Christians of colour are invisible in Canada and it’s been masterfully designed this way.
The dominant Canadian narrative is formed around the notion of colourblindness. Those at the top lay claim a country where racial privileges no longer exist as everyone stands on equal ground. This belief system assuages white guilt and responsibility for righting any systemic wrongs. It also warns people of colour that publicly living out the fulness of our identity is disturbs the preferred storyline. The Christian institution in all of its forms is a ready participant in this system, one that fundamentally prevents non-whites from fully belonging. In order to merely survive in this culture, minorities have to live out a characterization of themselves, denying their own existence in order to match the expectation of their kind.
In Canada, the vast majority of church power, from land to income, is controlled by white controlled institutions. Once again, it has been designed this way, and the answer to this issue (assuming you think it’s a problem to begin with, most whites would not) is a de-centering of white power structures in Christianity.
Note, I’m not one to call for a removal of white leaders or denominations in favour of minority leadership. That may be a worthy exercise, but ultimately institutional Christianity in Canada is too steeped in whiteness to change.
What I’m suggesting is a new imagination for minority Christians to create a new way of gathering and living out faith in Canada.
Easier said than done.
Unfortunately, in Canada there are few safe spaces for minorities to exist. I started looking intentionally for any kind of organization or group outside of the institution and have found NONE. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any operating underground, but I haven’t found them. Im also not saying that institutions can’t do good working race reconciliation. It’s just that most lack the wherewithal to commit to the process because it’s admittedly exhausting. Plus, those in power rarely relinquish their power without a fight.
Nonetheless, I want to share with you the hope that things are changing.
First off, some friends & I are curating safe space for Christian minorities in Canada to begin the process of de-centering whiteness and recapturing their identities in Christ. Our aim is to be more than a place of conversation, but that’s where we’re starting.
There’s a need to re-imagine faith outside of the bounds of institution, and we’re going to explore it. This kind of space is necessary because the church as a whole doesn’t look like Canada anymore. Denominational power structures remain steeped in whiteness, but that look no longer reflects shifting demographics. A new wave of leaders need to emerge, leaders built outside of the institution.
Maybe that’s wishful thinking?
I recently say in a lecture last night. The topic was: ‘Is Reconciliation Possible?’. I was the only minority in the room, apart from the presenters. That probably means something. It also reflects the kind of relationships the hosting church keeps. Birds of a feather flock together sort of thing….
The final questions posed by well meaning folks were all the same. A lot of shared sentiment without any impetus for demonstrable action. There may have been allies in the room, but the overall sentiment in a technically “progressive” denomination, was one of muted concern. So close, but so deeply entrenched in the maintaining the invisibility of whiteness.
We’re not getting anywhere in our dying denominations by paying lip service systemic wrongs in the church.
But there’s hope, and the time to do something is now. Particularly, for Christians of colour who’ve sat at the wayside for too long.
It’s time for people of colour to stand in solidarity with our indigenous sisters & brothers who fight to save their stories from obscurity.
It’s time to deconstruct whiteness in the Canadian church.
It’s time to reconstruct a re-imagined faith across this land.
It’s time to build a new generation of faith leaders in our country.
***Please send me an email if you identify as a person of colour in Canada and would like to learn more about our emerging movement. (If you’re an American send me a note too and I can point you in the right direction.)***