The African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance (ACEA) has announced that it is suspending operations after 25 years due to a shortage of funds which has been compounded by the recession.
The move comes despite the significant growth of successful black churches, many of an evangelical and Pentecostal character, in many urban areas of Britain during the past 15 years.
However, some insiders say that a significant number of these congregations, notably the most wealthy, prefer to operate in independent ways and are more attuned to competition than cooperation.
ACEA says that membership donations have fallen in recent months, "with the current financial crisis causing churches and organisations to prioritise their giving to local ministries." Other sources of funding have also diminished due to the recession.
The Alliance announced last week that, "It is with deep regret that ACEA trustees have to terminate the contract of the charity’s staff and suspend further operations at this time."
African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance chair of trustees, the Rev Pedro Okoro said: “ACEA has dedicated the past 25 years to providing a unique voice for African and Caribbean churches in the UK, so this has been a very painful decision.
“Operations are now suspended pending a planned review and consultation with our constituency as to how we can best continue to respond to the Black Church’s need for representation.
“The patrons and trustees are committed to ensuring that the views of members of the Black Majority Churches continue to be heard and the trustees will continue to meet to explore an appropriate way forward for the organisation.”
He added that membership of ACEA also includes membership to the Evangelical Alliance UK, which still stands.
ACEA was established in 1984 as a national umbrella organisation for Black Majority Churches and organisations in the UK, providing a voice and identity for its constituents, focusing on their specific needs, tackling inequalities and representing them to government, statutory agencies and the church nationally and internationally.
ACEA has also been a partner in the publication of the Black Majority Churches directory, along with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. This is now available online.
It has been a registered umbrella organisation with Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
The many initiatives ACEA launched include the Watato Project for mentoring Black youth, the Theological Study Group articulating the theological needs and concerns of black Christians in the UK, the Safe and Sound child protection conference and, with the Centre for Youth Ministry, an accredited youth work ministry course specifically for people working in or with black communities.
ACEA has engaged with the government and worked in partnership with other agencies on numerous occasions, one of the most recent being the Olympic initiative 'More Than Gold'.
ACEA hosted the 'Faith in the Future' Conference in 2000 and went on to contribute to a number of collaborative governance initiatives including the Aiming for Excellence conference in 2007, and the development of new model trust deeds for independent churches.
It has provided a public voice for the Black Majority Churches on many issues, notably the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the murder of Damilola Taylor, and the Victoria Climbie inquiry.
In 2007, ACEA was involved in several events marking the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade [legislation], including representing black Christians at the national service in Westminster Abbey.
ACEA played a key role in the walk for peace following the shootings in Peckham and Brixton in the same year and has been a supporter of Global Day of Prayer (London) from the outset.