by Trevor Whittingham, FBC Ingersoll
I grew up in Toronto and came to Christ through the youth group of a Baptist church. I worked as a manager in social services for an agency that actively recruited and trained people of diverse backgrounds reflective of the communities we served.
Sensing a call to ministry and confirmed by others I pursued a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) at Tyndale Seminary. After graduation, I sought ordination with CBOQ through my local church. I envisioned myself as a pastor in an urban ministry with people that look like me. But a friend and my ordination supervisor (a person of colour) both encouraged me to be open to God’s leading.
At my Ordination service, a friend told me about a church in Toronto looking for a lead pastor and felt my lived experience and giftings would be a good fit. I submitted my resume, and over the phone chatted with the Search Committee Chairperson and agreed to meet with the committee. But when I walked into the meeting room there was a noticeable reaction of silence and surprise. As a search committee, they were unprepared for a black candidate.
With every interview since, I would declare at the outset that I am a person of colour, including my interview leading to my current role as lead pastor at First Baptist Church, Ingersoll. It’s difficult to understand why a church in a diverse Toronto community would be surprised to have a black candidate. The disparity is this, a white person doesn’t have to declare that they are white prior to an interview.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hoped referencing his four children, “…they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In many respects, blacks, people of colour, and minorities have come a long way. Long-held assumptions, stereotypes, prejudices, and barriers to positions of leadership are slowly being dismantled. In my experience, blacks, indigenous people, and people of colour have endured extra scrutiny and questioning whether to walk to school, work, shop or drive.
Churches must not only consider all sorts of people for positions of service and leadership, but they also need to recruit and develop leadership from the broader diverse communities they represent. We only need to look at how Jesus engaged, interacted with, and loved people. He broke societal barriers, none more evident than the Samaritan woman at the well.
I’m hopeful for the future, we have come a long way but I’m afraid we have ways to go. I see myself not as a black pastor but a pastor who happens to be black. This distinction gives me the freedom to integrate and serve without the classification of colour.
6 thoughts on “Content of Their Character”
Character is always more important to God,
A book I read about the rev.Billy Graham said the same with his calling by God to preach the Gospel
Well said Pastor Trevor.
Thank you for the openness about your experience, and thank you for never letting First Baptist Ingersoll feel like we were your second choice. Good character and commitment are the standards you strive for and inspire us to.
My Brother & Sister-in-law couldn`t have children. They adopted 2 white girls ;2 black boys and a native girl .
They are all loved equally .
They all grew up with challenges but are great people .
I have no problem with people ” of colour”
Agreed. This needs to said many times. No one should have to live looking over their shoulder because of skin colour. Shame on us.
A Very good “ non threatening “ way of telling the real truth . The church has way more racism in it than its willing to admit .I’m not as hopeful as you are my brother , but I’ll definitely stand by you .
Blessings and peace