Dan Berry – September 20, 2022
Ten years into our pastoral ministry, we felt called to pioneer our second church. Swallowed up in a predominantly White state (Iowa), the vision for an ethnically or culturally diverse ministry came out of nowhere. We quickly adopted a mission statement that read:
Helping all people find and live their lives in Christ, bridging ethnic, cultural, denominational, and generational lines.Cornerstone Family Church, Des Moines, Iowa
We believed that if we could create a diverse environment, the racial segregation and dysfunction would disappear.
When the diversity began to manifest, oh how we celebrated! As our family took on a rainbow of complexions, we thought we had arrived. We believed we had done it — we had finally broken down the walls that divided us.
Please don’t smirk, but I believed that if we could create a diverse environment in the church, we could conquer the things that divided us. Then maybe the world would take us, the Church, seriously.
Along the way, interpersonal acts of racism, elements of systemic racism would rise, expose our ignorance and inability to foster any part of the healing that was so needed. In some ways because we didn’t know how to be Christ-like regarding injustice, it did more damage than good.
Could it be that the most segregated hour existed not because there was no diversity, but rather because the way we were discipled was flawed. Think about this, segregation was able to get a foothold in our churches because our discipleship had holes in it.
It will be hard, but can we step back and reflect on where we might have missed it, rethink our approach, and make sure that what we are pursuing is what’s important to Jesus and not just us.
My reach is to have the courage to admit that I have missed it. That I need a new direction, that the eyes of my understanding need to be enlightened.
Millenniums have passed with flawed people like me doing it all wrong, but I must believe that somewhere along this journey, there are multitudes of people like you and me who will find our way into fostering the healing that is so needed.
Dan Berry is the author of Navigating Diversity In Our Most Segregated Hour, a Certified Instructor for the What LIES Between Us and Confronting Whiteness courses, and advises individuals and organizations on how to take first steps toward racial healing.
He has pastored for forty years in Iowa. After pastoring in predominantly white spaces for several years, he began to realize the need to bring about racial healing in the body of Christ. For the last 30 years he has worked to bridge ethnic and cultural divides, a work that has led him into confronting the churches complicity in upholding systems of racism.
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