MUST our Churches be "Multi-Ethnic"??


There is something of a "movement" in progress, among some Christians (paricularly those in league with, or in support of, "BLM") to push the idea that Christian churches must be -- are biblically mandated to be -- what they call "multi-Ethnic".

A leading voice in this group, Michelle Higgins, recently wrote an article for "Relevant Magazine" (a contemporary "Christian" periodical), opining what she (and this "movement") view as the "sin" of "mostly-white" churches. Here is that Article, and after that, a series of COMMENTS I was a part of, with another reader who agrees with Ms. Higgins (and this "movement")...

Michelle Higgins: The Idea of Racial Reconciliation Is Bankrupt

Many in the activist community call this month Black August. It is used as a time to strategize for what we will do about the history of our people, to remember and reflect for the purpose of taking action. I thought I’d started out Black August with a bang. I helped strategize for a support system for people abused by the criminalization of poverty. I saw my son complete his first summer at a Freedom School. I remembered the grief of Michael Brown’s murder, the pain and determination of the Ferguson Uprising. But the Holy Spirit has disrupted my arrogance in presumed faithful action, and I’ve been grieving more than strategizing ever since.

I am grieved by the tendency of our well-meaning friends to repeat the phrases: “Racists are no representation of the United States of America …” and “Recent displays of hatred and fear are not a real picture of America, this is not what our country was built for.” As we attempt to respond to claims that “removing confederate monuments will re-write American history,” I am ill at ease with the assumption that “America the Beautiful” has dealt with all of her sinful stains.

I grieve the arrogance and presumption of “racial reconciliation” work among the diverse peoples of the United States. I believe that the terminology of racial reconciliation is bankrupt. When, in the history of this country, have racial relationships been conciliatory? We need racial righteousness, racial repentance. In this country and many others, we have worked harder to hide the truth about our history than we have to amplify the stories of people who’ve been wounded by historical lies. Above all, I am grieved by our churches and widespread hypocritical hesitation. We cry out and tell each other, “Call this evil what it is!!” or “The president’s flip-flopping is so disturbing!”

But I am no longer certain that the actions of the current president differ from those of our largest academic and religious institutions. Churches, ministries, Christian universities and training programs take pride in their commitment to shepherding and supporting new students of color. But who among them have anti-racism and racial unity training for white students and leaders? So the Church wants to see healing in America? Let the Church repent of the wounds we have made.

In the 34th chapter of Ezekiel, The Lord tells Ezekiel the priest to prophesy against the spiritual leaders of his day. God says, “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.” and so their fate is to lose the flocks they had used for profit: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.”

Jesus fulfills this promise and warning. He is intolerant of the self-centeredness and oppressive practices among the shepherds of his people. He is the Good Shepherd, the Word of Life and the True Vine. I fear the atrophy of the Church that does the outward work of prophetic boldness, but is hesitant to search itself. Only arrogance ignores how easy it is to denounce white supremacy in the community, in history, and even in the capital, while boldness breaks into silence as we look upon our own stained glass. Halfway free is still in chains.

In order to fight faithfully against the oppressions of our day, we must reclaim the definition of freedom as evidenced by the life of Jesus.

Everyone of non-native descent who is capable of basic comprehension already knows the truth about the United States: This land is not our land. Racial terror in the U.S. must be traced to its roots, to the stories we are trying to silence. God’s truth frees us from guilt and shame. We no longer need to hide our failures because Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to teach us how to live in repentance of them. White supremacy and its covert corollaries of fragility, privilege, self-centeredness and hard-headedness have found a home in the our church pews. The people bound in these chains are not always wealthy, and they are not always white. We have to stop the cover up.

If we do not actively speak and live out God’s truth, we are participating in a lie.

Devastating proof of the deadliness of white supremacy surrounds us. If we cannot see it, it is past time to ask why. It is time to reckon with this selective sight that we play off as innocent, ignorant blindness. “Open the eyes of my heart Lord!” but not to the sins of my white-centered church. What will the saints who worship white Jesus do when they see a brown-skinned savior lifted up above creation. What will we do when He tells us His dwelling place was with the poor all this time, that His gospel—as He told us—was good news for them. When the last become first, what will we do? The time is now (and the time was a while ago) to grapple with chains that we have laid in gold, with the log we’ve set in our own eye. It is time to confess that America’s addiction to a seemingly comfortable deception is keeping us from the truth that would set us free. The church’s refusal to de-center whiteness is the primary reason we have failed to address its cultural impact. More plainly: American churches are often the benefactors of America’s sins.

I offer what I hope is some encouragement, some comfort and prayerfully some truth. It’s raw today and rarely easy, but by the Holy Spirit, it always nourishes the body.


Communal recovery is difficult when collective trauma is so long ignored. We’ve shared our pain, we’ve hosted and attended prayer meetings and vigils. Christians have been compelled to change our schedules, to speak boldly—or to continue to do so. My hope is that the repentance so many of us speak of and participate in will lead to a renewal of our collective consciousness. But the work will have to look different than it has in the past. We will have to display the boldness of God’s truth inside our homes and worship spaces as well as our political conversations and community ministries.

If we want anti-racism to impact on our children’s futures, we must discover the racist tendencies in the way we raise them. If we want to live in community with our impoverished neighbors, we will have to uncover the fears that keep us from drawing near to marginalized people that are so near and dear to the heart of God.

We cannot serve high-risk peoples without acknowledging that extended risk assessment (How much will this cost? What friends will I lose?) is often proof of our privilege.

In challenging the Church to teach confession for both personal and collective sins, many Christians are faced with questions for what feels like the umpteenth time in the past few years.

“Why can’t we just focus on the gospel? Why are you so convinced that racial justice is so important? Why is racial hatred still such a big issue? What are we supposed to do about it?”

These questions pain me in part because I know that so many voices have answered them, some a long time ago. I am nauseated by the seemingly endless loss of life and safety in the struggle to amplify the truth. But what frustrates me most is the assumption that social justice work might in any way evidence a lack of trust in Jesus, rather than total dependence upon His Gospel, thereby serving as a continuation of His own social justice work.

