becoming a multiracial church, part 5
Last weekend at The Vine, I was part of a panel discussion on racial reconciliation. I read excerpts from my blog posts on becoming a multiracial church. It was a good mix of presentations with personal stories, offenses, forgiveness, and (occasional) reconciliation.
But looking back, it was yet another rehash of the same conversation. Having been part of racial reconciliation talks/ panels/ seminars/ conferences for at least 3 years now, it feels like the same advocacy of what has to change gets voiced, and yet nothing big really happens. (Only 2 of the white majority were in the audience — either indicating other concurrent panels were more compelling and/or a lack of interest in dealing with this topic.)
There are (at least) 2 levels to dealing with racism: individual and institutional. Individual encouragement tend to hover along the lines of finding forgiveness for past offenses, personal, historical, social, unintentional or intentional, and building a relationship or friendship. Institutional change, which is much more needed, is often neglected. I am realizing that power dynamics are really a part of this mix, perhaps inherited and unintentional. It’s the decision makers of an organization, like a church, that can build the relationships, select and appoint the right people (coach, mentor, and groom them, as needed), and diversify the core as a means of changing the culture of the institution, ethnically and racially, as well as other categories too. This is not a matter of policy, but one of politics, in the sense of people in positions of organizational leadership. Implicit in my comment is that this cannot be done by mandate or quota, but relationally, as how most organizational leadership is done anyways. So, until that changes, intentionally and dramatically, the wheels will keep on spinning in the mud.
Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, Mark Van Steenwyk (“Van S”) triggered some buzz about the emergent conversation being largely white. Charlie Ware (next-wave) thinks the reason for this is cultural. PostmodernNegro thinks that this is because of the history of the American church: the reason why there is a white church and a black church is because of racist white Christians. All good observations and comments, and we’ll see what the core planning team decides to do about the hoi polloi’s concerns of gender and racial diversity. (at the closing session of the Emergent Convention in Nashville, there was mention of similar emerging church dialogue already going on among some church leaders in South America, so while Emergent goes global, it’d be more encouraging to me to see that dialogue go on right here in multicultural America)