Today, Americans across the nation are honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a catalyst for the civil rights movement who advocated equality for all races. However, 43 years after his assassination, churches throughout America still face segregation – giving rise to a "Church Diversity" initiative to "see a more unified body of Christ."
From Jan. 13-19, "Church Diversity Week" aims to open communication about the importance of diversity in places of worship.
Pastor Scott Williams, author of Church Diversity – Sunday The Most Segregated Day of the Week, shared that this campaign, which he spearheaded, is about raising "awareness to help propel the movement."
"Many pastors and leaders asked what is an entry level starting point to begin seeing more diversity on Sunday," Williams told The Christian Post. "[This] week began as a way to answer that question, to start having the conversation and engaging in tangible activities."
"Church Diversity Week" is not about a specific church or movement, Williams, a former campus pastor for LifeChurch.tv, pointed out. Rather, the significance behind this week is to “do what Jesus commands of his followers.”
"This week is a reminder that it's important that our churches have a genuine heart to do as Jesus calls us to in the Great Commission: to make disciples of all nations," Williams said.
According to Pastor Williams, who is African-American, the goal of the initiative is to help church leaders and their congregations confront the "elephant in the pew" with action.
Michael Emerson, sociologist at Rice University in Houston, found that 93 percent of churches in the U.S. were racially segregated. However, his research also revealed that nondenominational megachurches were more likely to be diverse than smaller congregations.
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Williams shared that segregation was an "awkward and uncomfortable" subject for many people. Most churches are not racially diverse and would prefer "staying in their comfort zone," he relayed. The pastor also pointed out that society has made these three topics taboo: race, religion, and politics.
"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said this speech well over 40 years ago – 'We must face the sad fact that at the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning, when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America,' " Pastor Williams stated.
He added, "It’s time to confront the elephant in the pew – 'the lack of church diversity' – this is not a white church, black church, Asian church, Latino or Indian church issue…this is a body of Christ issue."
Williams told CP that he has attended both predominantly black and white churches and has witnessed a church move from primarily white to a degree of diversity through prayer, and intentionally applying the strategies outline in his book.
Church Diversity is more than a book, according to Williams. "It’s a movement of God, pastors, ministry leaders, volunteers, congregants, and the community. It's about the Church changing its perspective to become part of a culture-changing and world-changing movement."
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a proclamation officially recognizing Jan. 13-19 as "Church Diversity Week" in October. However, the movement has gained worldwide recognition with over 100 churches across the nation and the world, including Peru, Ghana, Kenya, Australia, and the Czech Republic celebrating Diversity Week.