My name is Thomas Hoffmann, and I am the pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Tulsa, OK. Our church is a predominantly White congregation that is on a journey to be more reflective of our east side neighborhood which has no ethnic majority, many diverse cultures and languages, broad economies, and international concerns.
We began this journey by looking at ourselves: after 50 years as a congregation, when and why did we become different from our neighborhood? What does it mean to be a predominantly White congregation? How do we break down racial, ethnic, and economic barriers? How do we stand alongside and advocate for our neighbors that have been marginalized or under-empowered in this community? Do our neighbors trust us and do we trust ourselves? Is our congregation a safe place? Do we have the courage to face our own hearts, attitudes, assumptions, and biases, and then seek repentance? This is a critically important journey because it is at the heart of the Gospel. It is also a very difficult journey, like climbing a mountain. But we are convinced the ascent is worth it.
These are just some of the questions we're asking. And because we needed help to answer them, I've spent the last few years studying this arena as part of my Doctor of Ministry research through Phillips Theological Seminary. I've developed a pilot program called "Holy Conversations about Race: A Curriculum for Predominantly White Churches." Hopefully church studies like this will help us reduce our implicit and explicit racial biases so that, through both our hearts and our actions, we can experience the words of the Apostle Paul: "For [Christ Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . ” (Ephesians 2:14). I hope you'll join us on this journey.