One of the most special moments for me is when I am asked to work with churches in diverse communities. This environment is often very intriguing to me in the sense that most of the assigned ministers seem to really understand what the helping nature of diverse Christian communities should look like.
I remember now, a British television series called Rev, which ran for a few seasons. The series Rev was so different from some of the other shows I’ve watched, which revealed the life of vicars in the United Kingdom (UK). What made them different from Rev, were mainly the representations of vicars stationed in English country towns. But what was so refreshing about the series Rev, was the vicar’s assignment to a church in the city of London. In fact, when asked about the show, one of the writers, Tom Hollander said: “we wanted to define ourselves in opposition to the cliché of a country vicar, partly because we wanted to depict England as it is now, rather than having a sort of bucolic-y, over the hills and far away, bird-tweeting England – we wanted the complications of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic inner-city, where everything is much harder.”
And, this show certainly portrayed this. It discussed the many challenges of this vicar while stationed in London, to include the evolving story of a man heavily addicted to drugs. The grace of the minister, showed toward this man, was remarkable. After I watched the series in its entirety, I then thought of churches here in the United States (US), those not located in the vicinity of the challenges described on Rev. I was eager to know how the presence of a peaceful but noticeable drug addict entering a church outside major cities, would be handled in suburban churches of today. Would law enforcement be called? Would grace be shown? Judgment cast? What would happen…I asked myself.
In this part one, I approach the consideration of representational church ethics as this applies to diverse communities and marginalized groups. This conversation is always a “beefy’ one to explore, but very necessary, I believe. In particular, I argue that in today’s polarized community climates, those in any form of Christian ministry should establish keen senses of grace in all of God’s environments, and with all of His people. Moving forward in ministry, which attempts to complete the very guidance and acts of Jesus, must require more than “cookie cutter” methods some places of worship may uphold for common use. Conversely, a strong ethical diverse community framework is imperative to see a project as this through.
In almost every piece I compose in this forum, my focus resides in the constructs of community research and psychology. I spend at least one hour each day reading research studies on these topics to discover how they could be applicable to church environments. From these studies, I often build my consulting processes. In any form of serious writing, it is important approaches are aligned with integrity and honesty. Respecting other people’s work and sharing them, helps me to create my on theoretical frameworks and business approaches. Point blank… writing on any pertinent topic require research, sharing of research, and giving credit. With these three simple steps, a well-versed writer and one well-highly respected, are often the perception of audiences.
About three years ago, a study I found fascinating spoke of the insider and outsider dynamics of diverse communities. The authors cited numerous other researches on this subject. However, there was one citation that stood out to me. According to McConnell, Todd, Odahl-Ruan, and Shattel (2016), when identities are considered intersectional, they are often in the element of power structures and privilege. However, when power structures and privileges are identified and understood, it is my belief that therein rest areas for change. Authors of the study mentioned above, wrote that in this space, one becomes partial insiders, in the perception that identities become flexible. Flexible in the notion that better understanding is provided to those who are not like us, while constraints on how to better understand their lives exist (Haarlammert, Birman, Oberoi, & Moore, 2017). Haarlammert et al. (2017) also acknowledged that although there appear intersectionality in identities relating to community involvement, insider and outsider dynamics remain relevant, because the situation itself is relevant.
Indeed, the church “helping matter” concerning diverse communities, is relevant.
I am aware that approaching this diverging topic may seem complex to some spiritual leaders. For this reason, next week I will dive in by sharing more on intersectionality, allowing for a few ideas on how the creation of ethical policy development based on community efforts and intersectionality are vital to living out Jesus’ truth.
Haarlammert, M., Birman, D., Oberio, A., & Moore, W.J. (2017). Inside-Out: Representational ethics and diverse communities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 60(3-4). 414-423. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12188.
McConnell, E.A., Todd, N.R., Odahl-Ruan, C., & Shattell, M. (2016). Complicating counterspaces: Intersectionality and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. American Journal of Community Psychology, 57 (3-4), 473-488. doi: 10,1002/ajcp.1205