A Shocking Question

Since July I have had the privilege of serving as interim pastor of Olive Chapel Baptist Church, in Apex, NC. We received the following email last week inquiring about OCBC:

“Hello,
Our family has just moved to your area from Raleigh.
We are seeking a church home and have a few questions please:

*We know the Lord loves all of us, but we believe in honoring the Culture the Lord gave us, so we are seeking a traditionally ‘White’ church as opposed to Multi-cultural. Is your church White?

*Do you have a separate church service for children?

*Does your church have a softball team?

thanks in advance for replying…..

[name deleted]

Words can hardly express how distressing the staff at Olive Chapel found the above email. The question about children’s church is not that bothersome while the question about the softball team induces a roll of the eyes. However, the first question, the one asking whether Olive Chapel is a White church (note that they capitalized “White”), pegs the outrage meter. At first we thought the email was a prank, but after a number of email exchanges it became clear that this family was serious.

Note the questions they didn’t ask. “Does your church believe the gospel?” “What are you doing to obey the Great Commission?” “What is your view of the Bible?” Rather, they wanted to know if there would be recreation for children and adults, and if they would be safe from having to worship with people of color.

Daniel “Booney” Joyner, a SEBTS grad and one of the ministers at Olive Chapel, wrote the following reply to the inquirer:

“The majority of our congregation is white, but we are not a ‘white’ church. The demographic of our area is going to make the majority of our congregation white, but we are not exclusive to one race, nor do we seek to honor one ‘culture’ above another. The purpose of the church is to honor King Jesus and to seek to reach all people, regardless of race or culture, with the saving truth of the gospel. Each week we take time during our service to learn of an unreached people group and to pray for them and consider our part in God’s mission to reach them. One of my goals as a pastor is to teach the Word of God to the people and get them to see the mission of our God to reach all people with the gospel and to join in on that mission, even if that means leaving our ‘culture’ and going to theirs. The scriptures make it clear that the people of God are not limited to one race or culture, that heaven is not limited to one race or culture, and therefore, neither should our churches. I hope this answers your question. If you have any other questions please let me know.”

You go, Booney. Southern Baptists, we still have our work cut out for us when it comes to the matter of race.

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  13Comments

  1. Jason Lewis   •  

    Not to mention that the culture that God has blessed us with in the US (and in the Triangle area I might add) IS multicultural, not “White.” What better way to “honor the culture the Lord has given us” than by actively pursuing multicultural church. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Eric Carpenter   •  

    This letter is tragic. In light of both their lack of questioning about the gospel and their concern about a white congregation, we have to wonder whether or not they even know Christ as Lord and Savior. I hope they visit OCBC, hear the gospel, are convicted of their sin, and repent. May we all search our own hearts for remaining sin.

  3. Mike   •  

    Dr. Keathley,
    Thank you for posting this. I am not “shocked” by their question, racism is a reality that exist in many people’s hearts. These particular people just happened to be bold enough to express it through e-mail. If the reality did not exist, we wouldn’t see the Sunday morning segregation that we see. I like the fact that you posted this and revealed the deeply imbedded bigotry that was expressed. This is a clear reminder for the church to express the love of Christ through embracing all people groups and reminding the church that every tribe, tongue and nation will bow before the throw of king Jesus.

  4. Brent Hobbs   •  

    It is infuriating. Our church (unfortunately) does not have any non-white members at this point. I think if I had received the same email at our church, I would have replied that yes, we are a white church, but that we are not interested in new members who hope to keep it that way.

  5. Clark D. Goble   •  

    I must say that Pastor Joyner’s response was far better than anything I could of come up with! While the question posed in the email is outrageous, unfortunately I don’t find it that surprising. In my neck of the woods (Southern Ohio), I think it might take me a little while to find a common man off the street that would see anything wrong with the email.

    Thanks for posting it.

    Clark

  6. Dan   •  

    That’s so horrible it’s hard to believe it’s real. Are you sure this wasn’t a case of undercover investigative reporting?

    Related to all of this is the question of how a majority-white church can become racially integrated. I would not consider the church that I serve to be racist by any means, but our minority membership is easily less than 1%. That number does not reflect our community, so we would like it to change.

    One possible step is to hire pastoral staff members who are minorities since a church tends to reflect its leaders. But, we tend not to like anything that reminds us of Affirmative Action. So, what are some other ways?

  7. Martie   •  

    I applaud the family for asking the question. I imagine a great deal of people who visit churches have the same questions in their hearts and minds, but are too scared to ask. In the depths of their hearts reside this nonsense and it flows naturally from the mouth (or the keypad). Praise be to God that they asked, giving a greater opportunity to share the heart and mission of God!

  8. Ken Keathley   •     Author

    To all: Thanks for your comments. Like you, I find the email outrageous and disappointing. And it confirms that despite real progress we still are not where we out to be on the issue of race.

    To Dan: We wondered ourselves if the email was a fake or prank. However, after a series of email exchanges it became clear that it was real.

  9. Louis   •  

    This has to be a joke!

    Are you sure someone did not send that to the church to yank you around?

    If if was real, all they have done is garner some public attention and a resounding rebuke.

    If it was not real, they have planted the seed or idea that people who are looking for “White” churches frequent the local Baptist church.

    No matter how many rebukes may follow, the impression is that they come to Baptist churches because it might be true – even when it isn’t.

    In my experience, Baptists have more trouble with softball in the church than they do actual racism.

  10. Phil Vander Ploeg   •  

    I think that your pastor handled the situation with much grace, but I wonder if someone should visit them and express healthy Christian concern. The Bible teaches that when a brother is in error, we should go to them (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). These Christians need to be exhorted that thier worldview is sinful, and damaging to the body of Christ. I think that the letter expressed this in a sense, but I wonder if there is a place for Biblical confrontation and accountability here (Matt. 18:15-20). This is not a crituique… just my two cents. From a heart of love and with respect.

  11. Pingback: church | white | black | multicultural | racism | legalism

  12. Nathan S.   •  

    No way to call Shenanigans on this one. They can’t give you the name of the people, but it appears they only exchanged email with them. It does smack of an email prank, similar to the people calling planned parenthood to ask if they could designate money to kill a black baby. I am leaning towards thinking this a trick, but I’ll accept it as they see it so that if it is some news joker trying to bait a church into looking, bad it totally backfires on them.

  13. DC   •  

    I tend to agree with Martie (and that comes from an black guy who is a member of a church (17 years and counting) whose congregation is predominantly white). I have to assume that your subsequent correspondence revealed a deeper issue that cause you to conclude things about them and their attitudes. However asking the question is not outrageous….not learning from the kind of answer that you were able to give would be!

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