The Church: How Have We Advanced the Dream?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a profound statement some 50 plus years ago about Sunday morning at 11am being the most segregated time of the week. That statement was the launching site of the gathering that took place last Saturday (1/20) at Chosen Generation Fellowship Church in Long Beach.

We asked the question: How have we advanced the dream since the Civil Rights movement?

A very diverse panel of pastors, ministry leaders, and academia met at the intersection of the church, the gospel, and culture. Our guests invited to talk about the subject included, Irene Cho—Program Administrator for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI); Peter Watts—Pastor of The R.O.C.K. Church of Los Angeles, Regional Vice President of World Impact; Joyce Del Rosario—currently a PhD candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies; Mary Glenn—an affiliate professor with Fuller Theological Seminary (School of Intercultural Studies/Fuller Youth Institute) and an adjunct professor with Azusa Pacific University (MA Transformational Urban Leadership).

The panelists engaged in discussions around two major questions: 1. Has the church moved the needle since the Civil Rights movement in advancing the dream? 2. Is diversity in church real or is it more about uniformity?
Women with diverse cultural perspectives were a majority, leading to a discussion thread about how women in ministry are often subjected to certain levels of “positional” sexism in the church.

Joyce Del Rosario talked about how being a Filipino American in the Christian community presented an attitude to conform to “doing” church through the lens of the dominant culture’s narrative, which is typically a white perspective.

Pastor Peter Watts stated during the dialogue that “real transformation inside the church doesn’t happen until the church repents.”

Mary Glenn spoke about the impact of labels, the lens by which we see each other and interpret our world. We are God’s beloved and image bearers, made in the image of God. Irene Cho highlighted that there is a difference between diversity and uniformity. Irene discussed how the dominant narrative in most of our churches are to become uniform to the dominant culture instead of getting involved in the messy mosaic of diversity.

Pastor Dwight Radcliff, of The Message Center in Gardena and current PhD. candidate at Fuller Seminary joined the panel to discuss diversity on the level of academia, especially regarding our seminary institutions. Pastor Radcliff echoed the sentiments previously shared regarding a lack of diversity in some of our seminaries, especially around professorship. Even at the seminary level there is a case for the dominant narrative to be singular along cultural lines.

The morning wrapped up with questions from the audience with various responses from the panelist. The idea and premise of this event was to begin a conversation about where we are as a church (the Body of Christ) since Dr. King made that statement some 50 or more years ago.

Dr. King may have struggled putting into action what he was questioning at the local church level, panelists highlighted during the discussion.

We are still working to advance the dream in our communities, churches, seminaries, by having discussions where we can surrender our “isms” at the intersection of the gospel, the church, and culture.

READ: Dignity Answer To Racially Charged Times; Civil Rights Leader at Saddleback

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