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Jan. 4 2010 - 11:52 am | 374 views | 2 recommendations | 3 comments

Chicago’s ‘integrated church’ is a joke

Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels, Founder of Willlow Creek Community Church Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I was enjoying my weekly Time magazine over lunch at my kitchen table, when I almost spit my milk all over its pretty pages.

The article, entitled “The Color of Faith,” talked about how evangelical churches, like Chicagoland’s Willow Creek Community Church, are bridging America’s racial divide.

Reading it, I was delighted – thrilled even. Until I got about 3/4 of the way through, where they said what the definition of integrated was: 80% white, 20% minority. Willows stats? 80% white, 6% Hispanic, 4%  Asian, 2% African American, 8% “other.”

2% African-American? Are we joking here?

Heya, Time Magazine: The Chicago metro area is 17.7% African American. Chicago itself? 36.77% black.

Why is it that our definition of integrated is to have “some brown people”? In my mind, integration should mean that the racial makeup of a group reflects the racial makeup of society, not a handful of people not like us.

Yes, I know that Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in American, and any progress is to be applauded. But how soon?

Willow has never had a non-white person as a pastor or senior staff member. The article says, “To some white congregants, naming a person of another color to tell you what Scripture means, week in and week out, crosses an internal boundary between “diversity” (positive) and “affirmative action” (potentially unnerving.)”

That made me want to throw the magazine across the room.

So they can come to church. We’ll allow the brown people to listen to God’s word, but heaven help us – they can’t be in charge!

The article doesn’t address a larger issues of why churches are so segregated. Most people go to church close to home, and home is usually a neighborhood where everyone looks like you. We live in the most segregated big city in America. If we’re really concerned about segregation, it can’t be just for an hour, one day a week. Residential segregation is a huge hurdle, and one that won’t be overcome without much thought, planning and dogged willingness to make everyone uncomfortable.

I am pleased as punch that these churches are talking about race – one of the most difficult subjects to broach in America today. I am happy that they’re making progress. But lets not stop here and applaud. These statistics are still ugly, and in my book, slightly less ugly isn’t something you want to brag about.


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  1. collapse expand

    Alas, I don’t see the racial divide being bridged by evangelical churches any time soon. There is real progress, though, being made in interfaith groups such as the San Francisco Interfaith Council; if you hang out with people of wildly differing faiths enough you REALLY don’t notice their skin color. You can have a pretty good time, too.

  2. collapse expand

    “To some white congregants, naming a person of another color to tell you what Scripture means, week in and week out, crosses an internal boundary between “diversity” (positive) and “affirmative action” (potentially unnerving.)”

    Well, let’s not tell them about St Augustine or the Apostle Paul, then.

  3. collapse expand

    Is this really a story about racial division in church, or more a story of how many white fakers there are in churches across America? Maybe non-white races are more likely to not try and pretend being a Christian just to assuage any guilt they feel for their actions.

    And I say these things as a Christian who goes to a Baptist church where we have a healthy mix of all races in our congregation. ANd I have also been to churches like Willow Creek-most of the white people there are one way Sunday and different the rest of the week. Not being mean, just speaking from experience.

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