By Victor Clay
What role should churches play in healing race relations in America?
America’s demographic landscape is shifting, and the U.S. is now a brewing stew of ethnicities. While immigration and migration have been bringing many ethnicities to America, today’s ethnic conflicts still appear to occur mainly between Caucasians and blacks. Ethnic division and discord in Ferguson (Missouri), Baltimore, Minnesota, and Texas tear at the very fabric of our urban communities. Planted in the midst of urban settings is the church, which should offer grace-based solutions to race relations.
Growing racial division and discord require churches to train Christians to build ethnic and cross-cultural relationships. Churches tend, however, to be more segregated than other community groups: too often they do not reflect the ethnic diversity of their communities’ schools, sports events, workplaces, or neighborhoods. While churches focus on preaching the gospel, they give little attention to training people to practice the outworking of the gospel when it comes to ethnic diversity, conflict resolution, cross-cultural sensitivity, and diverse partnerships.
Christians must be challenged, informed, and trained to be sensitive to the pain, hurts, fears, stereotypes, and needs within their churches’ ministry context. Churches must move beyond empathy by tearing down barriers and building bridges so close relationships with people of different ethnic groups may occur.