A Presbyterian Leader blogpost by Tim Cargal
A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post (William H. Frey, “Baby Boomers Had Better Embrace Change”) helps to quantify why our rising leaders within the Presbyterian Church not only must be but also certainly will be more diverse.
The article drew attention to a Census Bureau report “that white babies are, for the first time, a minority of all births” in the United States. It went on to point out that those who are part of the American Baby Boomer generation may see this change when they look out at their children and grandchildren playing in schoolyards, but they have not truly come to grips with this development because it differs so markedly from their own experience with their peers. As the author put it, “A generation that once expressed distrust for anyone older than 30 is now itself isolated from a younger, far more diverse America.”
Why are Boomers so isolated from their children and grandchildren’s experience of diversity? “Part of the reason is that boomers grew up in an era when immigration was at its nadir. From 1946 to 1964, the share of immigrants was at the lowest level in the 20th century, and most of the immigrants were white Europeans. … Today, immigrants are 13 percent of our population, and they are far more diverse. … Among Americans older than 50, 76 percent are white, and the black population, at 10 percent, is the largest minority.” Contrast that to “those younger than 30, [where] 55 percent are whites. Hispanics, Asians and other nonblack minorities account for 31 percent of that age group.”
Already we are seeing the impact of this change within the church. At the close of 2011 the racial distribution reported by teaching elders (both active and retired) within the PC(USA) was as follows: 68% white male, 20% white female, 6% Asian, 3% black, 2% Hispanic, and 1% other. Compare that to the distribution reported by inquirers and candidates: 36% white male, 44% white female, 9% Asian, 7% black, 3% Hispanic, and 1% other. Strong majorities of both teaching elders and those in preparation for that ministry are over 30 years of age, so it is not surprising that they are not as diverse as the under 30 segment of the population; nevertheless, the trends toward more diversity are unmistakable.
Cross-cultural proficiency will be required of all leaders in a society where there will be no cultural majority. No group will be able to assume that others should acculturate to their way of seeing the world or of ordering life, because everyone will be interacting with multiple cultural worldviews and customs. Would-be leaders who expect uniformity with themselves will have no followers. If their experiences of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s inclined Boomers to see American diversity in “black and white,” those born since the 1980s see the world in a continuum of hues. And let’s face it: that is a much truer vision of God’s creation.