September 10, 2012

Traditional Prejudices

As many of you know, I am a United Methodist pastor in the Indiana Annual Conference. Each clergy member within our conference is required to attend diversity training and professional boundaries class every four years. This past week I attended my diversity training class and walked away with a few observations and questions.

  • The barriers we build or maintain that keep diversity from happening go beyond the gender or race of people in the pews but also the physical space they are sitting in. The physical spaces of our churches can be active barriers to diversity. 
  • During the class I began wondering about the relationship between change and diversity. Does diversity necessitate change? Can diversity happen without a willingness to change? 
  • When we discussed various groups (white males, Asians, African-Americans, LGBTQ, women, American Indians, etc.) I was surprised how the two words “entitled” and “lazy” were used to describe almost each group. Interesting how stereotypes are shared from one group to the next. 
  • I also walked away with the realization of how homogeneous the majority of our churches are in Indiana. My entire table at this class consisted of white males, mostly older. I would guess less than 1/3 of those attending were women, which was the only place any racial diversity was apparent. Most United Methodist churches in Indiana are rural and smaller. All of this made me realize that even our prejudices are “traditional” in nature, by this I mean racial and gender focused. We never discussed prejudices between: urban & rural, economic classes, sexual identities, people with disabilities, big churches & smaller churches, etc. 
Overall I found the class to be helpful and believe we must have these conversations as the Church. We don’t all have to agree but we all have to be open to dialogue.

What thoughts do you have to share about diversity? What has your experience been?