Most Christians don't long for diversity in their churches with great passion. By and large, we rarely consider why our churches should (or how they could) more clearly reflect the global body of Christ. Other priorities compete for our attention, and however biblical it may be, tackling the complicated question of diversity often doesn't make the cut.
But for Trillia J. Newbell, author of United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (Moody Publishers), diversity isn't simply one issue among many, but a central way that the church communicates the gospel. It's also very personal.
The reasons for Newbell's passion become clear over the course of the book. Newbell, who is African American, attends a predominantly white church, one she loves dearly despite its lack of diversity. Adding to Newbell's unique perspective is her location within Reformed theological circles, which historically have been very white. "Being black, female, and Reformed is one of those unique blends," she writes. "I am a rare breed."
From this perspective, Newbell does a few things I've not encountered in my reading on church diversity. Whether you appreciate her novel approaches will likely depend on two factors: your experience (if any) with the challenges and joys of a diverse congregation, and how much you share Newbell's Reformed sympathies and affiliations.
United often feels like a memoir. We learn about the author's childhood and the influence of a father who displayed immense courage in the face of racism. Her time in college was especially influential. There, she met two women, one white and the other Chinese American, who would become close friends. These friendships ...