Why Multiracial Churches Fail

An article in the Washington Post explains two truths to hold in tension when it comes to multiracial churches.

First, they are growing.

The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion reports that the number of multiracial churches–ones in which no single racial or ethnic group comprises more than 80 percent of the congregation–have increased from 6 percent in 1998 to 16 percent in 2019.

Second, in spite of the rise in the number of multiracial churches, they are often not conducive to the flourishing of Black people and other people of color.

Korie L. Edwards, sociologist and author of The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches, says, “These spaces can actually create a good deal of pain for people of color,”

Edwards explains that the difficulties many Black people and other people of color experience in multiracial congregations stem from the disproportionate burdens they bear in accommodating the comforts and sensibilities of white members of the church.

“In many ways (people of color) are expected to assimilate to the dominant White culture. They end up having to hide or let go of their own cultural preferences and minimizing their ethnic and racial identity,” explained Edwards.

The article highlights Derwin L. Gray, a Black pastor of Transformation Church in Lancaster County, South Carolina. Gray wrote, The HD-High-Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World, in which he lays out a deeply-considered and well-researched approach to building healthy and diverse congregations.

Pastors such as Gray and others are aware of the pitfalls and difficulties involved in pastoring racially and ethnically diverse churches. Unfortunately, such leaders may be more the exception than the rule.

If multiracial churches continue to do emotional spiritual harm to Black people and other people of color, then those churches have failed in one of their most foundational endeavors.

A church cannot be considered healthy if its attempts at diversity continually dash racial and ethnic minorities on the rocks of unexamined biases, cultural assimilation, and social detachment.

Multiracial churches fail because they make diversity the aim while leaving issues of justice and equity virtually unaddressed.

“Multiracial churches fail because they make diversity the aim while leaving issues of justice and equity virtually unaddressed.”

They mouth “pious irrelevancies and vain trivialities” in the face of anti-Black brutality, the racial wealth gap, and disproportionate deaths due to COVID-19.

If you aim for diversity without an emphasis on justice and equity, then you leave a trail of traumatized Black Christians and other Christians of color in your wake.

If you aim for justice, then you get racial and ethnic diversity in the process.

As another Black pastor of a multiracial church, Mika Edmondson has said, “You cannot love your neighbor while supporting or accepting systems that crush, exploit, and dehumanize them.”

Churches that prioritize justice and equity for Black people and other people of color demonstrate their solidarity with those communities. This is a solidarity that should persist regardless of the demographic diversity present in the congregation.

Yet when churches demonstrate a commitment to the dignity of an oppressed people by pursuing their uplift through policy and systemic changes, those congregations become sites of refuge and may see more racial and ethnic diversity in the process.

Multiracial churches demonstrate the unity and diversity of God’s people in ways that few other communities can match. There are, however, many more ways such efforts go wrong than they go right.

To protect the dignity and spiritual health of Black people and other people of color, churches may be better served not by making diversity the goal, but by making love of neighbor through justice the priority.

3 thoughts on “Why Multiracial Churches Fail

  1. Jemar,

    Why Historians think they are economic policy experts is beyond me. You have made leftist polices black and right leaning policies white. How dare you ?? What gives you the right?? You are like a child who are never satisfied until you get to go the restaurant you want to go to and force the whole family to have to appease you and go with you, screaming and crying and creating havoc until you hear the words that you have got your way.

    This is what I mean. You spend volumes of effort in your book explaining that the reason the black church exists is become whites showed in spectacularly evil ways that blacks are not welcome.

    Now years later white churches welcome people of color to the church and black, yellow, brown, and white worship together to the point of not having one dominate race and you diss them?? Seriously Lemar? You are just like Biden … if you don’t vote Biden you ain’t black. Your version if Biden’s comment is you are not a crusader supporting Lemar’s “all knowing and perfect” political indictments of American institutions and your view of Justice, you ain’t Christian.

    Specifically, you are so trained that leftist Idealogy is the only ideology that can advance black people in the U.S. that your response to the amazing progress of diversity in the church is “yeah, I’m not impressed.”

    In fact, this comment says more than “I’m not impressed, it says you are “cancelled” – you suck!

    “Multiracial churches demonstrate the unity and diversity of God’s people in ways that few other communities can match. There are, however, many more ways such efforts go wrong than they go right.“

    Do you hear yourself? Perhaps you need to read your own book. Why not say “Multiracial churches demonstrate the unity and diversity of God’s people in ways that few other communities can match” then Stop …. celebrate, encourage.

    Yet you choose to use the great juxtaposition “however” and is if to yah, but you suck!! All the while black churches remain predominantly black because why??? Read the statement of faith for most black churches and then read the statement of faith for most multi-racial or white churches …. you know what you’ll find ? We have the same theology! So why black churches are not chided for remaining predominant black is beyond me! Segregation is gone but yet it is black churches who remain segregated.

