“… challenge can provide a model for how to mitigate against an increasingly diverse American society marked by widening and contentious gaps in income. ”
Multicultural churches, as microcosms of an increasingly diverse society, often face unexpected economically based challenges. Having achieved coveted levels of ethnic, racial, and/or international diversity, they can confront new schismatic tendencies tied to income, class, and the varied socioeconomic status of members. These divided perspectives and experiences, frequently exposed during election campaigns, are often fractiously linked to patterns of ethnicity, race, and immigrant status--in actual fact or through church members' perceptions--with no systematic understanding of their economic underpinnings. To complicate matters, intraracial, intraethnic, or intranational divisions along class lines can even appear--sometimes making for unexpected crossracial, crossethnic, and crossnational ideological alliance of middle-class members at odds with poorer or wealthier ones. Meaningful, transformative conversations about how class and socioeconomic status work are needed to foster shared understandings of difference and positive, adaptive strategies regarding income-related disparities. We propose to hold a series of academic and theological discussions regarding these matters--using Faith Christian Assembly of God, a multicultural, 800-member church in upstate NY as a case study and meeting site. This study will enable a collective learning process at Faith Assembly consisting of prayerful group readings, discussions, designing of plans, execution of plans, and assessment of plans regarding class and related socioeconomic issues in the Church. The goal is to forge common understandings, procedures, and structures to maintain multilayered class diversity in effective, sustainable, equitable, biblical, and harmonious ways in the Church with the expectation that these will provide a model for the larger society.