Dear evangelical conference planners: Thank you for your diversity statements. Thank you for inviting feedback. Thank you for listening.
In response to concerns over lack of diversity at past conferences, the Leadership Network released a statement to say, “We welcome your input and ideas or how we can do better in the areas of diversity, and how we, together, can work to represent Christ and the Church in the best way possible.”
Just a year ago, the organization’s annual conference, The Nines, came under fire on Twitter when Rachel Held Evans, Jonathan Merritt, and others drew attention to the 100-plus lineup, which only had a few women and people of color. Since then, it seems, Christian conferences increasingly get subjected to scrutiny on social media over whether their lineups are sufficiently diverse—particularly when it comes to gender and racial or ethnic divisions in the church.
As an African American woman, I understand the tensions on both sides of this outrage. Ultimately, with such events, the evangelical community has an opportunity to think about what our featured voices say about the church and the gospel we cling to. Given the drastic change in the speaker lineup for this year’s Nines conference, held last week, we see how our constructive response to a lack of diversity may actually bring forth voices from a broader range of backgrounds.
Diversity for diversity’s sake—the kind of tokenism mentality that leads organizers to ask a person of color at the last-minute to come say an opening prayer for their all-white event—does not truly value our voices, nor does it benefit the church. But when organizers are intentional about including diverse perspectives, ...1
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