Saturday, March 26, 2005
A Good Idea, That Can Probably Only Create A Bad Result
If we define a racially mixed congregation as one in which no one racial group is 80 percent or more of the congregation, just 7.5 percent of the more than 300,000 religious congregations in the United States are racially mixed. For Christian congregations, which form more than 90 percent of congregations in the United States, the share that is racially mixed drops to 5.5 percent. Of this small percentage, approximately half of the congregations are mixed only temporarily, during the time they are in transition from one group to another. [that is, less than 3% of Christian congregations are racially mixed 80% pro rata]I have a bunch of reactions to this. Firstly, the use of statistics in this manner is disingenuous. True integration is not about having certain people fill certain slots -- that is inherently dehumanizing; to people of any race. If integration is to matter it must be a matter of the heart, not merely the head count.
Soong-Chan Rah: If we were to hear of any other institution in the United States that had those kinds of statistics, we would be outraged. If less than 6 percent of universities or government institutions were integrated, we would say there is something seriously wrong.
Bill Hybels: A true biblically functioning community must include being multiethnic. My heart beats so fast for that vision today.
Secondly, church segregation is self-segregation. I have been in many churches with multiple ethnic congregations in them, and I have usually been active in efforts to integrate those congregations. There is never any animous, it is just a question of who people prefer to have as friends, and what language they like their worship service in. Speaking of which, I have been in multi-lingual worship services, they are pointless, all they do is bore everyone to tears in all languages.
Thirdly, churches largely populated by single races divide themselves up on matters far more trivial than race. I think there is a sort of speck and log thing going on here. Any time we have tried for Christian unity, we end up with mush -- take for example the National Council of Churches, or the World Council of Churches. In order to get everybody together, you end up believing in nothing.
Bottom Line, well SC's commenter, Hatless in Hattiesburg gets to the bottom line. Racial integration in churches is to be desired, but never forced.
By the way, because I have tried it so many times, the thing I have found that works best, is integration in fellowship events, NOT worship. Let everybody get to know each other. Once friends, things go much, much better.