Thursday, April 21, 2011

More Questions on Multiculturalism in UU Churches

In its strategic plan for ministry, the UUA staff left some open questions for discussion.  Here's another one.  

Even if it is a moral and religious imperative for UUs, does becoming more multiculturally welcoming and competent necessarily mean that our congregations will grow?

The way this question is stated highlights the confusion in the UU World about the issue of multicultural competence and welcome, because it places this factor, not only at the top of the list of factors influencing growth but suggests that it alone might trump everything else.  

It's easy to imagine a scenario in which UU's perfect multiculturally welcoming and competence but still don't grow.  If, for instance, we don't find ways to reach the Gen X and Millenial generations (who are far more skeptical about religious institutions than their elders), it won't matter how competent we are as we age into oblivion.   If we have nothing to offer the world except our multicultural competence we'll attract fewer and fewer people.  I devoutly hope that

Our values demand that we welcome everyone with skill, and it can hardly hurt us to make sure that our doors are really open to all people and not just white people.  If we don't do this work, we will surely flounder, if only because muilticultural INcompetence won't be tolerated by younger generations.  This work is necessary but not sufficient; part of a plan that also has to include a focus on spirituality and a willingness to become multi-generationally competent and welcoming.  


Bill Baar said...
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Bill Baar said...

Read Robert Benne's "The Trials of American Lutheranism" in the current issue of First Things. The ELCA embarked on a path of "inclusivness" i.e. quotas, and I don't think it served to grow them. I suspect there is a history at the ELCA we ought to examine.

Conservative Churches that retained their own School Systems certainly feel more multi-cultural. That's been their big draw to communities outside their heritage. How many stay in the Church I don't know.

Ditto goes for the Catholic Church. All of this of course my personal experience of the scene in Chicago and its 'burbs.

Anonymous said...

You ask: "Even if it is a moral and religious imperative for UUs, does becoming more multiculturally welcoming and competent necessarily mean that our congregations will grow?"

Maybe not. I remember reading some research a few years ago that found that truly interracial congregations tend not to be very large.

However, let's rephrase the question: "Will becoming a more multiculturally welcoming and competent denomination mean that we will add more congregations?" -- If you ask the question that way, I'm willing to bet the answer is more likely to be positive. I think it's going to be fairly difficult to get existing white-dominant congregations to become multiracial/multicultural; I think it would be more feasible to start *new* multiracial-multicultural congregations, and *new* non-white majority congregations.

My $.02 worth,