An Arkansas group is spearheading a groundbreaking international conference next week to promote greater diversity among Christians.
The Multi-ethnic Church Conference 2010 will draw hundreds of participants to San Diego Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic Church in Little Rock and executive director of the Mosaix Global Network of churches, which is organizing the event.
More than 350 people have registered. The sessions will also be broadcast live on the Internet.
“The height, breadth, length and depth of this conference has never been done before,” said DeYmaz, who leads one of the most ethnically and racially diverse congregations in central Arkansas.
Speakers include church planters, pastors, theologians and academics such as University of North Texas sociology professor George Yancey, co-author of United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race.
Yancey says the event is a big deal. “This is probably the first legitimate attempt to be a national conference that deals with multiracial ministry. Other conferences have been more local,” he said.
Segregated sanctuaries are increasingly out of step with the times, Yancey suggests.
“I believe that churches that do not become diverse will slowly become less relevant in our society. There are exceptions to this such as churches in the increasingly fewer areas where we do not have racial diversity in our society. But in 40 to 50 years racially homogenous churches will be seen as old-fashioned and irrelevant,” Yancey said.
Diversity is reshaping society, DeYmaz says.
Population trends — affected by immigration, birthrates, interracial marriages and international adoptions — suggest that America will be a “majority minority” nation by midcentury, he said.
“In an increasingly diverse and cynical society, people will no longer find credible a message that God loves all people, when it is preached and proclaimed from segregated pulpits and pews,” DeYmaz said.
There are theological as well as pragmatic reasons why diversity matters, says David Olson, a conference speaker and author of The American Church in Crisis.
“In the Old Testament, the people of God were, by nature, mono-ethnic. They were Jewish,” Olson said. “In the New Testament, especially … on the day of Pentecost, the message is that the Gospel was supposed to be multiethnic. It was for all the nations.”
The early church was multiethnic and multilingual, Olson said.
In the U.S., the multiethnic church movement “definitely is growing [but] it’s a pretty small slice of the American church.”
Efforts at racial reconciliation are important and churches should take a lead in promoting interracial unity and dialogue, Olson, a former church planter, suggests. “For the sake of the church and the sake of the world we need to be having these conversations and learn to live and love with each other,” he said.
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More information about the conference is available at mosaix.info.