A Critical Exploration of the Ministry of a White Priest within a Black-Majority Congregation

  • Stephen Edwards

Student thesis: Unknown


Many Church of England parishes with Black-majority congregations have a White parish priest. Clergy undergo mandatory racism awareness training yet do not necessarily understand cultural difference or the ways in which their priestly authority and their Whiteness may collude to have significant implications for ministerial privilege and power. What little study of these issues has taken place, is predominantly from a protestant, American viewpoint. The author's reflection as a White priest ministering in a Black majority congregation in Manchester focussed on his experiences of pastoral ministry, congregational participation and the expected role of the priest. Three questions arose from this reflection: in what ways are White priests aware of their Whiteness? How do White priests adapt their model of ministry according to their awareness? And in what ways do Black congregation members respond to any adaptation?Using an action-research methodology a conversation was set up between the priest's experience and a focus group from his congregation. Work on White ministers' typologies by leading British Black Theologian, Anthony Reddie, was used to present the author's experiences through three models: pastoral, organisational and radical approaches to ministry. These results formed the basis of a trial training workshop with newly ordained priests to test the assumptions which lay behind my original research questions.Within the three typologies of minister (pastoral, organisational, radical), the author identified ways in which the priest's power and knowledge influenced practice, and also ways in which congregations assumed clergy to receive training intervention, and from where this knowledge attainment might come. Alongside observations about ministers' inherent power and the resourcing of ministers from external and internal sources, the research also highlighted frustrations arising from normalising White experience above that of the Black majority. The results confirmed the assumptions behind the questions: White clergy, aware of their own colour, culture and privilege adapt their ministry in different ways and with varying success.The research presents significant contributions to the understanding of how Black congregations perceive White ministers and how such clergy locate themselves within a different culture. Three distinct outcomes were identified: the need for intentional signposting for White clergy to be resourced by their congregations and from external sources, the liberation of Black congregational voices to enable full participation, and the necessity of acknowledging past hurts and the need for reconciliation. These three are brought together in an example surrounding the interventions required for clergy and congregations involved in the appointments process of White clergy to Black majority congregations within the Church of England.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Scott (Supervisor) & Andrew Davey (Supervisor)


  • race, power, Church of England, ministry, White privilege, Black Church

Cite this