About two or three times a years when talking about Mission Bay Community Church, someone makes the assumptions that MBCC is an Asian American congregation. After trying to politely correct that assumption I am again left with the internal question as Racial Ethnic pastor serving a non-Racial Ethnic congregation, “Does race matter when pastoring?”
Here is why it DOES matter . . .
- Because RACE still matters, for good or bad, and it is up to the new generation of racial ethnic pastoral leadership to be able to better communicate and encourage healthy conversations and transformation around issues of race to this new generation of church-goers who want to believe that we have moved “beyond” issues of racism, when in fact, the face of racism has simply changed.
- My 3rd Generation Chinese/Filipino is part of who I am. The whole, “I don’t see you as . . . ” idea just doesn’t hold, when in fact, I LOVE my cultural imprint and want you to appreciate it as part of who I am as a person and pastor. Seeing my ethnicity need not be a divisive attribute to my pastoring, but one that makes me that much more understanding of others. When we share our particular worldviews and life experiences, we all grow in our understanding of the Creator.
- In a congregation where we are pretty affluent and privileged, my “otherness” is an extremely informative aspect of how I see us engaging those outside of our socioeconomic homogeny.
- It is important for non-white folks to lead non-white congregations so that we can model to the world that congregational leadership does not always have to be the “Missionary” model of White Pastor leading Brown People (Not that that is ALWAYS bad.) While it is symbolic in many ways, there is something powerful about this shift in church leadership. MBCC is one of the few churches that I can name where the Solo or Head of Staff ethic in a non-ethnic based setting; one other is John Lee and Bethany Presbyterian in San Bruno; another is Sarah Reyes at Bethel Community Presbyterian in San Leandro.
Here is why it DOES NOT matter . . .
- Class often trumps race. Because of my socioeconomic status, my connections to folks are first via class and worldview issues. We share far more class commonalities that ethic differences. Economics, technology, worldview, etc.
- I am also just a boy trying to be a good husband, father, friend, Christ-follower, etc. Our base human experiences: hope, despair, struggles, joys and all the other wonderful part about being a human connect us, while ethnic difference merely flavor our response. .
- We are in the end human beings and while our ethnicity should not divide, in the moments of pure grace our worldviews and experience sync up and we truly see the holy in the other.
Race is a touchy issue for today’s new churches. Sadly, many think that we are beyond these kinds of issues and too easily dismiss any talk of them as “PC.” But ask most people of color and you can bet that most will say that
race still is a major part of thier spiritual and cultural formation,
both via positive and negative expreinces. The “PC” labeling fear should not be a deterent to raising issues of the ism’s of the world, race, gender, class etc. In fact it should be a motivating factor to talk about these things in compelling, relevent and hopeful ways. This should be the case for all pastors regardless of the shade of their skin. Afterall, as pastors, God calls us to sojourn with folks along the road to transforamtion and if we play to the misconcpetion that we have somehow moved beyond the ism’s of the day we are leaving out the prophetic witness that Christ calls us to live out. And that is something that REALLY matters!