"The gospel is enough" is the response I’ve heard from people who despise the ministry of protest. And to this I say amen. The gospel is enough because the man who authored the Gospel looked upon hungry crowds and He fed them. He healed the infirm and raised the dead. He preached a gospel that harmonized body and soul. When He made the ultimate sacrifice He did so within a human body. When He conquered death He was not separated from humanity. He joined a human body to His divine spirit—the very spirit that created the cosmos and breathes life into us as we speak. Jesus chose to be perfected for eternity in the form of one of His own creations. Our bodies matter to God. The gospel is proof of that. So yes, it is enough.

The Apostle Paul lived this out. As a missionary, he freed a woman from the evil that wrecked her body. He healed her psyche and told her of the God who created and cared about her. He publicly defied common laws that protected her owners by keeping her in physical, mental and psychological bondage. He was abused for uncovering the truth about her chains. He was jailed and eventually executed for working to see the gospel set people free. He could not have acted so boldly if he were not aware of the chains that once bound him.

Do we desire to see freedom in America? We must commit to telling the truth about our chains. The American Church should be first to tell the whole truth about white supremacy in America because it may be the idol we protect the most. If knowing truth means dwelling in Jesus, we will live out our liberation from deception by refusing to downplay violence, by confronting apathy toward people of color and by confessing participation in racial terror.

We will depend so desperately on God’s truth that we not fear to face the realities of our day. In simply reading the Gospel writers themselves, this ought to become apparent. Were the kingdom of God fashioned after individualistic piety, our Savior would have given a great commission of contemplation and not disciple-making. The writer of the bulk of the New Testament would not have been a missionary.

If faith-rooted justice work means that the gospel is not enough, we have not read the gospel. And perhaps worse, we cannot see the depths of evil in our heritage that God is calling us to confront. God’s truth seems painful because we don’t know how to drop the American demand for fabricated perfection.

Why should churches commit to fight against white supremacy? Because white supremacy is one of the most codified lifestyles in the church.


Ask yourself why.
Self-interrogate before (and during and after) seeking counsel of others.
Why the hesitant reasoning for discussing racism plainly?
Why does colorism shape theology?
Why does racial unity mean dinner dialogue and instagram pride, but not fair wages, displacement of the poor, and protest of police brutality?
We must ask why.

Reject the artifice of whiteness.
“White” is not an ethnicity. Race itself is a supremacist construct. Please read all about it.
Words are not enough. The current president has proved as much in a matter of days—however unsurprising it may be. It is important. So, too, is the response of the people who both support and condemn his attitudes.

Silence is a speech act, so your tweets do matter in some way. But what you say in person, how you live, what you do; this is the testimony of what you believe.

Rewrite history.
It is our responsibility as Christians to show God’s truth not only as superior to the minds of humankind, but as essential to the renewal of the same. There is no upright nation on the face of the earth. The United States is not so different from the Roman Empire, and the Lord has lived out the pattern of how we must live in the face of that reality.

Read the stories of marginalized Americans through history, learn as much as you can and then tell history like it is. Take your cues from the way God speaks the history of his peoples. Deuteronomy 8 and 29, Psalm 78, Acts 2.

"The secret things belong to the Lord," but that which is revealed is for us and our children to remember, and to obey God’s commands forever.

Teach your people to delight in diversity.
If people do not regularly hear the truth that whiteness does not define the American norm, then it should come as no surprise when the sheep in our own flocks feel odd and even wrong to address racial sin as part of our reasonable acts of worship. Avoiding awkwardness has become more important than revealing truth.

If our children do not regularly hear the truth that Jesus was man of color, we may be mortified to discover they believe Jesus was white. That’s our fault.

If we can begin to speak truth, and strive for healing through the necessary dissonance, we might more humbly approach the history of this home we do not own.

Do not be afraid of suffering.
There is no time for sympathy without action. We are drowning in receipts. Yesterday I watched a friend of mine get lambasted on Facebook for telling a heart-wrenching and important story about the deep impact of racism. I thought to myself, “Welcome, bro, and I’m sorry.” then I thought about Jesus and his question, “Who is my family?”

I thought about his followers who lose their life to find it, those who have been taken from a cross to sit at his feasting table in paradise. I thought about those who find their heritage in the heart of God and not the plans and possessions of men.

I want everyone who suffers for the sake of righteousness to rejoice, and to remember that enduring words of hatred is still nothing compared to the reality of being beaten or lynched simply because your skin color is considered a threat.

Seek wisdom and direct action training; we cannot confront our failures alone.
None of us should attempt to lead a march or a movement until we have the decency to learn how to follow. This is the scariest part of faith-rooted activism for us: learning how to speak in spaces you’d prefer to be silent. And learning to be silent in spaces where you feel qualified to speak.

People of privilege have neither the authority or the expertise to speak on behalf of the oppressed. Perhaps by our presence among the people most at risk, we will learn a new definition of counting the cost.

Beyond asking what will happen if we support the cause of dismantling white supremacy (or what will happen if we don’t), we must interrogate the cultural blinders that disguise the stranglehold it has on our necks.

I can only hope that I have not caused you shame. I do believe in a godly grief that leads to repentance and salvation without regret.


COMMENTS -- Greg and Darrell


(1) We cannot ever begin to talk about "racial reconciliation" until ALL views on the topic are allowed, in safe, calm, non-judging conversations. Those bemoaning our "white-centered churches" are not about to have those conversations.

(2) When is enough Repentance enough? What Measurement can there possibly ever be of good progress along these lines when even the gains made are routinely marginalized?

(3) Do the broad brush-strokes of articles like this really help? Can we not look around at every segment of our society -- and at the lives of Church members -- and *see* the kindness and love and neighborly care being shown every day between racial opposites, on a scale being quietly overlooked by so many? Are there still challenges in this area? Certainly. Will there ALWAYS be pockets of racism in government, police work, the Church, and society at large (including the pervasive REVERSE racism we see so much of these days)? Sadly, yes. And that is enough for those determined to always be "fighting the fight", to ceaselessly cry "Not enough!" But there is really only one way to truly Unite, and that is person-to-person, one Loving Relationship at a time.


