DIVERSITY IS NOT A FRINGE ISSUE
The description of the church in the books of Acts and Revelation both make it clear that the present and future church is diverse in culture, tribe and language. However, this diversity requires the intentional leadership of pastors and denominational leaders. In this discussion with Bryan Loritts we enter into a profound discussion that can assist all of us in this work. The article describes him: “Bryan Loritts, whose work as a pastor, nonprofit leader, author and consultant focuses on encouraging multiethnic and multicultural church organization and worship. Loritts serves as senior pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, a multiethnic congregation in Silicon Valley. Before his move to California, he served as pastor for preaching and mission at Trinity Grace Church in New York City, and as the lead pastor for Fellowship Memphis church in Memphis, Tennessee. Loritts is also president of the Kainos Movement, an organization dedicated to making multiethnic church the new normal.”
In part the conversation says:
For the average pastor, a cultural dynamic like that feels intractable. How do you begin to shape a more equitable culture in line with the values of multiethnicity?
It really starts with awareness.
I wrote an article for the Global Leadership Summit some months ago, titled “’White Is Not a Four-Letter Word.” I take issue with the demonization of “white” for sport. But I believe, after spending decades in this line of work, that our white brothers and sisters do not consciously think in terms of whiteness. If I could go back in time to talk to my 20-something self, I would tell myself, “Calm down—not everything you are quickly labeling as racism is overt or aggressive. Because they don’t see their whiteness, they are ignorant to the power they wield.”
To shape a more equitable culture, our white brothers and sisters need to flip a switch and try, as best as they can, to do a very counterintuitive thing: to see themselves as white. To think as consciously as possible that they are white. This is a bit like trying to make Americans aware of their accents. We have one. But many of us can’t hear it until we travel, or really analyze it.
All of us have ethnic proclivities and biases. That’s not the problem. The problem is when those become oppressive. For whites, they become oppressive when they don’t think about them strategically and steward them carefully. You can’t steward what you’re not thinking about.
Your use of “stewardship” there is interesting. Can you unpack that?
Absolutely. A lot of readers will have an allergic reaction to what I’m about to say, but I think that “white privilege” is a horrible term. I know I offer a variant viewpoint here, but just about everyone has some measure of privilege. What matters are the opportunities we take to steward it.
For example, as a black man, I am privileged to have parents who just celebrated 46 years of marriage. They love the Lord. My father is still actively engaged in my life and has left me an incredible name. I say the name “Loritts” and it’s almost annoying the doors that open for me because of him. That’s a measure of privilege, and I should not feel guilty about it. What I should feel guilty about is if I don’t use it well.
The goal becomes something like how Tim Keller describes justice—as disadvantaging ourselves for the advantage of others. We need to use whatever privilege we have to empower others, specifically the marginalized.
Look, there’s no clearer example of privilege than Jesus Christ. He was born God in the flesh! Yet not once does Jesus deny his privilege. Instead, he uses it. He empowers others. That’s what we’re getting at: incarnational stewardship within a multiethnic space.
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