The Problem with Integration

In 1998 when I was appointed to Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston, I was finally at a church where I could invite anyone. Westbury is a culturally diverse church, full of Anglos, Africans, African-Americans, Asians, etc. Many great people. I loved it.

Now I’m pastor in small town East Texas. After 5 years at Westbury I sometimes wonder “Why are there only white folks here?” when I look out on the crowd. There are many in the church who, like me, would like to see our congregation become more racially diverse. I even heard one person say the other day, “All those other Methodist churches should close down and come join us.” I understand the sentiment, but I don’t think that’t the way to go.

In today’s Dallas Morning News (registration required), There is an article on the demise of black-owned businesses since the end of segregation. Now that white insitutions are (increasingly) open to blacks, it is getting harder for back institutions to keep going. Insofar as this gives more peopel opportunities, this is likely a good thing. But my guess is that it’s been easier for blacks to become integrated as consumers (“we’ll take your money”) than as business people (“We’ll give you our money”). I think they need both.

When it comes to black churches, I don’t want to put them out of business – I don’t want all the black methodists to come join us so they can close down; any more than I want all the baptists to come join us. First, the black churches are too important in our communities. Second, the varieties of churches we have preaching the gospel the more likely we are to reach all the people. It might stoke my ego, but that certainly isn’t a Christian motive. Instead it seems that a better Christian motive would be for each church to begin to invite and assimilate non-church people indiscriminately. That is, instead of us trying to get black church people to come join us, we’ll try to get black non-church people along with the white & other non-church people we work on. In the same way, the black churches would work on bringing in people of all races also.

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