ALL views on sin are not equal, nor does the Bible ask us to be calm and non-judgmental regarding sin. This is called tone policing -- discounting the real experience of the sin of racism because we don't like how those most affected by this sin (people of color) talk about it... As if our discomfort at being confronted with racism somehow means those who have experienced racism first hand -- and are trying to both address it and educate us -- need to prioritize our comfort over the truth... And that we are justified in ignoring the truth unless it is told us on *our* terms in ways that remove emotion and make us feel safe.


Darrell, Perhaps I wasn't vrery clear about what I was trying to say... Essentially, I am advocating for (1) REAL Change, through open and honest conversations (instead of these "unless you agree with me you don't get it" monologues), (2) A call for the avoidance of broad generalizations and vague "rebukes" (e.g., "white-centered churches"), as they only add more combustion to this issue, and (3) Acknowledgement -- even celebration -- of the huge progress made in this area, in the last 50 years (as a way of encouraging further progress)...

Ms. Higgins and those she may (or may not) be speaking for are saying, in effect, "We have a problem here. It's been going on a long time. We're sick of it", and millions of Americans (especially the majority of the Church, I believe) are saying, "We are listening, and we hear you, and we agree there is a problem, and we grieve at the Injustice of it all; but there are some things we need to discuss; can we talk?"

Will that ever happen? Who knows


To be honest, having been a part of predominantly White churches for all of my life, as a lay person and participating and leading a variety of ministries, I disagree that the majority of people in White-majority churches are saying what you're saying. If your congregation is honestly having that dialogue, that's fantastic and I applaud you! But most predominantly White churches and Christians simply aren't willing to allow themselves to be uncomfortable for long enough to really recognize, address, and root out racism in our society. And honestly, this racism is alive and well in our churches as well, as we mirror our culture instead of transforming it as the Gospel requires of us. I'm not talking about KKK hoods in church -- I'm talking about unchallenged assumptions of dominant culture being largely what guides how we "do" church, even when it contradicts Scripture and even when it ignores sin (in this case, racial sin).


I too have grown up in Church, and have been a more or less regular attender and participant for more than 50 years. During the course of my adult life, I've been part of congregations from several denominations, and of both majority-white and "mixed" races. I can say matter-of-factly that many of them are having the sorts of Conversations I was describing earlier.

And honestly, your most recent Reply here is reflective of precisely the vagueries I'm talking about (and I want to stress that I hope to convey a spirit of respect to you as we chat, here):

1. "...most predominantly White churches and Christians" - according to whom?
2. "...simply aren't willing..." - again, according to whom?
3. "...allow themselves to be uncomfortable for long enough..."

4. " really recognize, address, and root out racism in our society..." 5. "...unchallenged assumptions of dominant culture..." What assumptions? 6. "...being largely what guides how we "do" church, even when it contradicts Scripture and even when it ignores sin..."

This is the other Big One:

So, my good brother, I am honestly not trying to be combative or contrarian, here. We AGREE that there is an on-going, serious Issue here, and that it has many levels and aspects.

I posted here because I think we -- all Believers -- need a different approach:

(1) Purposely PLACE ourselves in situations where we are AROUND other Races
(2) BUILD kind and loving Relationships with one another
(3) ENCOURAGE others to do the same.
(4) WORK to change the minds of judges, police, and any other Power structure that keeps treating any particular Race with disrespect
(5) Be willing to DISCUSS any aspect of this broad issue, even if you disagree and even if it gets tense.

These 5 things are things any of us can actually go out and DO. Today. I just don't think articles like this do much more than pass judgment and exacerbate the problem.


you raise a ton of great questions! Thank you! I'll do my best to respond to each:

1. "...most predominantly White churches and Christians" - according to whom?
=>This is based on a fair amount of personal reading and research – a well-researched place to start is “Divided by Faith” – as well as lots of conversations with Christians who are racial minorities, plus my own observations.

2. "...simply aren't willing..." - again, according to whom?
=> See above. I myself have worked in racial reconciliation in local congregations and Christian circles, and have worked hard to educate myself on how the Bible and my Christian faith come to bear on racism in our society and more particularly the Church. I’ve seen this over and over. And in visiting many predominantly White churches, I’ve found precious few that demonstrate a willingness to address racism.

3. "...allow themselves to be uncomfortable for long enough..."

a. How do we define "uncomfortable"?
=>I’ve been told over and over in my own efforts to work for racial reconciliation, both indirectly and very directly, that churches and church leaderships don’t want to make people uncomfortable by addressing race and racism. I’ve also seen that in churches that are truly multicultural, everyone is willing to be a little uncomfortable – to sacrifice something – for something they see as a greater good of Kingdom and Gospel living.

b. How do we PROVE that "comfort" is really the heart of the issue?
=>I guess the heart of the issue is sin. But dealing with sin is uncomfortable, so this becomes a huge barrier.

c. How long is "long enough"?
=>Until we’ve rooted out sin! Until we love God and love our neighbor! Until in praying “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” – reading that Heaven will consist of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” – we live as if we really want our Church on Earth to reflect this! Until we truly live out Christ’s “ministry of reconciliation”! Until we are perfect as Christ is perfect!

4. " really recognize, address, and root out racism in our society..."

a. This is the Big One: "REALLY" recognize, according to whose assessment?
=>Related to #3c … as long as the sin of racism exists in our world, we have work to do. And when racism and division exist in the Church, too, we have a LOT of work to do.

b. There are Christian churches and organizations everywhere, making a great effort to "address"... Are their efforts "not enough", or not worth noting?
=>Not at all! I think the author of this article is making an effort to “address” racism, too, but I see lots of voices on this thread – notably mostly of White people – condemning her work instead of adding their voices to the call and their hands to the plow.

c. "...root out racism..." We would love that, of course, but as long as there are sinful Hearts, there is going to be Racism. Goals must be achievable.
=>Jesus said “Be perfect.” That’s the goal. We pray “Thy will be done.” So we should live like it. I’m not saying that we’ll actually achieve perfection this side of heaven. Fortunately for us, God’s grace covers us in our sin and weakness. But “should we continue sinning so that grace might increase?” No! We should combat sin in every way we can instead of excusing it.

