At CBF General Assembly, Baptist Leaders Say ‘Talking Race Is — and Should Be — Uncomfortable’

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Of all the workshops offered at last month’s CBF General Assembly, at least one of them counted on its participants checking their comfort zones at the door.

The leaders of “The Elephant in the Room: Engaging in Dialogue around Race Relations” say they knew attendees of the Friday afternoon session in Greensboro, N.C., would be confronted with attitudes — their own and others’ — that might get them squirming in their seats.

In fact, discomfort is built into any effort at racial discourse, said Patricia Griffen, moderator of CBF Arkansas and co-facilitator of the June 24 workshop.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “There is even disagreement between African-Americans — there is diversity within diversity.”

But it’s not discomfort for discomfort’s sake. Griffen and co-facilitator Megan Pike, the associate coordinator of CBF Arkansas, know from experience that awkward feelings often precede learning and growth. Their workshop reflected that by offering a number of tools and interactive exercises participants can use back in their own churches and communities.

One of their most important lessons was how to establish a safe environment in which participants can discuss difficult issues around race, Griffen said.

Attendees had to know they were welcome and that it was OK to share their views without fear of criticism, Griffen said. That safe zone also lets them know it’s OK to be around people who disagree with each other.

It’s precisely the kind of environment facilitators will need to establish in their congregations in order to discuss matters of race, she said.

It’s necessary “because there still is that polarization around race in America.”

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SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Jeff Brumley