Monday, June 16, 2008

A New Racial Tension

Denominationally, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has seen tremendous national growth of African, Asian and Latino/a immigrants. This influx has brought new diversity in worship style and congregational administration. Many of these immigrant congregations are reluctant to embrace the full expression of ministry of women and remain ardent defenders of what they term “biblical sexual ethics” for both clergy and lay leaders. Latino/a congregations in the Northeast have turned the tide of Regional Church elections and policies regarding education, social justice and sexuality. Many predominantly Anglo members who in the past supported the full integration of these populations in General and Regional Church policy making are concerned about the impact these new socially conservative positions will have on an established Disciple ethos. The responses from these communities are that the critiques are racist in that Anglo Disciples are reluctant to welcome the opinions and leadership of people of color. Anglo Disciples respond that their reluctance is philosophical, not cultural or racial differences.

The irony is that white liberals worked to embrace the culture of people of color only to find that this new culture’s philosophical positions stood in stark contrast to their own, especially in areas of women’s roles and sexuality. This really goes deeper then simply establishing a biblical role of any gender or appropriate expressions of sexuality. It seems to me, at the very root, to be an issue of authority and how we integrate authoritative teachings into our life. No doubt, the Bible expresses positions on social and moral issues. This isn’t the first time the Church has struggled with issues of cultural perspectives. Most of the Confessions and Creeds were in an effort to bring clarity to biblical teaching. Unfortunately, our denomination’s neglect and rejection of these Confessions and Creeds have left us in an informational vacuum. Perhaps we would be better served if we discussed how we live together in covenant rather then feeding our racial or philosophical egos. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), with our ethos of unity in diversity, is best suited to moderate this dialogue.

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