5. "...unchallenged assumptions of dominant culture..." What assumptions?
=>We can come back to this later, as this is already getting long. Can you think of any ways that your church, or churches you’ve known, mirror American culture? Syncretism exists on every continent and culture, of course, and we’re most likely to be blind to its existence and effects in our own, but that’s no excuse not to try.

a. How do we know they're not being challenged?
=>The vast majority of churches are homogenous. That’s a pretty good indication that the racism in our society is mirrored in our churches.

b. Who decides what the terms "dominant" and "culture" mean?
=>Statistics and history. The dominant culture in the US is White American. White people dominate numerically, historically, and by just about any measure of success that you could think of. This is by design, by conception, and unavoidable.

6. "...being largely what guides how we "do" church, even when it contradicts Scripture and even when it ignores sin..."

a. This is the other Big One:
1) Who says what "largely guides", in this context?
2) "Do Church" is rather unclear; many layers to this expression...

=>This is harder to measure, I’ll give you that. But if you start visiting churches of different racial groups in the US, and of recent immigrant groups, and churches internationally, you’ll see that Church looks and feels and sounds and is run very differently in different cultural contexts. It’s very hard to extract our Church norms (of time, community, worship, preaching, announcements, offering, etc.) from our culture. But many of them are driven more by our culture than by the Bible.

... (continued below)


-- part 2!

Back to your comments...

3) And despite that lack of clarity, the judgment is herein delivered that "it" (whatever "it" is) "contradicts Scripture" and "ignores sin"...

=>When our Churches do not reflect either the diversity of God’s creation nor the unity and reality of the Kingdom of God, this is a problem! This contradicts scripture. Racism is one of the greatest sins in our country, I believe, because it is so foundational to our history, so pervasive, and so divisive even within the Church. When we don’t talk about the sin of racism in our Churches, that’s a problem. And when we our Churches look more like our racially segregated communities than the Biblical vision of heaven, that’s a problem. These things contradict Scripture in that they are contrary to the message of the Gospel, the commands of Jesus and of the Bible, and the reality of the Kingdom of God.

=>You raise a lot of good questions! I can only assume that they are given in a spirit of truly trying to understand what I meant – it doesn’t seem like you’re just arguing to argue. There are whole books and courses on this topic, so I will readily admit that my comment lacked clarity. I didn’t intend to be this length, but since you asked such good and pointed questions, hopefully I’ve provided at least some clarity!

So, my good brother, I am honestly not trying to be combative or contrarian, here. We AGREE that there is an on-going, serious Issue here, and that it has many levels and aspects.

I posted here because I think we -- all Believers -- need a different approach:

(1) Purposely PLACE ourselves in situations where we are AROUND other Races
(2) BUILD kind and loving Relationships with one another
(3) ENCOURAGE others to do the same.
(4) WORK to change the minds of judges, police, and any other Power structure that keeps treating any particular Race with disrespect
(5) Be willing to DISCUSS any aspect of this broad issue, even if you disagree and even if it gets tense.

These 5 things are things any of us can actually go out and DO. Today. I just don't think articles like this do much more than pass judgment and exacerbate the problem.

=>Got it. I personally felt both challenged and encouraged by the article, and think it provides some important insights that suggest a way forward. But I also agree with your 5 suggestions above. For people who aren’t feeling moved by this article in a positive way, while it is beneficial to question why we feel defensive or opposed to new viewpoints, it is also more important that we continue the work of loving God and neighbor and continuing Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, whether it is through new means (even when they are uncomfortable) or through other Biblically-rooted methods that we are more familiar with.


Hello again, brother. I have just a few Replies to give, here, to what you've Replied with, as a way of continuing our conversation.

Also, I'll post again over the weekend with some rather more personal annecdotes, that I hope you will find to be a blessing as well as, again, continuing our conversation...

SO, briefly (and loosely following the Points arrangement, from above):

1. Essentially, making statements based on your OWN EXPERIENCES (and what you've read and seen) ... Well of course, I too have read widely on the topic and have spoken to numerous people over the years about all of this... Hence the need for the ALLOWANCE of other Viewpoints on this critical topic...

2. "...simply aren't willing..." You say, again, that your views come from your own experience...

But then you finish your answer to this point by saying,

"...And in visiting many predominantly White churches, I’ve found precious few that demonstrate a willingness to address racism."

No surprise... When "addressing racism" means (1)being forced to agree with the dominant, BLM-inspired narrative, (2) admiting one's so-called "white privilege", and (3) publicly confessing the presumed "sin of your racism", and (4) seeing that almost nothing that has already been done along these lines changes anything, anyway...and ALL of this without any serious conversations coming from different perspectives... is it any WONDER that a "predominantly white church" doesn't demonstrate a willingness to "address racism"?

3. the point about Comfort:

-- again, essentially your own experiences. I have had different experiences. Good discussions should include ALL Perspectives.

-- at one point you use the phrase, "...churches that are truly multicultural..."
How do you define "multicultural", and then "TRULY" multicultural (as though some are "multicultural" but not TRULY so)? -- to my point about "how long is long enough", you gave me the Standard reply: The completely unrealistic and ambiguous infinity of "until all sin is gone"... Again, Goals must be ACHIEVABLE in order to mean anything...

4a. Here again, you gave the answer of " long as there is Racism, there is work to do"... In other words, NO amount of PROGRESS will EVER be "enough". It's not difficult to predict that answer; there are many -- such as Michelle Higgins, and some I know personally -- for whom "The Struggle" will NEVER be over.

The REST of us are busy with actually BUILDING relationships and striving for UNITY, while these folks are raising their fists and protesting in the streets and parading in front of the cameras and filling up Twitter and Facebook with their incendiary messages.

And writing condemning articles like this one.

5. and 5a.

You imply that not many churches "mirror American culture", and you say, "the vast majority of churches are homogenous".

Darrell my friend, aren't these rather vague phrases?
(a) Who defines what "American culture" is?
(b) By "American culture", do you mean the very broad idea that we, as a nation, are very generally comprised of a mixture of many races?

If "Yes", may I ask, (1) WHY is it so critically important that each and every church in America "mirror" this mixture? and (2) what "formula" would be just the right formula to satisfy the requirements for "mirroring" this mixture? Only 30% "white"? What would the male/female Ratio need to be? If the church has several services on Sunday, does EACH one need to meet the Mixture requirement, or is there an "average" that is acceptable?

