Emerging Monoculturalism?

So I don’t mean to be a watchdog or some left-leaning activist (nothing personal to those of you who are!), but I think this entry is pretty important. Over the last few months, I have been noticing the increasing lack of multiculturalism in the majority of the up-and-coming generation of churches and Christians in the US. At least in what gets the limelight. Consider the following:

Christianity Today, the leading Christian magazine in the US, in its latest issue interviewed 11 pastors to discuss what the next 50 years looked like for the church in the US. They did this in celebration of their 50th Anniversary. Amazingly, the pastors interviewed were all white! Strange (alarming?), especially in light of some of the events of the last 50 years (e.g.- the civil rights movement, the shift of the Christian center from West to East/South, the increasing diversity of the US, etc.).

– The mainstream leadership conferences for the next generation of church leaders typically feature an all white panel of speakers, with maybe one token black guy. Seriously. For example:

Catalyst Conferences

The 2006 Reform/Resurge Conference

The National Pastor’s Conference (they got better this year- see the website. Last year, though… yikes)

I hope I’m not being judgmental/divisive/arrogant about it, but I do believe it’s something we need to be aware of and help change. I’ve been writing letters to various organizations (including some of the above) to express my concerns- maybe that’s something more of us need to do.

In the meantime, I’d like to see if anyone out there is interested in forming a network of multiculturally minded emerging Christian leaders. If so, let me know.

Oh, and let me know if I’m being offensive here. Part of becoming truly multicultural is talking things through, so let me know.

In any case, God help us.

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8 Comments»

  David Park wrote @

I completely agree. While obviously I’m not advocating some sort of “affirmative action” program for Asian American or ethnic leaders, I can’t seem to tell what the problem is. Are ethnic leaders not innovative enough? Do we insulate ourselves from the broader audience? Secondly, is this a reflection of the “silent exodus” in the sense that we may have “lost” a generation due to the sense of identity formation within this dominant white culture?

Or really is there a sense of subconscious exclusion from the majority leaders? Is it possible because perhaps, at least in the case of Asian American leaders, that they tend to remain more conservative in theology and in practice that they are simply not the ones to drive Christian leadership forward? Or our people simply reluctant to follow someone who is not white?

In any case, we don’t want diversity for diversity’s sake, but I’m all in when you start that network. We have nothing to lose at this point…not our voice, that’s for sure.

  elderj wrote @

Start the network… I’ll be there. As for the reasons why these issues continue some of it comes down to old fashioned hard heartedness and an unwillingness for people to actually engage in a significant way with multiple cultures. Most folks really have a culturally bound perspective on the gospel that prevents them from seeing the value of multiculturalism or even seeing it as a threat. It doesn’t help that many ethnic minorities (moreso azn than Black) have readily accepted this view of Christianity.

  yucan wrote @

David, ElderJ-

Thanks for the response. Good points for sure… more on them later.

One question, though, I have for you, ElderJ (and I’m assuming you’re black based on your profile)- from what you know, where are the emerging 20/30 year old African American Christian leaders? I was with a black pastor from the Atlanta area a few weeks ago, and we were talking about it. He mentioned that in the black church there’s something called the “sons of the house,” where younger emerging pastors basically help the senior pastor and eventually work their way to pastoring a church. If that’s the case, I’m thinking we need to talk to some senior pastors and somehow get into that system. Thoughts?

  elderj wrote @

I am Black, thanks for noticing šŸ™‚ As for the dynamic present in some Black churches, I think there is an informal way in which younger Black ministers are developed but it is not necessarily one in which actually mentoring happening. Many of the young ministers do eventually begin their own ministries though, so even though it is not really well developed, it does provide some opportunity for development.

  Kelly G. wrote @

I definitely have no firm opinions on this at all, but I’m really curious about this issue. I feel like I know of a ton of Asian pastors but most of them are pastors of Asian churches; from elderj it sounds like perhaps there’s a similar thing going on in Black churches–they just aren’t really part of the ‘spotlight,’ I guess, as you put it, Yucan. I guess I also don’t really keep up with Christianity Today or kind of the ‘scene,’ if you will, so I don’t know what kind of an impact they make, but I wonder … I don’t know. Sorry, this is getting really incoherent. I guess I wonder if the issue is more that so many churches are so racially segregated and it happens to be the predominantly white ones that cover themselves? Maybe my question is what makes the ‘mainstream’ organizations so important? I’d be really curious what the effect is of them being so racially homogenous–on themselves, on the non-white Christians in the U.S., and on the body as a whole. Really interesting stuff.

I really like the idea of a multicultural leadership organization. I think the people we’ve had speak the past few weeks were so amazingly informative and insightful.

  Ted wrote @

Yucan,
Thanks for your thoughts. It is a strange thing. I’ve enjoyed how CT has more of a global vision in the last few years. In fact, some months I just read the section on what’s going on with church around the world and skip the rest. But CT can do better.

Regarding the network…let’s do it! I with you!

  T.J. wrote @

I love networks of this nature. Oh and ethnos too.

  Floyd wrote @

I would have to say that it is a matter of who runs the organizations that cover themselves. Christianity Today has long been a representative of religious communions which have been overwhelmingly middle to upper class evangelical, moderate to moderate-conservative, very white. They profess themselves to be moderate to even moderate to liberal, but CT has that typical liberal elitism that shows off its hypocrisy, an hypocrisy that has kept me from wanting to read it for some time.

What is interesting as to where one might go to get a different story. While I am not myself a “word of faith” man doctrinally, I have subscribed over the years to several of their leading periodicals. The number and percentage of their top leaders who are people of color is astounding (Creflo Dollar, David Yonggi-Cho, Juan Carlos Ortiz, T.D. Jakes, etc.). And when one visits their churches, the degree of racial mixture and easy blending of cultures is even more stark. A few weeks ago, while visiting family in Texas, Gail and I attending Lakewood Church in Houston, now the largest church in the history of the United States (Joel Osteen is pastor). 75,000 people, and the sea of multi-colored faces and tongues was stunning. More so was, in a Southern city, no less, the large number of interracial couples and families there, and the ease with which that reality was apparently accepted without hardly a second thought. I think that these folks have hit upon something, with an amazing lack of debate or soul-searching about it, that seems different from even fellowships that like to make such issues to be an issue. Ciao.


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