The thing about separate gatherings

For the past week or so, I’ve watched the internet ablaze over a special gathering of women of color  sponsored by Legacy at the TGCW18 conference. (see their write up about it here.) The meeting is for women to come together to discuss their shared experiences (a phrase I will definitely be coming back to) and encourage one another. Why? Well, because being a minority, where minorities are very much the minority, trying to navigate through predominantly white spaces can be tricky and trying. If you don’t understand that, try talking to some minority women in those circumstances. But the upshot is that some women feel the need to retreat and gather among themselves apart from those who don’t really understand what it is like. They have a shared experience.

Of course, I get that there are varying degrees of sensitivity. Especially in these times of heightened racial awareness, I can see how those who are quick to racialize every aspect of every environment and interaction might feel the need for separate spaces. But let’s not be too quick to make those assumptions that explains what is going on here. And let’s not be too quick to attribute this acute awareness only among racial lines. Consider those who experience being a very small minority representation of whatever is the majority group: parents of small children in a church full of older couples; singles in the midst of married people; men in the company of a majority of women and vice versa. It’s not that you’re repudiating the majority group but there is a heightened sense of awareness that you kind of stand out and open to varying degrees of misunderstandings, misperceptions and prejudices.

This special gathering has spawned a bit of an uproar with charges of gospel-denying racism. I have even heard that the noise has caused the FBI to make some inquiries. Some folks are concerned that this kind of segregation has no place in the body of Christ. I do understand and appreciate the sentiment that oneness in Christ should preclude any kind of racial or ethnic superiority or exclusivity. As I wrote about in Some Questions I’m Asking While Off to my White Evangelical Church, I too have concerns that racial animus is creating a divide in the body of Christ. After all, Christ broke down the walls of ethnic hostility so that we can hold our identity in him first and foremost, bearing with one another and learning to love each other in spite of the extensive legacy of racial hostility. We do have to be cautious of creating unnecessary divides in the body of Christ, resisting the urge to retreat into separate enclaves because working out our salvation with fear and trembling is simply too intolerable.

So I hear what folks are saying: let’s make sure we don’t revert back to “separate but equal.”  Let’s not create hostilities where they shouldn’t be. Let’s not exclude others lest pure fellowship be hindered because of special interests.

Except there’s one small problem: the church is full of separate affinity groups, whether it be for singles, married couples, seniors, youth, etc.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28 ESV)

Now I don’t know about Gentile groups, but we definitely groups specific to Jewish Christians. And we have separate male and female formalized fellowships. If we are one in Christ, why is this even necessary? Jewish Christians recognize there are concerns specific to their identity as Christians. Why do we have separate men and women fellowships? Because men and women have unique concerns that get most effectively addressed when there is comfortable space for honesty and vulnerability. We acknowledge that sometimes it is beneficial to create such spaces so brothers and sisters in Christ can be free to share their struggles that are unique to being in a particular sub-group within Christianity. We do this with singles. We do this for married people. We do this for people experiencing addictions. We do this for Christians who have lost loved ones and grieve. We do this for mothers with toddlers. We do this for infertile couples. We do this for people who have experienced abuse…and the list goes on. I also imagine that Christians serving in other countries might feel the need to gather with those from their home country from time to time. This is a natural inclination.

Let’s be clear, when such gatherings are advertised they are directed towards that particular group. It doesn’t necessarily mean other people can’t come or are uninvited but that the meeting is targeting people who have those experiences. In the case of the special gathering for women, I can see where the language directed at white sisters might warrant concerns. However, the  main point of sub-groups gathering is that there can be open dialogue and encouragement without the intrusion of explaining to others why this particular experience impacts them they way it does. If people want to create a space for that dialogue without such intrusions, why is that necessarily a bad thing? And if we’re going to insist that minorities who want to gather among themselves are transgressing the gospel through segregation, then we have to apply that same standard to other groups as well.

At the end of the day, I’m all for striving for gospel unity. Yes, let’s gather as the body and learn to love each other, empathize and bear each other’s burdens. We really can’t do that in separate groups. I personally have felt increasingly less inclined to participate in any kind of affinity group. But does a gathering for a group of women who want to come together to pray and encourage each other rise to the level of hysteria and charges of racism? I think not. The attention people are giving this to a watching world does more disservice than the actual event itself. Besides, there are bigger fish to fry in a world gone mad and godless.

Advertisements

Bible in a Nutshell Part 4: OT history (God leads his people)

My intention in doing this series was to post one segment at least once a month. I’ve let more time lapse since the last segment so I thought it would be good to get back to it. A crucial aspect of this series is seeing how God moved on behalf of his creation starting in Genesis to have a snapshot of what the entirety of the Bible is about. Therefore, in order to consider the cohesive story of the 66 books of Scripture, it is imperative to consider the overview (part 1), foundation in Genesis (part 2), and God’s provision through the law (part 3). Continuing on, this post will cover the period of kings known as Old Testament history.

By way of review, what we’ve seen so far leading up to this period is that from the beginning, God gives life to his creation with specific intentions for it to glorify him. As man is made in the image of God, a theme that undergirds Scripture: God will be a God to his people. From the Fall, God’s desire to rescue his people is seen throughout. From the promise of Abraham, comes a people who God rescued, then he gave them a name and then his requirements in the law. In the law, a system of worship was established and office of priest solidified through through which the mediation of God’s presence would occur. This was the whole point of the tabernacle so that God could meet with his people. So we see, as the narrative of God’s story continues, he reveals more of himself–his character, intent, and will.

