Tag Archives: race and the Church

Segregated Sundays: A Conversation on Race and the Church

Why does the Church of the God “who so loved the world” struggle with embracing a multicultural, multiethnic community (John 3.16)?  Why does the church of the Christ who commanded us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and who commissioned us to “go and make disciples of all nations” often confine the good news of the gospel to our culture (Mark 12.30-31; Acts 28.19)?  Why does the church of the Spirit that was poured out on all flesh continue judge the expression of the Spirit if it is not expressed based on their cultural expectation (Joel 2.28; Acts 2.17)?  Why aren’t cultural intelligence, diversity and empathy core values of the Church?

These are questions that Christians in North America specifically but all over the world must begin to seriously consider.  But, we need not simply reflect on these questions but ready a response and an action plan.  Because there is a generation that wants answers and wants to see the change in believers and the transformation of the world that the Scriptures attest to.  Below is a video of a conversation on race and the Church.  Prayerfully, their stories speak to yours and inform your journey as we walk behind Christ together.

Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter

maxresdefaultMore than a chant or a hash tag, it cannot be argued that Black Lives Matter is a movement, putting pressure on social structures that continue to value some lives more than others.  Eerily similar to the declaration “I am a man” made during the Civil Rights Movement, I, along with so many others, cannot believe that it needs to be said today.  Not because we elected our first African American president but because we are so progressive, so liberal, so inclusive, so tolerant.  Birthed out of headline after headline of police- involved shootings of most often unarmed African American men and women, those three words prove necessary.

Said again and again, these words are the source of heated debate and deeper discussions on the meaning of life for those socially defined as black and white.  The discrepancies in perception and resultant treatment by some in law enforcement cannot be denied. The response of some has been that “all lives matter.”  For others, the declaration has had the opposite effect.  Last month, Kevin Wright had this to say in a blog post titled “When Christians Won’t Say #BlackLivesMatter.”  Please share with me your thoughts.

Reconciliation: Are churches the problem?

microphone-nichodemusFebruary is usually thought of as the month of love.  Aisle after aisle was stocked with candy and paper hearts, cuddly stuffed animals, sweet candy and cards even before the King holiday and our community projects were over.  To be sure, it is not about the feeling but the money.  Still, despite their marketing techniques, attitudes about race and the church are not improving.

A recent Barna poll claims that persons believe that churches are at fault and even fuel racial tensions 38 percent of the time.  That is, in one out of three instances where race is involved, the blame is placed on the shoulders of churches.  Apparently, the Church is apart of the problem.

Long associated with judgmental attitudes and wagging fingers, it seems that some persons are now pointing the finger at the Church.  Tasked with the ministry of reconciliation, I wonder how the evaluations are being done.  Who is being held accountable and responsible for this work?

However, it is not a bad assessment or a failing grade as 73 percent believe that the Church plays an important role in the reconciliation of cultures.  Still, the finding reminds us that we are missing quite a few spots.  Last year around this time, Relevant magazine asked, “Why doesn’t the church engage race issues?”

It seems our society will not allow us to remain silent or to feign ignorance. With instance after instance of suspicious death and obvious injustice, we will need to focus on more than Sunday morning attendance.  Rather, we will need to attend to the wounds of our world, spreading the Balm in Gilead on our communities.  This is love and it will need to happen not just in February or other special holidays.  Whether we are feeling the love or not, it our job to show it.  “They will know we are Christian by our love.”



Study on diversity in churches reports lingering inequality

CORRECTING spelling of Paulette Dunker-Jenkins: St. Georges usher Laticia Stauffer (cq-left, 34 yrs, of Fishtown) and Mother Bethel AME usher Paulette Dunker-Jenkins (cq-right, 68 yrs, of NE Phila) take up collection during service at St. Georges Methodist Church Oct. 25, 2009, as the congregations of Mother Bethel AME and St. George's united for joint worship for the first time in 240 years. ( Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer ) EDITORS NOTE: PAME26bTG 113061 Sun 10/25/2009 Location: 235 N. Fourth St.Story: PAME26 () / In the 1780s, black people worshiping at St. George's Methodist Church on N. 4th St. were kicked out in the middle of a service. They then formed Mother Bethel AME Church. This Sunday, for the first time in 240 years, the two congregations will unite and pray at 11 a.m., the time Martin Luther King once called "the most segregated hour in America." That's because people generally worship according to race, he said. We will be on hand to write about the historic service. Additional story info: two pastors: Rev. Mark Tyler of Bethel AME and Rev. Fred Day of St. George's. Lubrano, Alfred Reporter's Ext.4969///856-275-1233-cell
( Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer )

This is the finding of a recent study conducted by researchers at Baylor University, the University of Southern California and the University of Chicago. The study , “United by Faith? Race/Ethnicity, Congregational Diversity, and Explanations of Racial Inequality,” was published in the journal Sociology of Religion.  As you can imagine, it has gotten some people talking as the results are regretful.  It seems that the cultural diversity represented in the pews does not suggest that there is diversity in perspective or leadership.  Instead of opportunities for collaboration, the study finds that the attitudes of the cultural majority dominate.

While I respect the research and I cannot argue with the facts, I remain hopeful that our faith communities can change.  For me, this presents a review and evaluation of our efforts to live reconciled with one another.  And less we be disillusioned or confused by the appearance of togetherness, this study proves that there is more hard work to do.

Because it is not enough to sit together or to sing together if we cannot freely talk to each other.  We cannot raise our hands in worship together and not hold hands while walking together.  We must strive to be one people with one voice able to say together, “For God so loved the world…”

If eleven o’ clock remains the most segregated hour, then we are all talk and frankly, time’s up for that.


A Recipe for a Successful Church


“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.”

~ Henry Ford

Too often, we believe that our ministry is successful because we had good attendance at our church, because we served a record number of neighbors at our church, because we our church is growing and maturing in Christ.  But, it is easy to see success when we are only looking at ourselves, comparing ourselves to ourselves.

The Church is the body of believers all over the world.  Let’s talk about our attendance now, our service to date, our growth and maturity in Christ based on our fellowship with other churches, with all churches.  The Church needs to be evangelized as we are not so connected when we step outside of our four walls, when we leave our pews or our community.  We stop singing, stop holding hands when we start to talk about other churches.  Because we have a good thing going here.  And they might mess it up.

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor company, presents a potential measuring stick for success and coming together is only the beginning.  It is easiest to gather for a meal, for a march, for a mission because afterwards every one gets to return to their corner of the community.  It is a limited amount of time with a set purpose and goal.  Once the dishes are put away, justice has been served and the mission accomplished, we’re free to go.

“Keeping together is progress.”  Staying together, staying connected is an improvement upon the relationship.  Intentional fellowship without reason other than common interest in the other person.  Dare I say, creating a friendship.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live, dwell, keep together in unity” (Psalm 133.1).  It is not enough to share a pew on Sunday morning for an hour or two.  We need to take a seat in the homes of fellow believers of other cultures and contexts and stay awhile.

But, even this is not the end all, be all.  Ford says, “Working together is success.”  And I would agree.  It is easy to share a cup of tea or coffee, share words while in conversation but sharing power, even spiritual power, can be difficult for people of faith.  And finding agreement though we believe in the same God, the same Savior of the world and rely upon the same Spirit, now you’re pushing it.

Yet, this is what we must do.  We must push it.  We must push the boundaries of our tradition, our program, our routine.  We must be willing to roll up the sleeves of our theology and get involved in the mess of life: the differences and diversities of life.

We must push ourselves beyond what has been done and do something new.  Agree to worship and work together to the glory of God and the success of His Church.