In recent months I have had the privilege of sitting at tables with faith leaders in several African and Asian communities. These have been very teachable moments. 

It was good to reflect on these experiences with the team at Whitley College this week. We live in a world where so many people feel excluded or unwelcome at decision-making tables, all too often surrounded by people like me, white males. And sadder, where too many people with power, fiercely protect who gets to sit at the table. 

In back-block towns in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Thailand, I was powerfully reminded again of the need to ensure that the right people are at the table – people whose voices need to be heard, people who otherwise might not have a voice.

I am thankful for gifted leaders who were courageous enough to speak up and call for mutual respect at the table. 

I’m reminded of a challenging comment I heard a number of years back from Jon Owen. “Who we invite to the table says a lot about who we are and want to be.”

Inviting people – not like me – to my table, begins with my need to humble myself, ensuring that I genuinely want to listen and learn.

The facts are clear. Too many white men of my age dominate tables of influence and decision-making. This is true in political circles, churches and many other institutions. Women, First Nations, CALD, people of colour, LGBTQIA and other minority voices are so often not heard. 

As African-American Sanetta Ponton comments: “You can tick the diversity box for the sake of it, or you can genuinely ensure the right voices are welcome at the table and given a voice.”

In our family and the organisation, I’m fortunate to lead, we are intentionally trying to take steps in this direction, but there is more to do. 

Welcoming tables, not dividing walls, are the way of Jesus!