Recently I’ve been thinking about the possibility of leading a multicultural and multi-ethnic church in an urban area. When I first expressed the idea to my fiancé, her first thought was much like mine, “How can you do that? Don’t you need a White, Hispanic, Asian, or wife of another ethnicity?” I don’t know, do I? Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have any hardcore statistics at my disposal right now to quote, but I do have my opinions, observations, and experiences to draw from. With that being the case, it seems as if pastors of African descent who happen to be in a monocultural marriage, have a very difficult time attracting, retaining, and leading other ethnicities, especially our White brothers and sisters.
Do people of other ethnicities, especially Whites trust Black leaders to shepherd them? Well before I go there, how about this, do they trust black leadership in general? Let’s use President Obama for example, while it may be only one example, I think it is a glaring one. President Obama has arguably been the most disrespected and undermined president in our history. He was a called a liar during the 2011 State of the Union Address, “chastised” by Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, accused of being a modern day Hitler, attacked with racial slurs, and had just about every proposed bill and agenda challenged and/or struck down. Why all the hatred, resentment, and anger towards our Black president?
Now, lets look at our churches and the diversity in our worship. Martin Luther King Jr. said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Sadly things haven’t changed much, according to The Multiracial Congregations Project led by Michael Emerson, a Rice University sociologist, only 8% of all Christian congregations are racially diverse in America. Only 8%, wowzers? Just in case you were wondering, a racially diverse church, is at least 20% of people other than the majority culture. From my experience and observations, the majority of churches that are multi-ethnic tend to be led by White pastors. Heck, I’ve even witnessed majority Black congregations led by White pastors. So, I’m sure you’re asking; well, why is that the case?
In my opinion, the reason that Whites can seemingly pastor multi-ethnic congregations much easier than their Black counterparts is because of the normative of White male leadership. Whites have historically been slave owners, been President(until now), been CEO’s, been coaches, been mainstream media personalities, been doctors, been lawyers, been judges, been bankers, been middle managers, and been just about every leader you can think of. In my opinion, because our world is so accustomed to White leadership, the very same expectation presents itself in the church, especially in those that are multiethnic.
So, what’s the solution? First, we need to have open dialogue about race in America, because its alive and well, there’s no getting around it. In addition, I firmly believe that Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and all of God’s children in America need to desegregate ourselves. I mean really desegregate and do so with true equality and fairness. Minorities need to teach White children, coach White children, supervise White adults, lead White adults, pastor White people, legally judge Whites, defend Whites, financially advise Whites, manage Whites, medically care for Whites, pastor Whites, and vice-versa. If we’re ever to become a post-racial, we need these sort of things need to take place, and I believe the temple, mosque, synagogue, and church can lead the revolution
It takes a Village,
One thought on “Can these Bones Live? The Multi-Ethnic Church”
Love your blog and this post. You know of George Yancey? An excerpt from an online profile:
“Generally, conservative Protestant churches are more evangelical and more willing to make cultural adjustments to incorporate people of different races but are blinder to the power dynamics of race relations. The opposite is true about Mainline denominations in that they are more set in their worship traditions, but more aware of racial dynamics of power. … Mainline colleges and universities are more likely to utilize diversity programs than Conservative colleges and universities”