“Instead of separation and division, all distinctions make for rich diversity to be celebrated for the sake of the unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can know our need for one another.”
Yesterday was my last day as a member of the church Council—its governing body. I have been a member of the same church since 1982, and for all of that time, have served on one board or another almost continuously. When I first joined, there were three boards—Trustees, Deacons, and Christian Education. Women sat on the education board (Sunday School), and as Deacons in charge of Fellowship (food) and Member Care (food), but the Trustees were all men—older men—older, white men—older, affluent, white men. They controlled not only how the church spent its money, but what activities were allowed at the church, and even the temperature of the building; a thermostat with a lock box to which only they held the keys. I was once told by one of these gentlemen, when I attempted to have children with disabilities come to the church's day school, “We don't take in stray cats!” Oh, yeah. Following Jesus here.
Yesterday, as I looked around the conference table, there were equal numbers of men and women, three of whom are African American, and three who are gay or lesbian. And, yes, me, a fine, though bedraggled, example of a stray cat. Things do change, even in Birmingham, AL. Here's the moral of the story: There is absolutely nothing wrong with older white men; it has simply taken some time for them to learn how to share power. They give valuable support to the church (and other institutions) with their time and treasure, and lend their considerable experience to help guide it. But there is also enormous value in diversity. Women and men, gay and lesbian, young and old, black and white, bring a broader perspective, and more clearly represent the world in which we live today.
Diversity is a good thing, a rich thing, a necessary thing. Let's embrace and celebrate it, and use it as a means of bringing unity. “We are different so that we can know our need for one another.”
In the Spirit,