It is often said that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. The frequent implication seems to be, the church is the most racist gathering place in America. But is the presence of an all-white church evidence of a bigoted church? I think not, even though I recognize there are racially prejudiced people and churches in America.
The church I serve now is noticeably multi-racial. This includes blacks, Asians from many countries, and whites; there are a host of non-white children from many countries who have been adopted by white couples. We have had biracial married couples as well as black and white families. I like pastoring such a church. I suspect there are many who pastor predominately white or all-white churches who would as well.
Oftentimes, a black family goes to a predominately white church for no other reason than they desire to, and they feel as loved and welcomed as anyone. Lorine Spratt is such a person. She said in an article, “I, and many other Black congregants, attend a predominately White, Southern Baptist Evangelical Church. We attend there because we are free to do so, we’ve been welcomed, and we’re seen and treated as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
There was a biracial couple (he was white and she was black) with three black children (from her previous marriage) who joined my previous church for a season, and the church was all white. After a while, the family left our church. Everything I knew evidenced they were accepted, loved, and cherished in the church body. The teenage black sons were just a regular part of the youth group.
When they left the church, I wondered why. As is often the case, they did not make the reason for their leaving known to us; they just left. I did wonder if they may have at some time been offended, felt unloved, or excluded in some way, of which I was not aware. If they had been, I had never seen any indication, nor I had heard anything but how much they were loved and appreciated.
Time passed and I developed a relationship with one of the black pastors in our area. His name was Steve. On one occasion, he told me the family had joined his church; the white husband was not active, just the mother and three sons.
He told me the mother and sons spoke very highly of our church, and they loved being a part; they had nothing but good to say. He said the reason they left was because the white husband had spiritual problems and did not want to go to church any church. Consequently, the mother said they joined Steve’s all-black church because, if the white dad was not going to attend the white church, they simply felt more at home culturally in an all-black church. That is to say, being black, they simply preferred a black church over a white church.
Now, I for one do not think their decision to join an all-black church was a racist decision. Given the circumstances and their cultural preferences, they simply preferred an all-black church.
The truth is, before they joined our church, the church was all-white; after they left, it was all-white again, but it was never racist.
It is easy to make superficial judgments about who is racist or what constitutes a racist church. This is particularly true in our day, but Christians should reflect more thoughtful assumptions and conclusions. At least we should properly define such important terms so they are not reduced to a verbal stiletto by which opponents with an agenda and the naive discredit or silence those with whom they disagree.