by Sharon Simons
“What do we do when confronted with our lack of diversity, specifically lack of diversity in our churches and para-church organizations?”
That was the question I discussed with those in the para-church ministry where I’ve been involved for 15 years. Though we have a heart for diversity, we are aware that our typical participant is white and our classes lack the very diversity that God designed and desires.
I expressed my frustrations about this problem to a safe friend and she recommended slowing down and being introspective rather than shifting into “fix it” mode. She recommended that I gather leaders from this ministry and participate in the Be the Bridge Whiteness Intensive.
I’d been a part of a BTB group in the past, so I enrolled myself in the course and 14 other leaders joined me on this journey. We had no idea what to expect and no BTB promotional literature or social media blitz could have truly conveyed what we were about to encounter.
God took a wrecking ball to our wrong thinking.
It was God’s kindness that led us to this course and furthermore that led us to repentance. This course exposed depraved systems of oppression — systems that we uphold, that we weren’t even aware of.
Each week, after watching the lessons by Elizabeth and Micah, our group of 14 from around the country, met and processed the information via Zoom conference. Our goal was to process the information in community, but also see how to apply what we were learning to our ministry context. We looked forward to this sacred space. I was encouraged by our group’s willingness and commitment to humbly dive into the mess.
And it was messy. It’s painful when your biases, personal preferences, defensiveness and fragility come to light. But it was necessary and transforming. Our blind spots had to be exposed in order for us to see that even with good intentions we were often building barriers rather than bridges to true diversity and inclusiveness.
We can’t address what we don’t acknowledge and what God had us acknowledge this summer was both individual depravity and the collective depravity of entire systems. (Get more information about the Whiteness Intensive course.)
So, “What do we do when confronted with our lack of diversity?” After the Whiteness Intensive, we realized our question needed to be re-framed into a prayer of repentance. Allow me to share it with you.
Forgive us for failing to see our role in the lack of diversity in our churches and para-church organizations.
Forgive us for professing to build bridges when we were actually building self-serving barriers.
Forgive us for gratifying the sinful desires of our flesh rather than walking in the Spirit who convicts us of our sin and empowers us to put it to death.
God have mercy on us, sinners!
Forgive us for minimizing the pain of others, for invalidating their experiences and pridefully refusing to look at the part we have played in this racial divide.
Forgive us for white flight — for caring more about our property values than the value of people created in your image — people Christ died for!
Forgive us for white fragility — for in our fragility we didn’t listen, we dominated the conversation defending ourselves and building our cases as to why we are “not the bad guy” rather than building bridges.
Christ became a fragile baby so we don’t have to be fragile babies.
We are grounded and rooted in His love and we can and should listen
and learn from those who challenge our perspectives.
Forgive us for white supremacy — for seeking power and authority and fighting to keep that power and authority and for upholding systems that do the same.
Christ gave up His power and authority and was concerned about what was good for all people.
May we look more like Christ as we relinquish our hold on power and authority.
Forgive us for acting as white saviors who pat ourselves on the back for doing good in neighborhoods where we would never live nor be caught after dark. Rather than wrestling with a depraved system that has “us” continually helping “them” year after year, we’ve felt good about our community service as we return to our gated communities where “they” don’t live.
Jesus Christ, our Savior, moved into the neighborhood when He took on flesh.
Forgive us for feeling the need to defend our privilege rather than leveraging our white privilege — for failing to see our privilege as a responsibility to dismantle unjust systems.
Christ Himself used His life to serve others and flip over tables.
Forgive us for maintaining white silence — for exalting our personal preferences and our comfort as we contribute to the very barriers that perplex us, with our self-serving “white silence.”
Forgive us for white solidarity — for professing to be united in Christ when in all actuality what was often uniting us was white solidarity. And we wondered why we weren’t diverse?
It is your kindness that has led us to repentance and it will be your power and your presence that keeps us humble and teachable as we strive to look more like your Son!
In His Name we pray,