Racial Diversity or Racial Justice?

“Diversity is such a white word.“That sentence, spoken courageously by one of our black brothers in the early days of our church has pushed us to think beyond a goal of being a diverse church to dreaming about a church that becomes diverse as a product of doing justice both inside of our community and in our engagement with the city.

Last week, A few of us from the way Church and Oakland Communion went to a multiethnic conference in Atlanta. One of our biggest takeaways was not a nugget of wisdom in a fantastic speech, but from the fact that the conference felt like two different “multiethnic church“ conferences smashed together and in tension with one another. On the one hand, the speakers of color wanted to talk about racism and systemic injustice. On the other hand, most of the white speakers talked about celebrating the varied cultures of international members.

It struck me that there is a profound difference between doing multiethnic church in a purely international context--where people have very little shared history--and doing multiethnic church in a domestic context— where there is a long-standing and painful history between various racial and ethnic groups in the community. 

The difference is the same difference my brother pointed out early in the life of our church: valuing diversity as an aesthetic or valuing justice that may result in diversity. 

Which kind of church will we be? I pray that we will continue to be shaped into the latter.