The Progress of Our Multiracial and Multi-Ethnic Church buildings: An Trustworthy Evaluation The Alternate
Last Friday (July 17, 2020), an 8-minute article titled "Multicultural Congregations Must Not Bridge Racial Differences" was broadcast in NPR's All Things Considered. The narrative begins: "As America focuses on overcoming racial injustices, the role of the churches is moving into focus."
Because of me.
However, the general tone and direction of Tom Gjelten's piece are set out in the next sentence:
"Christianity has sometimes shown racism rather than resistance, and some efforts by churches to promote reconciliation have encountered obstacles."
In other words, when it comes to churches being part of the solution to racial injustice and not an ongoing problem, NPR would make us think that the glass is half empty.
Of course, some on Twitter quickly pushed the negativity.
In response, I replied: "Too bad: interviews / articles like this seem to tend to discredit and ignore more than 20 years of progress. It is unrealistic to expect an 18-year-old to be fully mature. So many strong and healthy multi-ethnic works were ignored and good pastors actually did the job. #smh ”
It is no secret. Throughout American history, some who have called themselves Christians (not necessarily Christianity) and churches that have visited them have tended to continue racism rather than oppose it. And yes, of course … There are challenges in building and running a healthy multi-ethnic church. In fact, I've written a whole book on how to overcome the obstacles.
Although Gjelten's piece is informative, it is absolutely incomplete. During the entire 8-minute section, he has among other things:
- Cites the latest research results without full context
- Only asked a pastor of a multi-ethnic church
- Reduces effectiveness to a "formula"
Understanding the NPR play and interpreting the research is based on a definition that was first presented in 1998 and is still used by many to define what sociologists call a "multiracial" church: 20 percent or more diversity participation in membership.
But is this quantitative definition rightly the one we should use to describe what pastors usually call a multi-ethnic church?
The fact is that there is so much more than just counting different people in the pews.
The Mosaix Global Network recognized the need for a more solid understanding of what really makes a "healthy" multiethnic church and to provide a kind of North Star to pastors and churches who aspire to do so, and in 2018 defined the following definition:
A healthy multi-ethnic church is a church in which people from different ethnic and economic backgrounds will be involved
a) Walk, work, and worship together to give a credible testimony of God's love for all people;
b) Recognize, renew, reconcile and make up for broken human and collective relationships;
c) Establish fair systems of responsible authority, leadership, governance and accountability within the community;
d) Promote and promote justice, compassion and compassionate work in the community; and
e) Accept the tension of sound theological reflection and application relevance in an increasingly complex and intersectional society for the good of the gospel.
Therefore, I and the vast majority of other multi-ethnic church practitioners agree with the sociologist Dr. Korie Little Edwards, as quoted by NPR: "I would argue that the goal (of a multiracial church) should not be (mere) diversity."
Beyond the definitions, consider how far the multi-ethnic church movement has come, although you acknowledge that it is still far away. Despite the naysayers, there is a documented dynamic, and the movement is well on the way to becoming mainstream by about 2035 … after a path I first saw in the above-mentioned book, Leading a Healthy Multiethnic Church: Zondervan, 2010 Have set out.
The NPR article suggests that Christian churches that are defined as "multicultural" and have at least one in five members with a minority background have grown from 6% in 1998 to 16% in 2019. "But that's not true. This percentage growth is specific to" All Congregations, All Faiths (not just Christians), "as sociologist Dr. Michael Emerson said at the 4th National Conference of the Multi-Ethnic Church in Mosaix in November 2019.
Regarding the growth of multiracial churches within three major classifications of U.S. Christianity, the percentage of congregations that are now reaching the 20 percent threshold is as follows:
- Catholic: from 17% (2006) to 24% racial diversity (2019)
- Protestant: from 1% (2006) to 11% (2019), after 12% in 2012
- Evangelical: from 7% (1998) to 23% (2019), compared to 15% in 2012
Regarding evangelicalism, Dr. Emerson in particular: "The growing proportion of evangelical multiracial churches is, in my opinion, the big story … It has more than tripled in these twenty years. Incidentally, as a sociologist who studies these things and observes how social changes take place, I would have can never imagine that this would be possible. So it is the work of God. "
Emerson then answered the question, "Who is leading these churches? Who is the highest pastor?"
- Asian: 3% (1998) to 4% (2019)
- Hispanic: 3% (1998) to 7% (2019)
- Black: 4% (1998) to 18% in 2019, which growth calls a "pretty big change".
- White: 87% (1998) to 70% (2019) compared to 74% in 2012
Of course, these numbers don't say anything about increasingly diverse teams of employees across the country, where Color executives work and / or are hired for responsible authority positions.
In other words, in this regard too, and despite the otherwise bleak picture of the NPR play, the movement to build healthy, multi-ethnic and economically diverse churches for the good of the gospel has made tremendous gains over the past twenty years. I am confident that this will continue to be the case.
Dr. Emerson continued to think about the past twenty years and said at the conference: “… we really have a lot to celebrate. If the goal was to reach 20% in these churches by 2020, at least within the Christian church that was done … But now we have to have a bigger and richer goal. "
He then called on the collective movement to "grow from a toddler to a teenager and even an adult …" in the coming years and to use its increasing demographic diversity to work for "… true justice, true reconciliation and true unity" . address important issues such as white privilege. "
It is a challenge that Dr. Emerson, Dr. Little Edwards, myself, myself, and the many other pastors who are chasing the dream today, would encourage different men and women, too numerous to mention, to accept them too.