Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Should we keep planting all-white leadership teams in London?

London is a multi-ethnic & multi-class city, but we're still planting churches that start with a white (and usually middle class) leadership team. I think this is problematic for the following reasons:

1) From the get go, it communicates that this church is for white middle class people. It really stands out from the rest of London, so the message is quite stark. Of course, some others might join, but usually only those happy to assimilate.

2) The leaders will reinforce each other's blindspots. Peter had blindspots that needed to be exposed by people with different cultural outlooks (Acts 10; Gal 2).

3) Any minorities added later to the team will have to adapt to an already established culture. It will be hard for them to be an equal voice.

Now the common objections I hear in response are:

4) 'But we don't have the people needed for diverse leadership teams.' To which I'd say, 'why not!!!!!! What is your group doing wrong, that it doesn't have diversity? - work on that, fix that first. Otherwise, you're actually compounding the problem, and promoting a system that makes your group even more top heavy with white middle classes.

5) 'But we're going to become more diverse later.' I find this unconvincing. If you don't already have diverse friends, what makes you think you'll gain them or even like them in ministry? You need to first learn how to relate to different groups as peers, or even mentors before you can start leading other groups. Start as you intend to go on, otherwise, later on, with the pressures of ministry, its gonna be even harder to become more diverse, because it wasn't in your DNA to start with.

6) But its more important to plant new churches, so we should plant even if we're not diverse' - but does the Bible really teach this? Where does this drive to keep planting new churches in London come from? I haven't heard one convincing theologically rigorous argument for this. Surely we want to deal with the prejudice within our movements before exporting them via plants on other people's doorsteps? Now if someone wants to plant a multi-class, multi-ethnic church, trans-cultural church in London - then great, because that's what church should look like and we're lacking that: But again, start with a leadership team that looks like that.

7) 'Its better to have separate homogenous churches' - Again where is the Biblical basis for this? How can you reconcile this with what the Bible says about different ethnicities and classes becoming one and avoiding prejudice? How does it reconcile with the New Testament churches of Jews and Gentiles? Even if you see merit in the homogenous unit principle, I've argued here that in Acts its used a different way.

So what's the way forward?
We need to look at the problems that have led to this sad situation. We need to repent where necessary. We need the leaders who make decisions about church planting to actually be a multi-ethnic and multi-class group themselves. And then, if we really do need another church plant in London, we can plant one with diverse leadership at the get go. OR, if repentance is too hard, maybe we can start working with other church groups who are already more diverse? OR, maybe we need to start new group - but let's remember Animal Farm too!