Since the election of Trump, it’s fascinating how much I’ve been hearing calls to unity within majority-culture churches. I think this recent article in the New York Times, “A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches,” explains why these calls to unity fall flat. Minorities often interpret these calls to unity as a manipulative attempt to silence and stuff their concerns… I agree — I mean, as the church, aren’t we supposed to care about other parts of the Body which suffer and suffer along with them? I think of 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”  Part of that suffering includes the ways minorities are treated differently, both individually and structurally, so shouldn’t we openly address and care about that? Acknowledging all concerns and trying to address them as a Body seems like true unity to me. I’d love to see someone write a thoughtful article about what church unity really means — define it in biblical terms and especially for this current time.

There’s a case to be made for division and separation as a means of holding people accountable for bad behavior and sin (whether by omission or commission). When Hitler was in power in Germany, the church divided, with one faction opposing and taking a moral stand against Hitler. Also, think about the conservative churches who left and separated from their liberal denominations (e.g., Anglican vs. Episcopal) in the name of defending orthodoxy regarding LGBT issues, and yet these churches don’t consider this “divisive”, but probably view themselves as nobly defending the Christian orthodoxy. And yet these same churches will play the unity card to try to keep congregants from leaving over issues of race and social justice, by over-simplifying these issues and saying that “focusing on race is divisive”.

I’d argue that leaving a church because you feel that they have turned a blind eye to social justice issues is morally and spiritually equivalent and as defensible as leaving a church because it’s turned a blind eye to orthodoxy about LGBT issues. Leaving the church over social justice issues is a moral wake-up call for the church. The Bible has a lot more to say about caring for the poor, widows, orphans, aliens, etc — much more so than the handful of verses related to homosexuality. It’s unorthodox to NOT care about social justice issues. So I reject the blanket, silencing call to unity within the church, unless there’s a more nuanced way to address it and open up a genuine dialogue towards being more inclusive and empathetic of points of view of minorities and those who have been disenfranchised. If the white evangelical church is unable to do this, it will continue to fade into irrelevancy and endanger its core mission of spreading the gospel.