Monday, July 20, 2009

White Flight Not Always White Fault

Over the decades A. W. Tozer pastored on the south side of Chicago, the neighborhood was "a changin'." As African-Americans moved into the neighborhood, several of Tozer's congregation moved out, though many of them still commuted.

Eventually, some in the congregation thought it was time for the church to move. Tozer was against it.

But there was not only pressure from the inside. There was also some from the outside.

Many African-Americans in the area made it clear that they were not interested in multi-racial church and that they wanted Tozer's congregation to sell the building to them and move out.

Several people aware of the congregation's situation wrote Tozer and urged him not to move the church because it would indicate a compromise of the gospel, in which there is not male or female, or even black or white.

Tozer responded to one such letter.

... it would be perfectly all right to have half our church members be colored. It would not bother me in the slightest. In fact, I think I should enjoy it.

However, the facts are these: The colored march on the South Side is a determined thing. The colored people do not want to integrate with the whites. They want the whites to get out, and they are saying so in no uncertain terms. The failure to integrate is not the result of reservation on the part of our people but on the part of the colored people themselves. They have had at least one parade declaring their intention to take over Englewood and Brainerd, and have passed around dodgers in the apartment houses around our church demanding that white people get out and let the colored people come in.

This puts quite another face on the whole matter, as you will undoubtedly agree. Please continue to pray. (Lyle Dorsett, A Passion for God 149)

Of course, the blacks were not trusting of the whites at that time, and perhaps with good reason. So there were a variety of reasons that made it difficult for Tozer's church to remain where it was. (And I encourage you to read Dorsett's broader description of the matter, pp. 147-151.)

In the end the church moved, and Tozer resigned, unwilling to go through another building campaign.

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