Do you see how widly subjective this idea of "mirroring" is? And what is the NEED, anyway, for our churches to "mirror" American culture? Does the Bible say "go into all the world and establish heterogenous churches"?

And shouldn't people -- ALL people -- be free (and unjudged!) to go to any church of their choosing?


6a. point 3)

You wrote,

"When our Churches do not reflect either the diversity of God’s creation nor the unity and reality of the Kingdom of God, this is a problem! This contradicts scripture."

A bit later, you say,
"when we our Churches look more like our racially segregated communities than the Biblical vision of heaven, that’s a problem."

As respectfully as I can, my brother, I have to say I absolutely and utterly DISAGREE with this. Again, can you SHOW me where we have a Mandate to ensure that our churhces "reflect the diversity of God's creation"? Can you show me WHICH Scriptures are contradicted here? Where are we instructed to be enamored with what our churches "look" like?

Of course, if what you mean to say is that Christians must not live their lives in racial isolation, that we must go out of our way to help and to serve people of all races, and -- more than that -- to be Brothers and Sisters with them, I totally and completely agree. But it sounds like you're advocating racially heterogeneous Church demographics, and I must say, I believe that's a fool's errand (again, I mean no disrespect at all).

As we've said, please don't feel obligated to respond. You've been kind enough to do so, so far, and I very much appreciate it.

Again, I'll post more, later this weekend, aimed at "widening" our talk... Stuff from my own life... Blessings to you, sir!


1 I agree that different experiences and viewpoints are beneficial.

2. I do NOT mean addressing racism means “being forced to agree with the dominant, BLM-inspired narrative.” My motivation is the Gospel and the commands of the Bible. More on this later.

3. Truly multicultural means not simply that the church is not monocultural, but also that there’s not a dominant culture (whether White or any other group – having a dominant culture is common in most churches of all races). This means different cultures are valued equally and lead equally, rather than one dominant culture occasionally pulling in a song, or leader, or sermon example from a different group. It’s a lot easier to be superficially multicultural, or have a dominant culture with sub-dominant cultures, or have intentions of being multicultural, than actually be multicultural. It’s not easy for the dominant culture of a church (again, this can be any race) to willingly to submit to this Kingdom value and relinquish some of “the way we do things,” but this is an achievable goal.

4a. The goal is not the struggle. All progress is helpful. But why would we be satisfied while the Church falls short of God’s design and is divided by racism? American churches in general are actually MORE racially segregated than the rest of society (where we live, work, shop, eat, etc.) and that’s an awful blemish on the People of God.

5. I think I must not have expressed myself well – I meant to suggest that many churches DO mirror American culture, and do so more than mirroring the Kingdom of God. By American culture, I mean such things as individualism, consumerism, capitalism, personal rights, American exceptionalism… and yes, White supremacy. Not all of these things are bad per se, but they are not Biblical values for the Church.

I do NOT think that American churches ought to mirror American culture. But I *do* believe that the Church ought to be racially and ethnically diverse and multicultural. The Bible talks about the unity of the Body of Christ, about breaking down the dividing walls of hostility, about there being no Jew nor Gentile, of heaven consisting of every nation and tribe and people and language, about our call to be agents of reconciliation as Christ has reconciled us. So if we’re mirroring the divisions in our society instead of this unity that the Bible calls for – unity within the beautiful diversity of God’s creation – then we have work to do. There’s not a “mixture requirement,” and there will be some churches in homogenous communities (some rural churches, for example) that can’t really be racially diverse because of where they are. But a decent litmus test of if we’re loving our neighbors might be if our Church reflects the diversity of our neighborhood. This isn’t an “acceptable” number or quota requirement, but a way for us to gauge if we’re really (a) loving our neighbor and (b) reflecting the diversity of the Kingdom of God in our churches. The goal of this is not to judge people for what church they go to, but to reflect on why our churches often mirror the divisions in our society instead of the unity God calls us to, and then to start healing these wounds and bridging these divisions.

6a. You ask where we have a mandate to ensure that churches “reflect the diversity of God’s creation.” The verses I referenced in the paragraph above are Ephesians 2:11-14 and 4:3-4, Galatians 3:28, Revelation 7:9, and 2 Corinthians 5:17-19. There are also multiple commands in scripture to be agents of justice (ex: Micah 6:8), and this includes opposing racial injustice. I would also refer again to the Lord’s prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). If God’s Kingdom of Heaven will consist of every people group worshiping together, then we know this is God’s ultimate will, and we pray for this to become reality on Earth. Jesus also tells us that God’s will is for us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and when asked who our neighbor is, he specifically pointed to the ethnic and cultural “other” of the Samaritan. All this sounds to me like the mandate you’re looking for! It’s not about what we “look” like, as you rightly pointed out. It’s about our unity in Christ breaking down human barriers that divide us against God’s will, and also about the Church celebrating the human diversity that God has created and surely loves.

Why do you feel this is a fool’s errand?


I suppose we could keep trading the same thoughts with each other, over and over again, and in different ways, but we're just going to come right back to the same spot. (Not that I ever thought either of us would change the other's thinking, but at least it's clear where we -- respectfully -- disagree.)

Allow me, though, to just respond as briefly as I can to a few things:

1. My point about so-called "white churches" “being forced to agree with the dominant, BLM-inspired narrative" (and the other components I mentioned as part of that same point) was intended to explain, at least in part, why there may be so LITTLE interest in "addressing racism". Many, many people I talk to are sick and tired of being told they are "racist", that the church they go to is not "multicultural", and that they "don't get it" just because they disagree. They're tired of seeing Progress flatly ignored (or minimalized).

So they -- and I count myself one -- have withdrawn from the "battles" over this stuff and they're focused on actually BUILDING Relationships and striving toward UNITY, right where they live and work and play. We've let the "noise" of all this fade away, and we're actually trying to Love Our Neighbors (black and asian and all others) as ourselves.

2. Again, where is the Mandate for any SPECIFIC church to be "mutlicultural"? The worldwide Body of Christ IS incredibly multicultural, and DOES reflect the diversity of God's created order (God's Kingdom).

