What’s Next for the Church? (Shonda is Helpful)

Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles Gala 2015I write this after the NEXTChurch National Conference in Chicago (which I attended) and the White Privilege Conference in Louisville (which I didn’t attend.) Whatever the Spirit leads God’s people to be and do in the coming years, it will be surely be more racially and ethnically diverse. At least in the United States, people with white skin will no longer be the majority by 2043. On July 1, 2012, non-white births first outnumbered white births according to the US Census Bureau.

So, this is a thing.

This is the new normal (or maybe the old normal depending on who you are and where you live.)

Shonda Rhimes has created several popular televisions shows, all of which include characters who are as diverse as any on television: white, black, brown, olive, LGBTQ, straight, old, young. She doesn’t do it to be politically correct. She does it to show what normal looks like.

What Shonda Rhimes said on March 15, 2015 at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in LA should be required reading:

I really hate the word “diversity”. It suggests something…other. As if it is something…special. Or rare.


As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV.

I have a different word: NORMALIZING.

I’m normalizing TV.

I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal WAY more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look NORMAL.

You can read her entire speech here and I hope you will.

I have a couple of random thoughts:

  • My denomination is predominantly white. This is not a shocking news flash. Either we are okay with this or we are not.
  • My denomination is full of church people who are faithful and good and yet we are also racist – either softly or hard-core.
  • We white people are offended when somebody refers to “white privilege.” We take offense. We feel attacked.
  • We assume that television characters and magazine models and textbook illustrations will look like us.
  • We white people generally fail to notice that security officers do not follow us around in nice stores assuming we might steal something, that police are not called when we are walking in nice neighborhoods assuming we don’t live there, that teachers do not assume our children are in gangs.

Genuinely getting to know each other melts assumptions. And when we hear stories of exclusion, there is going to be some confessing to do when we realize that we were the ones who excluded other people. There will be pain to acknowledge.

On March 17, 2015, my denomination officially made marriage “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman” the law of our denominational land. This is our new normal, not because we are trying to “mock God” or “change God’s Word” but because Scripture is a living Word. But we have excluded faithful people who were created to love in ways that are – perhaps – not like we were created. We have excluded some of God’s children who deserve to be included.

Many of my brothers and sisters will disagree with this understanding of Scripture. In a Bible that has – through the ages – been used to support slavery, forbid interracial marriage, and force women to stay in abusive situations, Acts 10 helps us understand what is indeed the Next Church. What we have often called unclean, our Creator has made clean.

By God’s grace, diversity is not only our future. It’s the way things are now. And it’s a good and holy thing. But we have a lot of work to do.

Image of Shonda Rhimes. And really, read her whole speech at the 2015 Human Rights Campaign Gala last weekend.

5 responses to “What’s Next for the Church? (Shonda is Helpful)

  1. Pingback: » What’s Next for the Church? (Shonda is Helpful)

  2. Amen! And yes, lots of work to be done…


  3. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Continue in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love. Love one another as I have loved you. – Jesus


  4. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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