August 31, 2015 / Ruthie Johnson

What does Multiethnic even mean for the Church?

For my master’s research I looked at identity development, specifically around the concept of hybridity– the merging of two (or more) ethnic identities. Through a combination of critical race theory and postcolonial studies I chose to extend this theory work to the church. I posited that a true multiethnic church must grow from the concept of hybridity.

In postcolonial studies, hybridity examines ethnic identity in relationship to power and the way in which colonialism has affected or influenced ethnic salience. The overarching question is always about indigenous representation:

Is it possible to authentically represent ethnic identity once it has been colonized?

In my deep desire to be practical I wanted to shift this research to the church. As we move forward and talk about ethnicity, race and the church it is clear that we are growing in diversity. The Latino church is the fastest growing in our nation. The ‘millennial’ generation is said to have the most exposure to diversity and are the future of Christianity (just check out Christianity Today’s 33 under 33!). But what does this mean for our church?

“Multiethnic” seems to be a bit of a buzzword and the ‘next thing’ with churches. But in light of campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter and controversial presidential candidates who speak against immigration, how is the church to respond? Are these issues only for Multiethnic church? How do we engage as the Ecclesia around issues of race, culture and multiethnicity? This questions seems to be more complex before it gives us answers.

Does simply having diversity represented mean we are really gaining cultural insight? Can we represent diversity in an authentic manner? Do we still need a black church? A Korean church? Does EVERY church needs to be multiethnic?

I want to take the next few posts to start critically looking at the question “why multiethnic?” My goal is to dig beyond some of the pat buzz phrases of ‘why’ multiethnic and get at what this really means for the Church in theology, body and practice.

But I need your help! What are YOU interested in hearing about “multiethnic church”? What are some common ideas you have about it? Questions?

Let’s dig in this together as we explore the beautiful and complexity of multiethnic church.

[Photo: gina pina, CC via Flickr]