Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. Week 2018 | 3 Reasons Why I Hate, But Also Welcome Diversity by Christena Cleveland

Emmaus City Racial Reconciliation Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Multi-ethnic Communion in Church is Hard, Necessary, and Worth It

Worcester is a wonderfully diverse city. We are very immigrant friendly, and if you go to Elm Park on a weekend, you're more than likely going to hear at least three different languages being spoken between parents and children. God's beautiful creation of humanity in sight and sound is everywhere, from restaurants, to neighborhoods, to those working in our hospitals and businesses and growing up in our colleges and universities.

In light of this, I'm desperately praying God would give Emmaus City the privilege to not only be a church in our city, but also of our city, led by Jesus in front of men and women from our various ethnic backgrounds so we know how to best be Jesus' Church for our city by the power of the Spirit of God.

Search our website, and you'll soon discover some posts operating as written prayers and desires for Emmaus City to be a multi-ethnic church where racial reconciliation is not only spoken about, but embodied through how we see Jesus building His church. But my God, we need Your help. Why? The wonderful Christena Cleveland expresses some reasons in a recent interview titled the "3 Reasons Why I Hate Diversity." I continue to greatly appreciate Christena's candor, whimsy, compassion, and wisdom. She's a gift to Jesus' Church today.

From the article, "3 Reasons Why I Hate Diversity: Christena Cleveland Shares Some of the Hesitations All of Us Have to Face When We Welcome Diversity"


" ... I get it. I hate diversity too. Here’s why.

1) Diversity exposes my inner control freak: I like things to be done my way and that includes church. When I go to church, I want to feel culturally comfortable, communicate easily with the other congregants, share in their humor and be able to predict their behavior. This makes sense because humans are wired for survival; we naturally want to control our future and be able predict what’s going to happen next. To this end, we bond with similar others whose lives complement our own and with whom we can easily relate and give-and-take. 

But diversity disrupts all of this awesome, homogenous bonding. Cross-cultural encounters involve a lot of guesswork, ambiguity and unpredictability.

In racially diverse churches, I can’t control the environment. Heck, I can’t even predict it. People might worship in ways that make me uncomfortable. People might interpret Scripture in ways that I deem heretical. People might not be able to relate to my experience as a black woman. People might arrive too late or too early. People might hold perspectives that shatter my worldview. People might not laugh at my jokes. Who would want to attend a church like that?

No one, really. Social psychologist Michael Zarate found that people especially dislike diversity when it threatens their cultural values and way of life. I’m one of those people. 

2) Diversity exposes my desire for an easy-breezy Christian life: I’m also one of the many millennials who was taught growing up that Jesus wanted to make me happy, build a mansion for me in heaven, and be my Boyfriend in the meantime. All I had to do was love him back. In other words, I was taught that relationship with Jesus was entirely vertical – just between he and I – and entirely comfortable.

 It wasn’t until many years into my walk with Jesus that I learned that if Jesus is cross-cultural, then being his disciple involves being cross-cultural as well. 

This truth is rather annoying because, while I love the idea of diversity, I shudder at the thought of actually practicing it. It’s uncomfortable, it’s taxing, it’s complicated, and the rewards are delivered later than I’d like and in almost unrecognizable packages. I like to talk about taking up my cross, but diversity actually makes me do it by challenging me to extend the same cross-cultural empathy to others that Jesus extended to me. And on most days, if I’m honest, I’d rather leave the cross lying on the ground. 

3) Diversity exposes my privilege: In our stratified society, it’s fairly easy for privileged people like me to turn a blind eye to inequality. As long as I stick to certain neighborhoods and social settings, I am unlikely to meaningfully interact with people who struggle to survive underneath society’s oppressive boot. This makes it easy for me to sidestep feeling guilty about my privilege and the relative ease with which I move through life. But racial diversity has a way of bringing racial, economic and other forms of inequality into conscious awareness.

For this reason, as a person who identifies with some privileged groups (e.g. the upwardly-mobile, the educated, the mentally able, etc.) I sure as heck don’t want more diversity in my church. More diversity would expose my privileged life by bringing the inequality 'out there' into the very sanctuary pews where I sit. True diversity would require me to stay alert to the reality of inequality. It would demand that I confront my privilege, recognize the ways that I benefit from a society that oppresses my brothers and sisters, repent, and join the fight for justice.

But I’d rather not confront my privilege. I’d like to keep believing that I’ve 'earned everything that I have', that 'if people just work hard enough, they’ll succeed', that 'if people just obey the law, they won’t be harassed by the police' and that, frankly, I deserve to be treated better and earn more than others.

Diversity exposes my privilege, my desire to take credit for the social power that I possess and my tendency to justify holding onto the money that passes through my hands. 

But Jesus ... On many days, I agree with the churchgoers who don’t believe that their church needs to become more ethnically diverse. As far as I’m concerned, there are many compelling reasons to shun diversity.

