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Former Sikh to Lead Methodists

By ALEX KIRBY, Jul. 1, 1999

Photo: Reverend Inderjit Bhogal

The Methodist Church has elected its first Asian president, a man who spent his childhood as a practising Sikh. Reverend Inderjit Bhogal, a 46-year-old clergyman and theologian, stood for election against nine other candidates, more than the usual number of contenders. His election was announced at the Methodists' annual conference in Southport. A church official said he had won because he was 'the best man for the job.' He will take office in Jun. 2000, and will serve for a year as the church's most senior figure. Inderjit Bhogal was born in Nairobi into a Sikh family, and as a child attended a Sikh school in the city. He came with his family to Britain in 1964, at the age of 11, but although he attended a Church of England school he did not become a Christian until he was about 17. A friend says he made the change because 'he was overwhelmed by the story of Christ.'

When he was 20 Mr. Bhogal began training for the Methodist ministry, starting work six years later in the West Midlands. He later moved to Sheffield, where he is now director of the urban theology unit and a minister in an inner-city mission. Mr. Bhogal is still close to his family, several of whom are devout and active Sikhs. One friend said: 'He has not rejected his Sikh heritage, the background he was nurtured in. He is very involved in inter-faith work, and feels that religions should not be competing with each other. He's likely to make inter-faith relations a priority, and to encourage people to think about the issues.' Inderjit Bhogal is also involved in working for justice for people seeking refuge in the United Kingdom. In 1997 he walked from Sheffield to 10 Downing Street with a letter asking for justice for asylum seekers. . . . He is expected to use his presidency to continue to campaign for racial justice.