When my former church, Indian River Presbyterian, was preparing to go into ECO,...
Last week I wrote my first of two blogs on our fifth core value, Egalitarian Ministry.
Egalitarian Ministry: We believe in unleashing the ministry gifts of women, men, and every ethnic group.
Because of the history of ECO, we needed to look at this 5th value from two different angles. One angle is our understanding of women in ministry, which was covered last week. I explored how being evangelical and affirming women in ministry was a natural strength of ECO. The second part of our value, “unleashing….every ethnic group” is currently much more aspirational than actual. As ECO continues to grow, we are constantly asking ourselves: How can we change this? What challenges do we need to overcome? What opportunities do we have?
We have several challenges to overcome in trying to live out our value of unleashing the invaluable gifts of every ethnic group. I will name two primary challenges, though there are certainly others as well.
- First, demographically speaking, we are primarily white. Perhaps you have seen the following study from the pew research center on racial diversity in churches. ECO is not listed, but since the majority of our congregations have come from PC(USA) we can assume that our make up is similar to PC(USA). In fact, we may even be less diverse, as many churches that are primarily non-white who want to leave the PC(USA), are having a slower process.
- Second, to move toward creating an environment with greater diversity, there are conversations that need to take place around issues of race and racial reconciliation. We need to be able to have these conversations locally and nationally, but are often hesitant to engage in such conversations because they can be emotionally charged, uncomfortable, or seen as “political”.
I do think that even considering the aforementioned challenges, we are positioned with unique opportunities that allow us to move this aspect of our 5th value from aspirational to actual.
One advantage that we have is our flexibility regarding paths to ordination and leadership. I was talking to a church planting leader in a different denomination who had some wonderful leaders who want to plant within particular ethnic communities. His challenge, however, was that these leaders didn’t have the educational requirements of their denomination, and were not in a financial position to get those requirements. Thus, they would never be able to plant or pastor a church in their denomination. Upon further exploration, they did seem to have qualifications that would allow them to be ECO pastors, and while never desiring to “steal” leaders, we began a conversation regarding the possibility of their planting with ECO. I run into these types of situations frequently with both individuals and churches of various ethnicities that could plant or become a part of ECO where they might encounter greater challenges in other contexts.
Another advantage is that we have partners with those outside of our context that are knowledgeable and skilled in the area of multi-ethnic diversity. Mark DeYmaz will be one of our key note speakers at our national conference. He has been involved in both planting multi-ethnic churches as well as coaching and consulting with churches that want to plant or transform into more multi-ethnic expressions of faith. He is also leading the multi-ethnic learning community that 25 of us will join and learn great things from. We are currently taking applications for this cohort if you are interested in being part of that community. See the attached application.
Living out the key value of unleashing every multi-ethnic group will take a lot of work! But it is clear in scripture that the gospel of Jesus Christ is what takes down the walls that society normally erects to divide us. If we are going to make God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, we must live out our values in our churches and among our people.