What started as one man and one woman, evolved into a family, then a nation. As I noted in the last post, the nation of Israel should be seen as a people of God’s possession.

The historical books (Joshua-2 Chronicles) tell of Israel’s conquest of the promised land, life in the land, loss of the land, and return to the land. But there is a component added to this period of Israel’s history that bears a noteworthy mark of God’s revelation concerning his leadership. Continue reading

The one good question to ask when deciding on a church

Occasionally, I come across an article stating reasons to either choose a church or make a decision to leave a church. The recommendations typically look something like this. Don’t leave for selfish reasons. Find a church that honors Christ, teaches the Bible and takes fellowship seriously. All that is well and good.

Over at Core Christianity, I thought this was a good list on 4 questions to ask when looking for a church;

What does the church believe about Scripture?

What is the church’s confession of faith?

Is the church man-centered or God-centered?

Is Christ faithfully preached each week?

But one thing I’ve discovered in my varied church experience and many years of being a Christian is that it’s not always that simple. You can have those standard elements present but there still be a hole. Just because the preacher uses the Bible doesn’t mean he’s being faithful to Scripture. Just because he quotes Bible verses doesn’t mean he’s preaching Christ. Just because people gather, doesn’t mean there is genuine love in the body. Just because there is evangelism doesn’t mean the church is being faithful to its whole task.

There’s also the varied expressions of church practice. Aside from the absolute essentials of the faith to which any Christian must be committed, there are questions to be asked about the way in which church is conducted. What does that church believe about the sacraments? The practice of spiritual gifts? The make up (liturgy) of the service? Continue reading

Because Jesus loved his body more…and so should we

During Holy Week, I read a devotional centered around Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in John 13:21-32. The premise of the devotional was how much Jesus loved Judas, even though he knew he would betray him and he did. Here is a snippet that I think speaks to heart of the devotional;

It is one thing to consider what Jesus would do in our situations. It is quite another to put ourselves into his life situations. When we do this, we focus on Jesus and the contexts of his decisions, instead of our own. In John 13:26, Jesus is serving the person he had just identified as his betrayer. If we were in the presence of someone we knew had planned harm to us, could we do the same? Jesus served Judas, literally and figuratively, without resentment or any effort to “get even.” Now that is love.

Our brokenness can cause us to struggle with showing love. We could feel and behave as if an “other” was a personified WMD (weapon of mass destruction) aimed at us, making us feel MAD (mutually assured destruction) in response. But we do not have to wonder WWJD. We know what Jesus did. We have his road map. Yet, his path for us may still cause us some internal struggle. We need not, even as good Christians, ignore that struggle. It is part of the process. Even Jesus was “greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, ‘I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me’” (John 13:21). However, his love was greater.

Now I gleaned from the gist of the devotional that Jesus is showing us how to love our enemies. However, I found this angle a bit short sighted. Yes, Jesus did demonstrate love for Judas and overlooked the offense. But to leave it at that kind of misses the point of what was transpiring. Jesus saw Judas. He saw the betrayal. He turned the other cheek. Why? Because he saw more than Judas. He saw us. He was set to offer himself over as a sacrificial lamb to redeem those whom the Father called into his kingdom. There was something more at stake than dealing with Judas but to be the deal for mankind so that we could know the Father and reflect his glory. Continue reading

On kingdom seeking and stuff: a personal reflection

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ll know at times I’ve felt the pangs of singleness and wondered if the Lord would be so gracious to grant a simple prayer I prayed back in Fall 2004, a few months after my husband passed away. The prayer was that when it came to relationships, I had pretty much only known wrong and I desired to know something right. By right, I mean first and foremost a Christ-centered relationship, followed by mutual respect and shared values. Though I was married, it’s not something I’ve known and I’ll just leave it at that.

Recently, the Lord has been so gracious to bring a wonderful man into my life. Funny thing is that the prayers I had prayed for a godly mate had a diminished a bit as other areas in my life rose to the forefront and which occupied more of my prayers than this long-standing request. To be honest, I was getting to the point of wondering if God just wanted me to stay single and praying that I be content with that. Needless to say, this latest development kind of took me by surprise.

Little did I know this past Christmas eve Sunday, that tall, dark and handsome visitor to my church was there specifically to meet me. It wasn’t long after the service ended that someone came up to me and indicated this gentleman had been asking for me by name. I figured it had to do with my blog. Sure enough, I learned that he was visiting from out of town (though he used to live in the DFW area and attended another PCA church) and he was sent a link to an article I wrote. Shortly after that, his friend (playing match makers of sorts) sent him another article. Why? Because he knew the things I wrote about would resonate with this gentleman…and of course, he pointed out that I was single. Thankfully, I only knew at the time of our meeting that he had come across my blog and was very appreciative of the kinds of things I wrote about. I figured he just happened to be visiting the church and since he knew I was there, asked about me. I would come to find out several weeks later, after an initial “coffee” ask, phone communications and another trip back to Dallas, that he intentionally came to church that day to see if he could meet me. Continue reading