    At least Hispanic or Asian churches have a reason to remain separate, that have members who do no speak English and the service is conducted in their language. Yet blacks speak English but apparently according to you, we don’t speak the same language. You speak Jesus + “we are an oppressed people, the White man has his boot on our necks, big government intervention is our savior” … Jesus+ US being created in God’s image is not enough. The current civil rights legislation is not enough. All the programs that never existed before the 1960’s are not enough, The fact the we had a black president is not enough. The fact that there is story after story of “successful” black Americans is not enough. You and some other Black people are like the American soldier, holed up in a cave that is still fighting WWII.
    You always include a “but” whenever you a knowledge progress never acknowledging the wars that have been one

    What is your response to Candace Owens? What if black people who have left the black church feel people like Candace make good sense?

    What if they disagree with Candace and have similar politics as you and still feel their identity in Jesus causes then to have more in common with the people in a multi-racial church then they have differences ? Have you thought about that? Have you though that multi racial churches may not even have homogeneous politics?

    I have a black friend in Portland, Oregon and a friend here in California who do not know each other. Both have fathers that lead black churches, Both married a white woman and both of them are leaders in a multiracial church. If part of you reacts that they married white women or disappointed they don’t attend a black church. who is being racist??

    Ask yourself if your definition of black culture or being Black has nothing to do with Jesus. If it is Jesus + then ask yourself what part of that + “culture” Jesus would want you to keep?

    Kind Regards,

    Jon Ruiz

  2. Fixing typos …

    Jemar,

    Why Historians think they are economic policy experts is beyond me. You have made leftist polices black and right leaning policies white. How dare you ?? What gives you the right?? You are like a child who are never satisfied until you get to go the restaurant you want to go to and force the whole family to have to appease you and go with you, screaming and crying and creating havoc until you hear the words that you have got your way.

    This is what I mean. You spend volumes of effort in your book explaining that the reason the black church exists is because whites showed in spectacularly evil ways that blacks are not welcome.

    Now years later white churches welcome people of color to the church and black, yellow, brown, and white worship together to the point of not having one dominate race and you diss them?? Seriously Lemar? You are just like Biden … if you don’t vote Biden you ain’t black. Your version of Biden’s comment is if you are not a crusader supporting Lemar’s “all knowing and perfect” political indictments of American institutions and Lemar’s view of Justice, you ain’t Christian.

    Specifically, you are so trained that leftist Idealogy is the only ideology that can advance black people in the U.S. that your response to the amazing progress of diversity in the church is “yeah, I’m not impressed.” In fact, this comment says more than “I’m not impressed, it says you are “cancelled” – you suck! You don’t love your brother!

    “Multiracial churches demonstrate the unity and diversity of God’s people in ways that few other communities can match. There are, however, many more ways such efforts go wrong than they go right.“

    Do you hear yourself? Perhaps you need to read your own book. Why not say “Multiracial churches demonstrate the unity and diversity of God’s people in ways that few other communities can match” then Stop …. celebrate, encourage.

    Yet you choose to use the great juxtaposition “however” and is if to yah, but you suck!! All the while black churches remain predominantly black because why??? Read the statement of faith for most black churches and then read the statement of faith for most multi-racial or white churches …. you know what you’ll find ? We have the same theology!

    So why black churches are not chided for remaining predominant black is beyond me! Segregation is gone but yet it is black churches who remain segregated.

    At least Hispanic or Asian churches have a reason to remain separate, they have members who do not speak English and the service is conducted in their language. Yet blacks speak English but apparently according to you, we don’t speak the same language. You speak Jesus + “we are an oppressed people, the White man has his boot on our necks, big government intervention is our savior” … Jesus+ being created in God’s image is not enough. The current civil rights legislation is not enough. All the programs that never existed before the 1960’s are not enough. The fact the we had a black president is not enough. The fact that there is story after story of “successful” black Americans is not enough. You and some other Black people are like the American soldier, holed up in a cave that is still fighting WWII. You always include a “but” whenever you a acknowledge progress never acknowledging the wars that have been won and relishing in the victory.

    What is your response to Candace Owens? What if black people who have left the black church feel people like Candace make good sense?

    What if they disagree with Candace and have similar politics as you and still feel their identity in Jesus causes then to have more in common with the people in a multi-racial church then they have differences ? Have you thought about that? Have you though that multi racial churches may not even have homogeneous politics?

    I have a black friend in Portland, Oregon and a friend here in California who do not know each other. Both have fathers that lead black churches. Both married a white woman and both of them are leaders in a multiracial church. If part of you reacts that they married white women or disappointed they don’t attend a black church. who is being racist??

    Ask yourself if your definition of black culture or being Black has nothing to do with Jesus. If it is Jesus + then ask yourself what part of that + “culture” Jesus would want you to keep?

    Kind Regards,

    Jon Ruiz

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