I was on the Strong Coffee blog this morning and responded to a comment about the sometimes competing values of excellence and diversity in our world. This particular situation was in response to struggles and challenges in denominational life for Texas Baptists. In his original post, Ken made this comment:
Suffice it to say that when excellence is supplanted by the pursuit of diversity, the organization will have some people in it who are simply not up to the task. It is not that they are bad people. It is that they are in over their heads. I know some of you will think I am racist, but I am just being honest as to what I have observed.
I definitely don't think Ken is a racist. But his comment made me think--is excellence a more important value than diversity? They don't have to be in competition with each other, but the reality is that sometimes they are in the short term. Over the long haul of generations, I do not believe that pursuing diversity is detrimental to excellence in organizational leadership. Here's part of what I wrote:
Second, while I don't believe what you said was racist, I will say that I believe the value of excellence does not trump the value of diversity. Yes, in the short term there will be OTJ training issues for those who have not had the kinds of experience in the worlds of church and organizational leadership that maybe a "more qualified" person might have. But I do believe that as a convention we must surf on the wave of diversity and not be trying to swim catch-up from behind. If the environmental ethos of the last half of the 20th century-both inside and outside the church-constructed obstacles that did not allow non-white Texas Baptists leaders to emerge and grow, we should not be surprised if there appears to be a dearth of "more qualified" leaders in those communities. We cannot spend several generations prohibiting ethnically diverse believers access to the experiences that lead to the natural emergence of leadership and then decry the apparent lack of experienced, qualified leaders to serve on the convention staff. The BGCT EB staff should be proactive in identifying, recruiting, hiring and training for convention leadership members of those communities who may not yet have all the experience to be "up to the task" but are emerging leaders and influencers in their communities. Yes, this may mean that someone gets in over their heads. But I have seen in my young life plenty of successful white ministers that have become ineffective as they moved into denominational or parachurch leadership roles. The Peter Principle knows no ethnicity.
Now let me state it here, I think there are some awesome leaders in the BGCT staff from all ethnic communities. I think that there is often only the appearance of a lack of quality because of the differing cultural values among diverse people. There are hundreds of illustrations of this, but perhaps none more poignant than the views of time vs. people in various cultures. Those who value time over people will make certain decisions that those who value people over time will not. This is NOT a matter of excellence, it is a matter of value, and the case can be made for either to be right or wrong, but usually they are just different. Diversity demands a gracious spirit to those kinds of differences, especially on the part of the dominant culture.
I'm not a proponent of hiring quotas, but I believe diversity is just as important as excellence when it comes to corporate values.