But thank heavens Jesus doesn’t hold our view of diversity. Where would we be if Jesus had shrugged his shoulders about diversity and said, 'Being in relationship with people who are different than me? Meh. I can take it or leave it.' Even though Jesus experienced the ultimate holy huddle with God and Holy Spirit, he chose to leave it so he, the Eternal and Holy One, could pursue meaningful, interdependent, and loving relationship with us – mortal, sinful humans. Jesus loves diversity. Indeed, he was so passionate about creating a diverse family with us that he crossed metaphysical planes, abdicated his privilege, morphed into physical form, and spent 30 years on earth just hanging out with us – all the while knowing that his pursuit of diversity would ultimately cost him his life.

It’s this truth that compels me to get down on my knees, pray for the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and ask myself hard questions about why I’m resistant to truly living in diverse community. What am I afraid of? How are my fears preventing me from experiencing the richness of the racially diverse family of God? And is God big enough to sustain me as I face my fears? ... "

Amen, Christena. May God do so much more than we know how to ask or think in light of the need for Emmaus City to be a church of Worcester and for Worcester that love's our city's diversity as much as Jesus does. 

For more consideration in relation to this important subject, please see below.

| 1  Recommended Books:


1. NIV God's Justice Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil 
2. The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission by Christopher J.H. Wright 
3. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah 
4. Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood When God is at the Center by Noel Castellanos 
5. Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 32 of 3and 3 of 3 for Assimilate or Go Home 
6. Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil 
7. The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma
8. Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. by Bryan Loritts  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 32 of 3and 3 of 3 for Letters to a Birmingham Jail  
9. Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl 
10. Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation by Mark Deymaz  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 3, 2 of 3, and 3 of 3 of Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church 
11. The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance by Bethany Hanke Hoang and and Kristen Deede Johnson  
+ Introduction Part 1 of 2 and 2 of 2
12. Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh and John M. Perkins 

| 2  Recommended Conferences Blog Posts Notes

| 3  A Sample of Initial Practices for Emmaus City Church

1. We regularly pray for other churches in Worcester during Emmaus City services of worship, including churches led by ethnic minority pastors who are friends like Christian Community Church (Pastor Jose Encarnacion), Belmont A.M.E. Zion (Pastor Clyde Talley), The Bridge Church (Pastor Ritchie Gonzalez), and more. 
2.  We intentionally recognize and honor the pastors above as seasoned mentors we can learn from in how they declare and demonstrate the Gospel in Worcester. 
3. We intentionally quote ethnic minority pastors and theologians from throughout history in sermons as key leaders who provide us with insight we need to hear and consider about the great Gospel of Jesus for people from every tribe, tongue, nation. 
4. We are intentional in prayerfully and financially partnering with ethnic minority-led church plants in urban settings like Restoration Community Church (Pastor Rich Rivera, South Bronx), Epiphany Fellowship Camden (Pastor Ernie Grant, Camden), Epiphany Baltimore (Pastor Charlie Mitchell and Pastor Trevor Chin, Baltimore), Cruciform Church (Pastor David Rosa Jr., Miami), Epiphany Church Wilmington (Pastor Derrick Parks), and more. 
5. We have the pastors who live closest above come, preach for us, and have their families stay with us in our homes (Pastor Rich Rivera preached for us in May 2017, Pastor Ernie Grant preached for us in November 2017). 
6. We commit to going to and highly recommending ethnic minority-led conferences like Thriving's Frequency Conference in Philadelphia (2017 was our 5th year straight). 
7. We are intentional in learning and singing songs in our services that are not majority culture songs and focus on God's beauty, righteousness, and justice like Que Seas El Autor by Urban Doxology, Awesome by Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago, Wade in the Water by Anonymous (Historic Spiritual), Most High God by Kofi Thompson and Crown of Glory, Riverside by Ike Ndolo, I'll Say Yes by Shirley Caesar, Let Justice Roll by Sojourn, The Worship Medley by Tye Tribbett, Break Every Chain by Tasha Cobbs and more. 
8. We set up a residency in order to invest in bringing in ethnic-minority leaders we can learn from and they can grow with us. 
9. We continue to read books and learn from articles that focus on a more robust history of the Church that is too often neglected in white-led and captive seminaries (ex. The Faith of Our Fathers: Reclaiming the (North AfricanChurch Fathers" by Jason O. Evans; How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden; The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma; Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Bryan Loritts and more; Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community by Dr. Charles Marsh and Dr. John Perkins; Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil;  "Freeing the Captive Church" by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah; "A Life of Conversations" with Richard Twiss; "Are You Starting an Urban Church Plant or Plantation?" by Dr. Christena Cleveland; "How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently" by Kate Shellnutt, etc.). 
10. We continue to pray and cry out to God to bring His Kingdom of righteousness and justice to Worcester, and to give us the privilege to be a church that is not only for Worcester, but in and of Worcester as a glimpse of His multi-ethnic family as He continues to shape us to be more like Jesus in the city.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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