetings, for example, they celebrate God in their ethnic mix, embracing the different traditional foods and dress, and learning
from the different ways members pray. Yemi says diversity is also visible in many of the churches he’s been to.

Despite the headway made so far, Yemi concedes that we still have more progress to make to ensure the emerging generation is not divided by what has separated previous generations. He explains: Many of us have grown up with a particular mindset that is shaped and reinforced by our environments. In many cases we believe that who we are and what we are is the best. When we meet others from different backgrounds, or people who express their faith differently, we can often feel uncomfortable and struggle to embrace what they bring.”

Yemi admits that he’s no exception and initially felt like a fish out of water” when he participated in a prayer meeting in the House of Commons. I was told it’s a silent prayer for around one hour. I couldn’t understand that; being Nigerian with a Pentecostal background, I’m used to talking aloud to God,” he says. But I’ve come to realise that God created His children differently and with unique characteristics for His own purpose. God doesn’t flow in my arena alone. It’s important we all come to realise this and live accordingly.”

About the author

After asking God to bless her with the right role at a God-centred organisation, Naomi joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2018 as editorial content manager. Positions with publishers and within the marketing and communications faculty of a higher education institution, plus stints as a reporter, have enabled the media and cultural studies graduate, who has an NCTJ diploma in newspaper journalism, to hone the necessary skills and qualities to serve members well.

See more from Naomi Osinnowo

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