I am not writing this to elicit any responses. I honestly don’t want anyone to feel shame or guilt. I am not writing to receive recognition. I am not writing to piss anyone off. I’m writing because I don’t know what else to do. I’m writing because I value the process of reflection and meaning-making that comes through words.
I’m struggling. And you know what I do when I struggle dear Shadow Lovers. I write.
A recent study was released by the Pew Research Center on the most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups. Some have commented on the lack of broad-based religious diversity that this study covered and it’s lack of focus on some pretty significant nuances that define some religious traditions. However, for me as a Christian, this study proved to be quite enlightening. And this enlightenment has been profoundly troubling…
My broken, albeit beloved church was second from the bottom in terms of racial diversity. We only beat out the National Baptist Convention and even came in below our estranged cousins, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Many of us think that we are so much more evolved in our religious interpretation then they are and this study just proved that we are more alike than different. If I’m honest, laughter was my first response to reading the results. It was the type of laughter that bubbles up and over. The type of laughter that one might call hysterics. It was also the type of laughter that comes after one receives clarity that one wasn’t even looking for. What in the world am I fighting, working, serving for?
Once the laughter subsided, a deep sense of sadness set in. My church is not going to be any different. I’ve heard it shared by researchers in my denomination that statistically speaking, my church won’t reach the kind of racial and ethnic diversity that we have hoped for. I continue to serve in a church that is not for me or for people who have ideals like me. As one of my sister friends and fellow leaders of color in this church so eloquently put it, “This church is not FUBU.”
In the past I’ve wondered and lamented about the history of schisms within the Christian faith. My heart breaks as I think about the constant fracturing of the Church of Jesus Christ. I don’t know much but I know that God never intended for people of faith to be so fragmented. However, for the first time in my life, I am beginning to understand why people broke off from traditions and formed new ones. I am beginning to understand why reformers of the Christian denominations sought out a new way of being. I don’t know what to do.
Another friend and colleague of mine who happens to be a white female pastor asked me, “Rozella, why do you stay in this church?”
My response: “I’ve been asking myself that more and more, everyday. And I honestly don’t know why. But when I think about it, I then wonder, where am I going to go? Other mainline denominations aren’t much better when it comes to issues of racial justice and the dismantling of white supremacy. Many historically black denominations don’t recognize me as a woman in ministry. So what do I do? Leave the church? Start another church? Stay mad? I seriously don’t know what to do.”
I’ve recently written about my disillusionment and pain in the face of modern day realities and the church’s response. The past few weeks have continued to be a struggle as people of color have continued to die senselessly. Seeing the Pew Study’s results in light of modern day occurrences and a lack of coordinated efforts among faith communities makes me wonder, what am I even doing? Many have probably been asking this of the church for much longer, but I feel like scales are falling from my eyes and I honestly don’t know what to do.
My livelihood is currently wrapped up in an institution that will never be for my people.
My identity is intertwined with a denominational tradition that has almost no racial diversity.
My call is to Christ’s church and I’m increasingly wondering what that actually means.
I honestly don’t know what to do.