3. You're conflating "individualism, consumerism, capitalism, personal rights, American exceptionalism… and yes, White supremacy" with the so-called "white church". That right there, my friend, is a huge part of the problem. These are primarily POLITICAL themes, and you're injecting them into the fundamental idenity of what many call "the white church". It's a Tautology.

4. I'm not a Bible scholar but it seems to me the Scriptures you referenced are selected bits from here and there that you're mashing up into a creation that supports your view... For example, the "no Jew or Gentile" was Paul's reference to the new reality that because of Jesus, one's status as a Gentile does not, now and forever, disclude them from being one of God's "chosen people". It is, at very best, a very weak and oblique shout-out to the idea that various "cultures" of the world should always be included in the local body of Believers gathered on a Sunday morning...

Sorry but I disagree with your "litmus" test: Aren't Believers free to attend whatever church they CHOOSE to? What if most of the Black in my neighborhood like one "style" or preacher, etc., and the Whites simply prefer a different "style" or a different "preacher"? Why MUST they literally worship in the same building, at the same time?

The "Unity God calls us to" is to be united around HIM, and to be united TOGETHER as we build relationships, loving and serving one another. THIS is our primary mission.

We can oppose racial injustice at the same time as we exercise our freedome to attend any church of our own choosing.

5. The "fool's errand" is the idea that we're chasing after a "cultural agenda" instead of building REAL relationships and REALLY loving and serving anyone around us, black-white-or-otherwise...

It is a danger in ANY religion -- and in politics, too -- to make one's sacred documents SAY whatever we WANT them to say, to fit our Ideas on how the world should be. Instead, we should do like Jesus did: Boil all that down to 2 very simple themes in our lives: (1) Love God (2) Love Other People (in the same way we love Ourselves).


Hi again Darrell:

I do hope nothing I said in my last post -- or the way I said it -- gave any offense to you; if so, please accept my apologies. It's good for us to have this discussion, and I want to keep it friendly and respectful. Please pardon me if that's not how it sounded to you.

Also, I said I'd post 2 quick things from my own life, to help "widen" our conversation a bit:

(1) 24 years ago, I married into a Mexican family. My wife, and her immediate relatives, are 100% Mexican. By inter-marriage, our extended family (on her side) includes Black people, Latinos of various ethnic distinctions, Italians, and of course a few White people. We get together for family events and we all love one another, and NOBODY cares one bit about Racial differences. WE ARE ONE.

I believe I am a much more profoundly *rich* person, having married into this family and being incorporated into their lives (and they into mine). Food, language, traditions, a different way of looking at the world, etc., have all been huge Blessings to me.

And as I look around, I see this kind of thing EVERYWHERE, whether it's by Marriage (in many many cases -- like yours, brother!) or by Work or Play commonalities, or just strangers, of all Races, being DECENT and RESPECTFUL to each other (say, every day at Wal-Mart). I have Black friends at the cigar shop, and we treat each other in a way that says Race just doesn't matter.

These are my experiences, and I hear it -- and see it -- from other people ALL. THE. TIME.

(2) In 2012, I watched a movie titled, "The Pruitt Igoe Myth", an emotive documentary about the famous Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project right here in St. Louis. I was deeply stirred, and for the first time in my life, I asked myself, "I wonder what Life in these United States LOOKS like, through the eyes of a Black person?"

That very day, I started a personal project (which I called "The Race Relations Project", so that I would have something to pin all my research to) wherein I studied Black History, the rise of Slavery in America, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Dred Scott, Jim Crow, and MLK, and a huge amount of material in and around those themes... This was not someone looking for "holes in the story" or ways to "explain away" anything: I truly wanted to KNOW and to LEARN the true thoughts and feelings of historic and contemporary African Americans...

It was an eye-opener, I will say that for sure! The project lasted 2 full years, and ever since then, I've been very interested in discussions surrounding Race issues, but as we've said, it's just so very difficult to even have that conversation anymore, because the whole topic has become so fraught with Political and Social agendas that it's now a tangled mess.


This is why I, for one, have decided to walk away from the "Noise" of it all, and do what I -- one single person -- can do to help "root out racism", and that is to (a) purposefully and intentionally put myself in places where I am WITH people of other Races -- especially Black people -- and then (b) build bonds of Friendship with them.

This is the only path to UNITY, I believe. All the "outcry" and "protest" -- and articles like Ms. Higgins', here -- don't seem to be changing anything whatsoever.

Would love to have your Reply, if you care to post one, brother.


Greg Kern,

1. I’m not sure that the author is forcing anyone to agree with her, or that she is calling people racist. Why do you think people reading this would feel they are being called racist?

I think the relationship building work you’re talking about is critical. But you started this conversation wishing that “ALL views on the topic are allowed,” but when presented with an uncomfortable view of someone of a different race and experience, you say you’ve “withdrawn from the ‘battles’ over this stuff” and “let the ‘noise’ of all this fade away,” which seems to suggest that you’re not as open as you’d like to be to her view on the topic. You’re clearly engaged in the “battle” right here in the comments, but you seem very resistant to the author’s message. And when I re-read her article, I’m not sure why.

If we White people feel that we’ve made progress, and we feel that People of Color are ignoring or minimizing our progress as you say, I think we should at least be open to the possibility that maybe we haven’t made as much progress as we think, or maybe the problem is bigger or different than what we’re able to see from our perspective.

2. I’m going to flip this specific church mandate question: If we’re called to love our neighbor, have we done this if our neighbor of a different race doesn’t feel welcome in our church, and our church is less diverse than our city or neighborhood? If the repeated calling of scripture is to unity within the Body of Christ, and our churches are still divided along racial (and other social) lines, why would personal preference and choice make this acceptable and somehow trump scriptural calls to unity? If the Kingdom of God is here, and is multicultural, why would our local churches be exempt from looking like the Kingdom of God, at least as much as our local surroundings allow?

(Skipping 3 for time/space … sorry)

4. The Bible is FULL of calls toward unity and calls toward justice. The diversity of God’s people is also present from Genesis and creation, to the first Abrahamic Covenant (“all nations on Earth will be blessed through you”), to Jesus saying “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” and making the parable about loving our neighbor about an ethnic outsider in the Good Samaritan, to Revalation and with the diversity of God’s people worshipping at the throne. I tried to select some key passages but keep them brief(ish!) for comments, but unity within diversity is a whole-Bible calling.

