Plain Vanilla Christianity The Ongoing Need For Racial Reconciliation In Evangelicalism -- By: Jo Kadlecek

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:3 (Summer 1997)
Article: Plain Vanilla Christianity The Ongoing Need For Racial Reconciliation In Evangelicalism
Author: Jo Kadlecek

Plain Vanilla Christianity The Ongoing Need For Racial Reconciliation In Evangelicalism

Jo Kadlecek

Jo Kadlecek is a free-lance writer, and former editor of Urban Family Magazine (Jackson, MI). This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 1996 issue of Ministries Today, and is reprinted by permission. Because of the nature of this article, some names of people and organizations were intentionally omitted.

Debra was attending a Christian conference on evangelism in the Spring of 1996. A black woman in her thirties, Debra worked as the urban staff representative in a predominantly white evangelical youth ministry.

“This will build teamwork for all of us,” her boss said. Debra agreed, though she was somewhat skeptical after seeing only white faces pictured in the conference brochure.

Midway through the morning workshop, participants were dismissed for a coffee break. While she talked with other staff members, Debra looked around the lobby. It confirmed her concern: She was the only person of color at the event.

Maybe nothing will happen, she thought, while smiling at her colleagues. Maybe this time things will be fine.

Things weren’t fine, though. A short white woman with white hair walked up to Debra, tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Missy, we need more coffee over here.”

Awkward tension silenced the group standing around Debra. Her friends riveted their gaze to the dark red carpet.

Debra sighed and then graciously informed the woman that she did not work for the hotel and the woman would have to get her own coffee. The woman apologized, walked away and eventually found her coffee.

Debra turned to her embarrassed colleagues and joked: “Honey, I gave up servin’ coffee when I was in college. Tips were lousy.” Laughter eased the tension, the workshop resumed, and Debra waited for the day to end.

The incident Debra faced comes as no surprise to the few minority professionals working for the white evangelical ministries in the United States. Stories like Debra’s of cultural insensitivity or stereotyping are common among the non-whites who enter the world of professional ministry.

Other examples include the black business manager who was told he wouldn’t understand how the company’s economics worked; the black woman in the Christian music industry who was told she should be “cleaning or cooking” instead of pursuing a career; and the black worship pastor in a Baptist church whose white colleague told him he was “praying that I would be delivered of the [music’s] beat.”

Amid an increasingly polarized U.S. society, do...

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