Profile: On the Level with Bishop Dr Joe Aldred

Bishop Dr Joe Aldred is fortunate to have parallel secular and religious careers; in layman’s terms - feet on the ground and faith in the future.

Joe Aldred’s first job as a statistical clerk with British Telecom, followed by a career in sales and marketing was certainly a down to earth start on a journey to becoming one of Britain’s leading men of faith.

Church leadership began early when Joe took on responsibility as a Sunday school teacher, and evolving Church life led to roles as a youth leader, PR person, evangelism director and assistant pastor, before Joe Aldred became a pastor and bishop. More recently Bishop Aldred has moved into ecumenical affairs, community action and media.

A Masters in Theology & Ministry (with distinction) and a PhD sits well with his various roles today as Secretary, Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs, Churches Together in England and a Governor of Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust.

Not leaving good work to be done only on Sundays, Bishop Aldred has established a popular media presence which sees him in the presenter’s chair for music and talk show ‘Chat Back with Joe Aldred’ on BBC WM; he is a regular contributor to ‘Pause for Thought’ on BBC Radio 2; contributor on Premier Christian Radio, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 4 ‘Prayer for the Day’, Lent Talk and Sunday Service, among a list of other local and national radio, TV and print work.

Actively engaged in Church, community and media, alongside many commendable voluntary involvements, Bishop Aldred’s sphere of influence means that his time and perspective is sought by decision makers across government and the sectors.

What inspired or triggered your interest in your present career?
I’m involved in three key areas: Ecumenism…I became interested in Christian ecumenism out of concern about fragmentation linked to complexities of denomination, nationality, ethnicity, culture, theology, doctrine, custom and just plain ignorance! Media…My work in the media comes from a desire to contribute to public opinion forming. Community Action… My involvement in community action is linked to my Christian commitment to being salt and light in the world.

What is your proudest achievement, and how do you regard failure?
My proudest achievement was earning a PhD at Sheffield University. Coming from a poor and largely under-educated background, this pursuit was important to me. Failure is not acceptable to me except when it can be turned into a learning experience. Succeeding is what life’s about. I like winning – even at scrabble and certainly at cricket.

Which political/prominent figure do you admire most for their vision or achievement?
President Barack Obama is the easy and true answer. But closer home I greatly admired Margaret Thatcher; a grocer’s child, a woman in a male-dominated political jungle, yet she rose to the top by envisioning a different future for the country. Winning three general elections and having an ‘ism’ named after her is no mean achievement. What boldness and determination to succeed!

How would you explain your success, and how much is due to luck and how much to hard work?
No one succeeds on their own. All of us stand on the shoulders of those before and around us. I’m no exception. My success in life is down to three key factors: my faith in a limitless God in whose image I am created, key people have been very kind and supportive to me, and I have worked hard and smart at whatever I do. ‘Luck’ is what happens when all three come together.

What in your opinion is the most significant political milestone of the last decade, and will it change the future?
The political coming of age of the African and Caribbean church community in Britain over the past ten years has been hugely significant, and will have far-reaching impact in the years to come. I expect the former ‘sleeping giant’ to establish political partnerships, send counselors to town halls and MPs to parliament, and keep God in the public square. Watch this space.

What do you think is key to building a harmonious multi-cultural Britain?
Respect! That is showing respect by getting to truly know people and thereby displace the ignorance that breeds fear and distance. When we know ourselves and others well it will be possible to understand how different cultures complement each other in God’s wonderful mosaic that is our world.

If you were able to introduce a law what would that be?
I would like to introduce a law that outlaws half-baked and ill-thought-out laws like the one prohibiting using mobile phones whilst driving. Why just mobile phones? Why not prohibit drivers handling everything that detracts from driving like eating fast-foods, drinking, etc.

The American people did not expect President Obama’s timely arrival; do you think such a surprise is possible for Britain within the next fifteen years?
It’s not possible to say if Britain will have an Obama moment in the next 15 years. It’s certainly possible. We already have high-ranking political figures here. What is needed is for one or some of them to have the audacity to put themselves up for the top job.

Which book or film would you encourage everyone to read or see and why?
Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers – The Story of Success’. This book shows cogently how and why we succeed as individuals and as communities: cultural capital, hard work and opportunity.

What are your thoughts on Africa redevelopment?
I am currently re/reading ‘Edward Wilmot Blyden – Pan-Negro Patriot’ by Hollis R. Lynch and I think Blyden’s idea of total intellectual and visionary commitment to the cause of the development of Africa is something we do well to revisit. Africans at home and abroad with friends of Africa should abhor aid and instead have the confidence to embrace the three-self concept: self-governance, self-support and self-propagating.

You are given £50,000 to spend half on a charitable cause(s) and half on yourself. How would you spend it?
I would identify two or three young people who want to go to university but can’t afford it and part-support them through their studies. I’d probably put my £25k towards changing my car for the Jag I desire but can’t afford at the moment. How vain is that?

Is there a goal that that you would yet like to achieve?
I would like to establish a foundation that survives me and continues my passion of bringing people together for greater understanding in faith, education, health, and personal and community enrichment. The ‘Respect Foundation’ may be?

What would you like to be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered for my commitment to helping individuals and community realise their potential.

Tell us something about you that we don’t know. I spent three weeks in China in 1991. And for braata, I play the guitar.

Note: Bishop Dr Joe Aldred was born in Top Mountain, St Catherine, Jamaica, the eighth of eleven children. This year Bishop Aldred celebrated 35 years of marriage. He has three daughters and three grand children. When not in the in the boardroom or on a pew he enjoys, reading and an active interest in politics. He says he has an incurable yet currently demoralizing infatuation with West Indies cricket and is a ‘strictly armchair Chelsea supporter’, he plays badminton and like to watch tennis and golf. Bishop Aldred is former: - Chair, Eastern Birmingham Primary Care NHS Trust, Executive Director, Centre for Black and White Christian Partnership and Managing Director of Partnership for Achievement.

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