Free choice, on the other hand, is not a Biblical value for the Church. Yes, we have free will, but we are called to a high standard within this, and our preferences certainly do not excuse us from God’s call to be united. This is why I brought up the issue of prioritizing comfort early on. When we talk about our choices and preferences and styles that we like, we’re talking about our comfort, which is not a Gospel priority. If we prioritize our freedom of choice, we’re necessarily making unity in the Body of Christ a lower priority. We can clearly see that simply giving Believers free choice has created a largely segregated American church.

5. I don’t think this is a cultural agenda. I think this is God’s agenda. Just because secular humanists also oppose racism doesn’t mean that Christians shouldn’t also oppose racism on Biblical grounds – we should be leading the anti-racism charge motivated by Christ’s love, but because we haven’t, others have filled this gap for a variety of noble but lesser motivations, and this is a stain on the Church to be honest. But let’s not make the variety of motivations others have for opposing racism make it seem like this is not something we as Christians are called to do, or that in opposing racism we have to give up our Biblical basis and adopt secular bases for anti-racism.

I think you’re very right to bring it back to the Greatest Commandment that Jesus called us to. But we cannot fully love our neighbor in racially segregated churches.


Greg Kern, I appreciated your last post. It sounds like you’re already doing a lot of good work in addressing racism, and I commend you! The steps you are taking – exposing yourself to other perspectives and building bonds of friendship with people who are different from you – are truly essential in this work of racial righteousness. But your clearly good intentions and helpful practical steps in this matter make it even more confusing to me why you would dismiss an additional voice calling people to action as “outcry” and "protest" and "noise."

Was there something in particular in the article that grated on you to make you feel that it wasn’t a beneficial *addition* to (not replacement of) what you’re already doing, or at least a helpful viewpoint? I don’t think she would find fault with the steps you’re taking! But some of the things that she talked about – for example, Christians minimizing the sin of racism in our nation’s history and minimizing the need for racial justice, the need for repentance from racism, lack of training in anti-racism and racial unity in Churches, our willingness to speak about white supremacy but not act in sacrificial ways to address it, the way predominantly white churches benefit from white supremacy – all these really resonate with my experience, even as a White man, of a variety of American churches I’ve been involved in.

I don’t think this minimizes the progress that has been made or the steps you’ve focused on – which I want to be clear I think are CRUCIAL! But why are you so quick to dismiss this message? Why does it seem to you that all of this is detrimental instead of constructive? Is it at least partly because of our defensiveness, as this is criticizing an institution we hold dear and that formed our faith?


Hello again, brother:
Thank you for your Reply. I'm always glad to have your thoughts.

Some quick responses to what you've Replied with:

(1) By my remarks about being "forced", or being called "racist", I was speaking to the broader scene of these types of conversations over the years: We are told to acknowledge our "sin of racism" and to "repent" of it, we're told we must admit our "white privilege", we're told we can't possibly understand what a Black person goes through (so we're forced to agree with whatever he/she says about racism), the good progress made in the last 50 years is virtually NEVER highlighted in ANY of the articles like this, and we have Guilt heaped upon us non-stop:

From this article:

-- WOW. If these comments cannot be seen for the wildly-generalized, accusatory, bitter Indictments that they are, then there is really nothing much to say to them. This type of writing is Angry Protest stuff, not reasoned discussion on how we can become more Unified.

I have serious doubts that Ms. Higgins (much less, BLM) even WANTS actual Unity: She cannot heap condemnation on an entire segment of Society -- especially of the Church -- (completely IGNORING any Good Progress toward the very thing she is lamenting, here) and expect to find receptive readers.

THIS is the insatiable sound-and-fury that I refer to -- and the almost non-stop, daily reports from the bitter culture wars about all this -- when I use the word "Noise". It is not a matter of a difference of opinions, and not being open. It's the old saying, "I can't hear what you're saying because you're screaming so loud".



(2) We're just going to have to disagree about this idea of a "multi-cultural church". You've even gone so far as to call them "racially segregated", which of course is another super-charged term that, I think, only heaps fuel on the flames. We simply don't view this the same; I see no Mandate whatsoever to exert considerable effort just to make the congregation LOOK a certain way.

(3) I'm not even sure how to address your last paragraph, since so much of it is front-loaded with the very Catch-Phrases and Terms (e.g., "minimize", "white supremacy", etc.) on this topic that I have been trying to unpack and ask for clarity on. Articles like this are choc full of "protest placard" and "march chant" type content, but very few actual DETAILS. They want you to FEEL but not to THINK.

I'm not sure what you were referring to by your last statement, but I'll finish, for now, with some thoughts about it:

-- I (and SO many people I know) are not being "defensive". We are tired of accusations like the ones in this article being heaped on us (when someone accuses "the Church", they're accusing PEOPLE... best not to use such generalizations...)

-- If the "institution" you referred to is "white supremacy", I have to reject that statement entirely.

-- If the "institution" you referred to is the so-called "white church", then (a) It is held dear not becaue it is "mostly white" but because the Spirit of God is there. We're thrilled when we hear stories of the Spirit of God moving heavily, too, in, say, an ALL-BLACK congregation in Nigeria... (b) The church did not "form our faith", instead, it is the environment in which those who have COME to faith can have that faith built and nourished and shared.

And yes, I believe God Himself gives us tremendous Freedom, in our lives, to choose what Work to do, Where to live, Whom to marry, and what local Body of Believers to become a part of.


Hello again, Greg Kern. I’ll jump right in.

(1) It sounds like this article touched on a nerve. I’ll admit, though, that your three examples (needing to acknowledge the sin of racism, repent of it, and acknowledge white privilege) seem like honest assessments to me. I do agree with you that progress has been made. But I’d also say that there’s still a lot of racism in our society, and I can’t think of any metric by which we could say that people of all racial groups are equal, so I don’t think it’s unfair for an author to focus on the work that remains to be done.

Yes, "terror" is charged. But is it inaccurate in modern white supremacy (a la Dylan Roof)? Is it not helpful to accurately identify the problem? The roots are (at least in part) slavery and genocide, two acts that are foundational to our nation’s history. And as to who is trying to silence – LOTS of people! One could even say that by your arguments here, you’re also trying to silence (or at least downplay) white supremacy.

