Conversation with Dayne and Ana Carraway

In light of recent events, it is evident that racial tension and injustice are still prevalent in today’s culture.  As followers of Christ we have an opportunity to fight against racism, but often do not know how.  Eric Miller, director of ministry operations for CE National, sat down with Dayne and Ana Carraway to discuss their thoughts on racism today and what the church is doing well and areas it could improve.  Dayne was a youth pastor for several years and is now planting Church At The Well in Baltimore, Maryland. He and Ana met at the age of 16 and are now married and raising three children together while serving in ministry.
Eric Miller talks with Dayne and Ana Carraway about how they feel racism in our culture today, what the church is doing well, and how it can improve.

How does racism affect you as a family?

Ana was raised in a military family and experienced a more progressively diverse and integrated culture than her peers. It took arriving at college for her to realize that others did not hold similar views of diversity.  She shared a story of a roommate disapproving of her and Dayne’s relationship claiming that interracial relationships were “not biblical” and if they were to marry and have children, those children would have no identity in this county. This individual held these beliefs because they mirrored what her parents believed and how they raised her. This was a huge wakeup call for Ana that we need to question our upbringing and what we were taught as children to see if it truly lines up with God’s Word.

How about Interactions with law enforcement?

Dayne shared the importance of having conversations on how to handle yourself as a black American when dealing with law enforcement. He has been pulled over in the past and he credits his training on handling it in a respectful way while not escalating the situation to having safe experiences.  He said “At the end of the day, the goal is to get home to my family and to continue doing God’s work.”

What passages of scripture speak into racial tensions?

Dayne shared Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.”  He added that a lot of times when people think of peace, they think of a standstill or “no issues.” He doesn’t think this is the biblical view of peace. Jesus was the Prince of Peace, he was not the Prince of “nothing.” He was here to proclaim ideas of unity and love and that’s the Jesus we serve.  He said, “For us, what we have tried to do is disarm people and assume the best. We try to lead with love and not suspicion.” There’s a constant struggle to not always assume racism in certain situations.  Having honest conversations can dissolve these suspicions.
Ana said the wording in Romans 12:18 “as far as it depends on you” is not a call to “just don’t rock the boat” but calls us to intentionality pursue peace and acknowledge that not everyone agrees with that.
John 4 tells the story of Jesus at the well. Culturally Jesus should have avoided the woman due to her background, but with Jesus there was no avoidance. The gospel informs us to love people around us, regardless of our differences.

What do we do as believers to fight against racism?

Ana said, “Being anti-racist doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to be free of racism. The work of fighting against racism begins with ourselves.” As believers, it’s easier to look out into the world and see what is wrong, but we should ask ourselves what our church is doing to be a part of the solution. Are we creating an environment where people of different backgrounds feel safe? Do they feel welcome? Can they identify with others as they look around? It boils down to being intentional in our conversations. It can be perceived as a touchy subject that people avoid, but we need to have these conversations.
Dayne said pastors and leaders need to be the biggest proponents for change and speaking out against injustice in our churches.  He added we need to get away from the mindset that those who are being oppressed have the best viewpoint.  Pastors have the position to speak the truth on what scripture says and call out sin for what it is.  Historically the civil rights movement was birthed from churches where Christians were taking a stand.  It’s not a political issue. It’s a heart issue.
Dayne advised that one small thing believers can do is “be willing to confront the subtle and little things so when the big national news things come people aren’t looking to see what we think about it.” If racially charged comments or insensitivities are happening in your church, pull them aside and address them so people already know where you stand. We need to ask the questions, “Is this the best way that we can live at peace with each other? Is this the best way that we can love people? Is this the best way that we are sharing the gospel with people of a different background?”
Dayne shared it matters that we interact with people outside our “own” or context.  And if we want to have a broader reach, we need to be intentional about reaching out and on an individual basis (rather than a “come one and all” invitation”.  Sometimes we can let the fear of the unknown or lack of knowledge about a person’s interests deter us from reaching out or forming a relationship with that individual. Dayne said “What we have found, it’s more about being relational. Do you know how many things that I don’t know?….. [but] at the end of the day they know that I love them not despite of who they are but because of who they are.”

What has the church done right in bridging the diversity gap?

Ana shared that they visited a church recently that provided every attender the opportunity to hear the service translated into their language.  She was blown away.  She added “your church demographic is only going to match the community. Look at the demographics of your community and ask how can you match that.”  She encouraged churches to partner with other churches to build relationships and share resources. Don’t try to do everything on your own.
Dayne added churches who are doing things well are willing to ask the questions, “How is this reaching people? How is this helping others follow Jesus?”  Be willing to make changes to better reach the people God has placed in your environment.

As you plant a church, how do you plan to promote diversity?

Dayne said they keep going back to the story in John 4 where Jesus embraces the woman, sin and all, and she leaves that place with passion and a mission.  He wants their church to accept people where they are at and lead with open arms. They want to do what is best for reaching people.  He added, “The goal is Kingdom. The goal is that we will see people become better followers of Jesus” and not focus too heavily on models and what others are doing.
Ana acknowledged there is a deep history of racial tension in Baltimore and they don’t expect that their family or church will solve all these problems, nor do they have all the answers, but they know a God that heals. She added, “We are looking to be people that talk about racial reconciliation. We are certainly not saying that we have it all figured out, that it’s easy or quick, but we are happy to talk about it.” Again, having those conversations is key.  She said being educated and informed is important, but it starts with asking questions and listening.  Once people feel heard, they are more prone to listen to what you have to say. She concluded with the challenge that the Bible consistently talks about the marginalized and the persecuted. God has not forgotten those people so we cannot do so either.  “These issues need to be talked about in our regular conversations and not glossed over.”