Three events in the Greater Charlottesville, Virginia area:
#1 About two years ago. Setting: majority White United Methodist Church.
I sit in the hallway outside of the sanctuary during worship, breastfeeding my nine-month old daughter, who happens to be 1/2 White, 1/2 Black, 1/2 Boricua. (I must say that was the best census form I had ever filled out). Then, a woman comes up to me and says: "Wow, she's beautiful! Is she adopted?"
#2 This year. Setting: At the home of a woman who looks like a grandmother out of a Norman Rockwell painting in Central Virginia.
Scene I: (My daughter is away playing) Grandmother to me: "Your daughter is so beautiful. Her skin is sooo dark and her hair is soooo curly!"
Scene II: (My daughter is present) Grandmother to my daughter: "Wow, your skin is so dark and beautiful, I had a niece that came out the same color as you.... We have Indian blood in our family (wink, wink)."
Scene III: (In the car on the way home) My three year old daughter throws her dark-skinned princess doll at the floor and says: "Mami, I don't want this! I'm not brown."
#3 Last week. Setting: One of Charlottesville's hot-spots for dancing, on a date with my husband, who happens to be a big Black Puerto Rican dude.
I am sitting at the bar; he is standing next to me. Then two women approach him and say: "Do you know where the bathroom is?" Then, they see me (if you can't tell from my picture, I am White), and say: "Oh. My. God. We are sooooooooooooo sorry. We thought you worked here."
These events stick out in my mind; I carry them with me. And I know that as the White member of my family, I only experience a fraction of the racist moments that both my husband and daughter confront on a daily basis. Unfortunately, my own church denomination continues to be, for the most part, unable to fill its church pews and leadership positions with people who reflect the changing demographic of our society in the United States.
The UMC is implementing a new plan this year: A Call to Action. As with many main-line Protestant demonstrations, membership rolls have been on the decline since the 1960s. Unaware of this large-scale plan of implementation I unwittingly wrote an article about Dashboard Dial Performance Measures, a prominent new feature of this plan coming to a UMC congregation near you.
Unfortunately, this "re-ordering" of the church, through the use of secular business models, will, in my opinion, do little to change the face, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASPy) face, of the UMC. So in the spirit of Paul, I wanted to offer my own call to action to all my fellow WASPy United Methodists... to die to their WASPy flesh and be born in Christ...
...even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the WASPy flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the WASPy flesh, I have more: born to a WASPy family, educated in the best WASPy private schools, a member of the WASPy UMC, a WASP born of WASPs; as to the WASPy church, a candidate for ordained ministry in the UMC for 10 years; as to zeal, a member of several UMC committees at district, conference and national levels; as to righteousness , ummmm.. well let's not get too carried away here.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from WASPy entitlement, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
My fellow United Methodist brothers and sisters, I believe the church is where God's kingdom--God's alternative culture--should be manifest. The reality is that in 2008, Whites made up 90% of our denomination, while making up only 74% of our country as a whole. As long as my daughter cannot see people and leaders of her color... and my color... and her Papi's color... AND hear people speak both of her languages, English and Spanish--ideally along with many other languages--I am afraid, at least here in Charlottesville (and in most places around the country) we are out of luck in terms of finding a United Methodist Church home.
Perhaps you think this call an impossible task, especially for the likes of Central Virginia. I testify to you that you are wrong. Fortunately, my family is blessed to worship together in Charlottesville, Virginia at Trinity Episcopal Church that has as its vision to be An Intentional Multicultural Christian Community of Reconciliation, Transformation and Love. Y por eso, damos muchas gracias a Dios.
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