About white supremacy having found a home in our church pews, if the condemnations are accurate, then they are helpful. We cannot address a problem that we don’t recognize. I think the author’s view are substantially supported by history (White American Christians’ support of slavery, for example) and by current events (White American Christians’ overwhelming support of a president with White nationalist leanings, for example).

White supremacy is a super-charged word, too, I agree. But is it accurate? You believe it’s not as pervasive as she believes. I hope you’re right! But what if it is? There’s a lot at stake if she’s right (as I am as of late coming to believe she is) and the Church refuses to recognize this plank in our eye.

I have a hard time accepting your accusation that Ms. Higgins doesn’t want unity because she is critical of the Church. If there are serious flaws in the Church, and I believe there are, then the goal of unity is not served by ignoring or sugarcoating these flaws. A blunt assessment of deeply rooted sin is needed if we are to address the sins that divide us, and we cannot be united (except superficially, or with limitations) if we refuse to recognize our divisions.

(2) I’m very sorry to hear that you disagree with this. You say calling churches "racially segregated" is "super-charged" and "heaps fuel on the flames." Is it not true? The VAST majority of churches ARE very racially segregated! ( This is not unique to White churches, either. Why is it charged or heaping fuel on the flames to make an accurate statement? You see no mandate to exert efforts to undo racism and division within our churches? That is a terrible shame! The Biblical call to unity despite our human divisions is clear throughout scripture, as I’ve tried to demonstrate. (This article might say it better than me: The way we look isn’t of ultimate importance to God, except that race has become a division. The society of the early church also had deep social and ethnic divisions, but one thing that made the church at the time stand out was the measure to which the church was united in the very areas that divided society. It is to our own shame and condemnation that the modern church rather mirrors and even amplifies the divisions of society, rather than overcoming them with the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel.

(3) I’m sorry the terms I’m using are off-putting to you, but that’s not my intent! I’m not using "minimize" and "white supremacy" for the sake of shock value, but because I think they’re accurate and helpful terms. I’ve tried to give quite a few details throughout this thread, and am happy to provide more, but the details don’t seem to sway you – you seem pretty determined to believe that the progress the Church has made so far must mean that racial sin cannot still have a stronghold in the Church, and that it’s not a Biblical call for us to be reconciled in our local churches across racial lines. Again, I can provide more details. I have lots! I would like for us to feel AND think – I think God gave made us thinking and feeling beings on purpose, and that our feelings matter as well as our intellect. I’m personally moved by statistics, but I find that not many people are like me in this regard (surprise!), so sometimes I focus less on facts and more on stories and “feelings” which seems to resonate more with a lot of people, but I can find cold hard facts for a lot of what I’m saying if you so desire – just let me know what specifically you felt lacked details.


to your closing statements…

I wrote "Is it [feeling like the article is detrimental instead of constructive] at least partly because of our defensiveness, as this is criticizing an institution we hold dear and that formed our faith?"

You said you’re not being defensive. At the very least, you’re arguing vociferously against the possibility that the author is accurate in her criticisms!

By "institution" I did mean American churches, not white supremacy. The churches I grew up in *definitely* formed my faith! And not because they were mostly white (although they were) – but because they opened scripture and the Gospel to me and are a large reason why I am a Christian! So this formation was mostly in positive ways, but looking back, there were also elements of sinful perspectives that I didn’t recognize at the time, but which also subconsciously formed my faith as well.

To your last statement, yes, I agree that God gives us tremendous freedom. However, he also calls us toward a particular calling, specifically toward reconciliation toward both God and man and toward unity. Our freedom to choose is not the same as a calling, and I don’t think there is a Biblical case to be made that our freedom of choice (such as in what we want our churches to look like) in any way supersedes the Godly, Biblical priorities of unity (despite human divisions) and Kingdom living (reflecting the Kingdom of God, with all its human diversity that we see in Revelation).

Again, I can share more facts if you'd like. I can share many reading resources that have been helpful to me. If I could recommend just one book to you, it would be "Divided by Faith" -- the most exhaustively researched work I've seen by Christians examining our views on race in the American Church (particularly Evangelicalism). It was really transformational to me. Christianity Today has a condensed article of the follow-up book by some of the same authors, "United by Faith," but you need a subscription to see it:

I hope this dialogue continues to be insightful more than it is divisive. The latter is not my intent. The goal is always living for Christ, the Gospel, and the Kingdom of God.


There really isn't much more I can say that I've not already said, so I don't know that there is any value in continuing with this.

Just so I'm clear, is THIS the argument that you're making?

Is that accurate?

If so, then we really can go no further, in my view. Here's why:

(1) The application of (what you believe to be) the relevant Scriptures, in support of this view, is -- it seems to me -- deeply flawed. I looked at your Links, and others do take the same view. I think it is a profound mis-application of the quoted passages. BTW, from the neo-Nazi's to "prosperity Gospel" preachers, from alt-Left-and-Alt-Right zealots to angry Fundamentalists, LOTS of groups *bend* the Scriptures to fit their views...

(2) The Logic you've used throughout your comments is fundamentally mistaken; you cannot assume the truth of your Conclusion in your Premises (Question-Begging). I could point out specific examples but I honestly don't believe it would make any difference.

(3) The indiscriminate and intentional use of high-voltage, incendiary Terminology only serves to alienate the very people you're trying to convince. This is a huge part of the reason why "the divide" continues. The winsome and sweet Spirit of God is pervasive at my church, and I respectfully reject the idea that we're a part of "racial terror" or "white supremacy" because the ethnic mixture "isn't quite right".

(4) The massive Practical and Logistical considerations alone, of applying something like this -- even if it were true -- should be enough to cause most rational people to stand back and say, "Wait, this can't be right. We must have misunderstood something in the instructions. The pieces just don't fit."

So I suppose we're just going to have to agree to disagree. When we look at Jesus' OWN Inner Circle, we don't see any "racial diversity", and nowhere in Scripture is MY so-called "mostly-white" Church commanded to "integrate".

Racism is a HEART problem, not a demographics challenge.

ENDED on 09.08.2017