No Congratulations Yet on the Leadership Demographics in the Church of Nazarene

A quick look at the Church of the Nazarene leadership says changes are happening. Three of the six general superintendents are non-Americans (two African and one Guatemalan) and there is a female GS. This summer along with the typical white, middle aged men who were elected District Superintendents in the USA/Canada region, also elected were a man born in the West Indies, a Hispanic man and a woman. All were good choices and this is good news. Our leadership demographics look a little more like the diversity that will exist in heaven than before the last General Assembly!

But let’s not start patting ourselves on the back just yet. Over the last few years those who were elected to the other general leadership positions in the church have all been white, Americans. (Please know, I have nothing against any of these people.  Some I know very well, and think they are great.  They love Jesus, love the Church of the Nazarene and are qualified to do the jobs they’ve been asked to do).  My problem isn’t with the individual selections or their qualifications but rather with a system that seems to favor white, USA born males in key leadership roles.

In the last few years, William Sawyer was elected to be the Chief Administrator of the Global Ministry Center.  The announcement is here.  Keith Cox was elected as General Treasurer.  The announcement is here.  Gary Hartke was elected as General Secretary. The announcement is here. Scott Rainey was elected to be the Global Director of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries.  The announcement is here.  The lone exception is Nell Sweeden, a female from the USA who was elected to be the Director of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.  Her announcement is here.

What do all of these major decision makers have in common?  Yes, they are all qualified for their respective positions.  They are also all white men (except for Nell) from the USA (including Nell).  We are a global church, aren’t we? There are more Nazarenes living outside the USA than in it. Surely there must be some wonderful, competent Nazarenes worldwide that can fulfill the duties and obligations in these important roles.

As the search for a new Global Nazarene Youth International Director (to take Dr. Hartke’s place) is being conducted can this white, American, middle aged pastor request that we look outside of the USA to find someone to fill this role?  If we are going to be an international church, then we need to diversify our meeting places (read: General Assemblies not just in the USA) and diversify our key leadership roles (not just the Board of General Superintendents).  I’m glad that three of our six General Superintendents are from outside of the USA and a few of the USA/Canada DSs are from minority groups, but can we admit that we can do much better. If we want our “international” church to be an answer to Jesus prayer that His Kingdom would come and His will done on earth as it is in heaven, then I think our church will look a little more international, a little less white and a lot more diversified in all areas of church leadership and not just at the tippy top.

8 thoughts on “No Congratulations Yet on the Leadership Demographics in the Church of Nazarene

  1. earl cushman

    It has been said for years that in most churches 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people. To which I have answered “because the others are not invited.”

  2. Mike Fetting

    Why do we look to diversity as a gauge of goodness? This would imply that the work that has gone on before is less than good. It puts down those who have given their life to the church. I know some individuals have been less godly in their efforts to fulfill the position to which they were elected, but this will be just as true if they had been a diverse group. Let us not seek to be PC, but seek God’s will in all things.

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      I am certainly not implying that those who have filled these positions have not been faithful. I believe they have as I stated: “love Jesus and the Church of the Nazarene.” But if we are going to call ourselves an “international church” its not PC to think that at least some of the positions will be filled with international people. Either we are committed to being an international church (an admirable goal) or we are not. If one looks around at the offices at the GMC (other than in the BGS office) I think anyone would be hard pressed to think that our church is anything but a mostly white, American institution. I’m pretty sure heaven will be diverse (read Revelation 7:9), is it too much to dream that the church could be too.

    2. richschmidt

      Hmm…. I don’t think he’s saying that diversity is a gauge of goodness or that anyone is seeking to be PC (politically correct). The way I read it, it’s looking at a system that seems to be out of balance and asking, “Why is that?” and “Can we do something to fix it?”

      To use a different example, think of women in pastoral ministry. Around half of the population is women. I imagine around half of all Nazarene church members are women (perhaps more). Are half of our pastors women? Not even close! Why is that? Is God not calling & gifting women to lead in pastoral roles? Or are we failing in some way to “keep in step with the Spirit” and cooperate with what God is doing? I think the answer is closer to the second than the first. So… can we do something to fix it?

      I’m not trying to change the subject. Just trying to grab an example that’s easier for me to get my head around. 🙂


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