Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Have We Moved Beyond Gender and Race?

A friend of mine was a delegate to our Jurisdictional Conference this year.  I was asking him about his experience and he vented about some of his frustrations.  He said, “There was a point when people started to simply vote for minorities and not the candidate who had the gifts and talents needed by the church.”  He went on to tell me that he had a conversation with another delegate from his conference about this issue.  She called him out on his comment about gender and race.  She was an older black women and he is a white young clergy. 

His defense is, “For my generation we don’t see race and gender as the older generations do.  We don’t get caught up in that anymore and we need to vote for who has the best talents and gifts.”  I understand where he is coming from and agree with him.  I think the younger generations, GenXers and the Millennials, see race and gender differently than those who grew up in the 50s and 60s.  We have grown up being segregated and do not know a world without leadership of mixed races and with women in key leadership roles.

Have we moved beyond race and gender?  As I appoint local church leadership in my Nominations committee I do have an eye out making sure there is equal representation of gender and generations, but that is not my main focal point.  My main objective is to get people with talents, willingness and passion into the leadership roles that will move the local church forward and not prop up past agendas or “back to Egypt” mentalities.  But then again I am a white male who turned 35 this year.

I am a firm believer in equal representation but let’s face it in the next decade or two we will become an even more white denomination (at least in my conference).  Out of the 68 young clergy we have only one who is non-white and that person is Asian.  We have no representation in our young clergy demographic of African American, Native American, Hispanic, or any other race that plays a major part in our local communities.  In twenty years when one of these 68 young clergy is put up for nomination to Bishop they will have between 20-30 years of ministerial experience. They will have helped congregations through tough transitions and want the United Methodist Church to do what it can to be relevant and vital in this world.  BUT they will be 99% white.

Have we moved beyond gender and race and/or should we?  I would love to hear your thoughts especially if you are a minority in the UMC.  Do you feel the same way or does that mentality seem like a thought from the majority to make ourselves feel better about ourselves?


John Bryant said...


I actually blogged about this topic myself a couple weeks ago. I'm still wondering how to respond myself. One thing that has been weighing on me is the concern that if we do not have leaders who represent minorities, then it could become even more difficult to recruit minority leaders in the future.

There's a phenomenon called "stereotype threat" that suggests when people don't see others like them in their field, they can begin to internalize stereotypes. The researchers were studying female scientists but I imagine the same thing applies to ministry.

To avoid putting my entire post as a comment, here's the link to what I wrote:

Unknown said...

Thank you John for your comments and I am glad to hear I am not the only one wrestling with this idea. You are correct we need diverse leadership to attract diverse people/leaders. I wonder if this will get harder if we cannot gain more minorities in the local church and as pastor?

Thanks for the link to your article as well, great post.

Cynthia Astle said...

Hi, Jim!
Cynthia Astle of United Methodist Insight here. I'd like to reprint your post on gender and race on our website, Please let me know if this is all right with you. I'm at Thanks.