Report on the NCLF Leaders Summit & Launch of Manifesto
Saturday 14 March proved an historic day as more than three hundred leaders from church, political, civic and community activism spheres gathered in a church building called Transformation House, south-east London at the launch of the first-ever political manifesto representing a Black Christian voice, published by NCLF – The National Church Leaders Forum.
NCLF Co Chairs and manifesto Co Authors Dr R. David Muir and Pastor Ade Omooba stood side-by-side and opened proceedings with the message that the manifesto “encapsulates what we think is the general Christian vision of the common good regardless of party politics”. They addressed leaders from some of Britain’s largest African and Caribbean Churches and sector organisations, which included Pastor Agu Irukwu of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bishop Wilton Powell of Church of God of Prophecy and Rev Yemi Adedeji Director of the One Commission part of the Evangelical Alliance with General Director Rev Steve Clifford.
Political representatives who numbered among those that spoke to endorse the forty-page manifesto and accept the challenge its content posed to political parties, church and civic leaders included Government minister Chris Grayling Secretary of State for Justice, Stephen Timms, MP Labour’s Faith Envoy, David Lammy MP for Tottenham and Lord Tariq Ahmad Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Representing the work of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, its Director Colin Bloom, also read out a message on behalf of the Prime Minister David Cameron who described the manifesto as “…an incredible useful piece of work” and stating his confidence that, “… a great deal of it neatly chimes with the forthcoming (Conservative) Manifesto”.
In a heartfelt speech David Lammy MP proclaimed to “stand by every word in the manifesto”, while Stephen Timms MP congratulated the authors for “majoring on what the Black Churches can give and not on what they can demand” as a “distinctive approach” compared to other manifestos. Mr Timms also read a message from his Party Leader Ed Milliband which stated if Labour wins the next election he looked forward to “working with you without compromising the independence and identity of your congregations, your projects and your faith”.
When he spoke Lord Amhad announced he came to the largely Christian audience “as a Muslim” and emphasised the strength of “Abrahamic foundations of faith today… between Jews, Muslims and Christians in public life”. Personal perspectives continued when an impassioned Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote (OBV) had the crowd on their feet charging the leaders to go forth empowered in celebration towards the greater work ahead and hailed the publication and launch of the Black Church Political Mobilisation – a manifesto for action as “the answer to 25 years of prayer”.
The two hour event concluded with performances from MOBO 2014 Best Gospel Act Living Faith Connections Choir led by its Director Evans Ogobi and the noted Praise and Worship leader Noel Robinson who has become the first African Caribbean to be signed by the world’s largest major record label for Worship Music – Integrity.
The final words rested with NCLF Co Chairs Rev Dr Muir and Pastor Ade Omooba who closed the meeting on the theme “Where Do We Go From Here. The immediate actions include the priority of the ongoing voter register campaign – encouraging Church leaders to hold hustings and preach from the manifesto; secondly, sourcing experts from the church community who NCLF will organise to meet with government departments and political groups with regard to policy issues; and thirdly begin plans for an annual summit of African and Caribbean Christian leaders in Britain.
Pastor Ade Omooba remarked, “The power to influence is greater than the desire for prominence – this is what we must strive for as we serve our communities. The launch has been a success but the real work has only just begun”.