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Multicultural church and “the vision of God”

Multicultural church and “the vision of God”

In a story of surprising theological depth, the Richmond Times Dispatch examines the question of why American churches are racially segregated, and whether one can truly experience the diversity of God’s creation in self-segregated churches.

Two Episcopal priests make an appearance, as Katharine Calos writes:

“Multicultural worship is an image of the kingdom of God, and in the kingdom of God everybody is included — black, white, gay, straight, young, old, liberal, conservative,” said the Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where Mark M. Gordon, CEO of Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, recently became the first African-American senior warden.

The church, where Confederate leaders worshipped 150 years ago, also has an African-American minister on the staff in the Rev. Melanie Mullen, downtown missioner.

“That history means we feel that responsibility and divine call even more,” Adams-Riley said. “That’s one more way we get to embody what it means to be God’s people.”

So why are most American churches racially segregated?

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Ann Fontaine

I think it is possible to be a multi-cultural church – agree with Bill. People want worship in their own language (including music and other pieces of liturgy). Like someone who is multi-lingual who was quoted as saying – “I can only make love in Spanish.” It is hard to speak to and hear God when the liturgy is not in one’s “language.” People can still do some worship together and lots of church activities together. The reality also is that multi-cultural takes a lot of work by all parties – exhausting work sometimes. Not saying it can’t be done.

Bill Dilworth

Because multicultural worship isn’t the only icon of the Kingdom? Surely multiculturalism has to have space for actual cultures, as well as spaces where they’re blended. Claiming to value different cultures while insisting that no one culture actually finds its own expression seems a poor kind of multiculturalism.

It occurs to me that one reason more homogenous congregations – black, Hispanic, Asian, gay, immigrant, whatever – exist is because they guarantee that that group’s voice/culture won’t get lost in the crowd.

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