Jane Hollingsworth had a problem. A staff worker with parachurch college ministry InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), she needed to find a facility to host her student conference. But given the cultural climate of America in the 1940s, her group of white and black students was rebuffed again and again.
When even key IVCF supporters questioned her decision to include black students, the organization's board took a radical stance. In June 1948, it resolved not to hold any events at a facility discriminating against people of color. The resolution went on to say: "Since colored people tend to relate segregation and the Christianity which we represent, we must demonstrate that in Christ there is neither black nor white."
Although Christian organizations have made progress in the area of race relations since the 1940s, they continue to wrestle with the challenge of demonstrating that Christianity is not merely a segregated domain. Promise Keepers' emphasis on racial reconciliation is perhaps the most public expression of this desire. But on a day-to-day level, Christian leaders are often unsure of how exactly to make the dream of racial diversity a reality.
IVCF, however, is one organization that has actively pursued multiethnicity, both internally and through its ministry. Thirty years ago, 4 percent of its staff and students were ethnic minorities. Today those percentages have grown to 16 percent (for staff) and 35 percent (for students), which compares favorably with the national average of 27 percent of all college students who identify themselves as ethnic minorities. The diversity was reflected in the dizzying multicultural representation of participants at its triennial Urbana Student Mission Convention on December ...