Overcoming Racism to Answer the Call of the Great Commission (Race Relations US-West newsletter)

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This is a portion of Rudy's bimonthly newsletter. To receive the full newsletter, including ideas for your congregation, suggested reading, and upcoming events, subscribe at bit.ly/racerelationsnews.

Greetings, I pray that you are all doing well. The Apostle Paul writes in Hebrews in 10:24, “let us consider how to spur one another unto love and good works.” As I write to you, I have been encouraging a friend who is pastoring a small congregation. A church member has been involved in a horrendous crime and it is not the first time his church has had a member in trouble with the law.

They assume that these visitors will assimilate culturally as they transition to full membership.

God’s people, God’s church. In the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), Jesus tells us of a space where sinners and saints gather. Christ makes a way for a Holy Church to exist, despite the sins of its members. My friend is dealing with the sin of one member, but the purpose of my newsletter is to help us come to terms with another sin that keeps us from reaching all people with the love of Christ. It is the sin of racism. The lost include people from every ethnicity, language, and culture. Yet most Reformed congregations are predominantly white.

I would like to propose that most Reformed congregations are stuck in a whites-only cycle because of racialized identity beliefs and assumptions. They are stuck there because, though they are hospitable to ethnic minority visitors, they assume that these visitors will assimilate culturally as they transition to full membership.

This assumption blinds leaders to the need for education in cultural competency.

This assumption blinds leaders to the need for education in cultural competency. Leaders who are attempting to unpack and work around beliefs and assumptions face the risk of angering white members, who may be fearful of conversations about racial identity. The result is often to keep the peace by not addressing racism.

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I think it is counterproductive to assume a correlation between "race" and "ethnicity, language" or "culture" (as this article does), or to lay the charge of the "sin of racism" when churches struggle with cultural differences.

Being "white" says little to nothing about one's "culture."  Neither does being "black" or "brown" or any other other "color" one might use to refer to race.  I'm "white" but deal almost everyday with other "whites" who are quite "culturally different" from me.  Conversely, I also deal with persons of other "races" (or skin colors) who I consider "culturally similar" to me.

Certainly, any church expecting or requiring (consciously or unconsciously) cultural assimilation by new attendees may want to adjust their perspective in that regard, but those cultural differences can come in any racial "color" -- and do -- and should not be regarded as race differences.  Nor should struggles to culturally accommodate/integrate be considered the "sin of racism."