A black couple began attending my church a few years ago, one of them the provost of a local evangelical college. They said they had settled on my denomination (Evangelical Covenant Church) because the leaders truly seemed to have a heart for racial diversity. This couple did not want to attend a traditional black denomination nor be the only black couple in a predominantly white church. They wanted a church that could reflect the complexity and racial diversity of the kingdom of God.
Very few white denominations will deny that they would like to attract more members from minority groups. Most pastors enthusiastically told this couple that they would love to have them and were all about racial diversity. This couple would evaluate the sincerity of that claim with one simple challenge: “Show us your leaders.”
And at that point, they would walk away disappointed, because the excuses for why the leaders were all white people would begin. The denomination didn’t have any qualified minorities to serve in top leadership positions, they would say. These just happened to be the men (or sometimes women) most qualified for the job, they would say. These were the people whom God had called, they insisted. This couple still walked away disappointed. According to them, when a denomination is serious about racial integration, it appoints minority leaders. And if it doesn’t have any qualified minorities to serve as leaders, it trains them.
This past weekend, much buzz surrounded the fact that the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had three openings in its top leadership, something that has not occurred since 1906. A calling as an apostle is a lifetime calling wherein new openings only become available upon the deaths of current members, so this was a tremendous opportunity for the church to appoint its first minority General Authority. Instead, it appointed three sixty-something white men, all born in Utah. So we arrive in the year 2015 with God’s “One and Only True Church” having never called a minority to its top leadership, this in spite of the church having more non-American members than American members. The late Gordon B. Hinckley, then-President of the Mormon church, stated in several interviews that a black prophet was a real possibility. Now it’s looking like the possibility of any kind of minority prophet–let alone a black one–is at least a century away.
This post is not meant to disparage the men who were called for being white or Utah-born. I’m sure they are men of character and integrity who are excited to serve and will give their callings their utmost. But I have to wonder how many minorities are watching, saying “Show us your leaders,” and walking away. I suppose Mormons are always free to defend this as the will of God.
Then again, one has to wonder what exactly it is that God has against blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and other minorities that he won’t call any of them to lead his church.