Chances are your church is on week two or three of a brand new series on racism. Some of you have seen more black faces speaking at your church over the last few weeks than you’d seen in the previous three years.
Perhaps you’re on this journey with your church with guarded optimism – hoping that you and your church will find yourselves on the right side of history.
Or maybe you’re expecting all this race talk in the church will be over soon, and you can get back to listening to expository sermons on the book of Acts.
No matter what your disposition is on the stance your church has taken lately, there are three ways to know that your church plans on committing to anti-racism for the long haul.
Ask someone in senior leadership about President Trump.
Churches and Christian leaders tend to take apolitical stances. It’s one of the reasons so many churches are only recently engaging in extensive content on the subject of race and racism. Race talk has a name – “identity politics.”
It may be challenging to get a direct answer from someone in senior leadership at your church about their personal feelings on the president. Try anyway.
Men and women of the cloth shouldn’t tell you who to vote for, but they should be able to articulate the moral ineptitude of the president with great clarity.
A church committed to anti-racism will have leaders who can recognize the racist statements and policies this president has put forth over the last four years and the overt racism that plagued his business affairs from years before he became president.
Certainly, no church committed to becoming anti-racist would ever endorse this president to their congregants. That should go without saying, but you never know.
Ask about church oversight and leadership.
The pastoral staff and board leadership lead churches. *Dr. James Cone said: “there is no justice without power, and there is no power with one, two, or three tokens.” Email your church and find out who makes decisions.
If your church is going to be about racial justice, then there should be black people and other non-white leaders at both the board and directional leadership tables.
There can be no serious progress toward anti-racism if there is no such leadership in place and no clearly articulated plans to place voices of color in leadership roles.
Don’t settle for a picture or a list of names. If you’re committed to investing your time and resources into a church, find out what influence Black people an non-black people of color have at your church.
Ask about the plan for creating an anti-racist culture beyond Sunday.
The music, preaching, announcements, and kid’s programs are all part of the Sunday morning experience churches provide, but they are not the totality of what makes a church function.
Every church has an organizational culture. They have values, language, and expectations for what behaviors will receive rewards and which behaviors cause them to part ways with employees.
Ask your church what actions they are taking to address the climate of their work culture. Ask them if their staff is going through any implicit bias training or any other practices to ensure an anti-racist work environment.
How your church responds to these three questions should give you a glimpse into how committed they are to anti-racism.
The work is a marathon, but it’s reasonable to expect your church leadership has considered these questions before presenting racial justice talks if they are serious about long-term sustainable change.
*The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone