It was the late 1960s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and little Clarence Shuler loved nothing more than basketball.
And when the young black boy was invited to a white church with a gym where he could shoot a hoop, he couldn’t say no. But it wasn’t so simple for a black boy. An unspoken rule existed: you did not enter a white decor alone. Racial tensions were high, and the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers were active. Shuler’s father, in particular, was alarmed. As a teenager, a friend of his watched a white girl in South Carolina and was lynched the same day.
However, Shuler begged and begged her family and finally got permission. It was at church, where he and his boyfriend were the only two black children, that he met a youth pastor who would greatly influence him over the next five decades: Gary Chapman. A few years later, after Chapman preached at a church retreat, 16-year-old Shuler made a life-changing decision.
“He said is your life complete or is there something missing?” said Shuler, an author, speaker and diversity training consultant from Colorado Springs.
“I realized that I had a wonderful family who loved me. I was doing well in school. Life was pretty good, but I struggled being small, with the problem of race, many things. I thought about suicide at one point. I’ve never heard anyone talk about Christ like he did. That night, I told him that I would like to become a Christian.
If Chapman’s name is unfamiliar, his work probably isn’t. He is the New York Times bestselling author of “The 5 Love Languages” series, ideas of which crop up regularly in pop culture. He and Shuler co-authored the 2019 book “Choose Greatness: 11 Wise Decisions That Brave Young Men Make.” Their second book, “Life Changing Cross-Cultural Friendships: How You Can Help Heal Racial Divides One Relationship at a Time,” will be released in June.
Their own cross-cultural friendship helped motivate the two men to write the book, which is primarily aimed at Christians.
“We’re just kindred spirits,” Chapman said. “Our relationship has had such an impact on our lives. What if every Christian had at least a very close friendship with someone from a different race or culture? It could change the climate of the country. We don’t rule out not non-Christians, but there is a mandate in the Bible to love and relate to people, regardless of race or culture.
When the two first met, they had no idea they were embarking on a lifelong friendship, but it has enriched their lives and their extended family. Chapman’s two children call Shuler brother, and Shuler’s three daughters call Chapman grandfather.
“I knew he was taking risks in 1968 and 1970 to be my friend,” Shuler said. “He thought I was taking a risk, because I would cross the train tracks. Many cities, especially in the South, are divided by tracks, racially and culturally. We felt the risks were worth taking.
Develop a career
After that fateful night at church camp, Shuler’s path has taken many turns to bring him to where he is today, a man who will have 10 pounds under his belt by the end of the year. , the last of which with Chapman and another about dealing with depression, set for release in November. Through his business, Building Lasting Relationships, he regularly presents to groups across Colorado and the country, including the Denver Broncos, with titles such as “Foundations for Success in Life and Relationships”, “Understanding the Heart of A Woman” and “Relationships: Keys in the Songs of Life. When requested, he also preaches, provides secular and non-secular diversity training to organizations, and serves as a chaplain for the County Sheriff’s Office. ‘El Paso.
Its offerings seem diverse, but they all have one thing in common: Shuler helps people in their relationships.
“He has a sincere desire to help people,” Chapman said. “He sees how our relationship has helped him and how it has helped me. And especially with marriages, he has this desire to help.
Shuler has written books for singles and married couples, and signs his emails as Dr. Clarence (The Love Doctor) Shuler. Someone once told him that he would always be the kind of person others would turn to for friendship.
“It’s a blessing,” Shuler said. “I’m not necessarily looking for people to do this, but I’ll sit on a plane and people will tell me their life story.”
But before all that, a much younger Shuler went through some tough times. His father was killed when he was 20, and although Chapman had gone from big brother to father figure, life was hard: “I was alone and had a lot of problems. I was kind of a rebel.
At 17, he started preaching. But at 20, he failed the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Chapman’s alma mater, and was homeless for a time. When Chapman found out, he threatened to visit Shuler if he didn’t pull himself together. Properly chastised, he earned a degree in history from another school and began to make a living in Christian work, eventually attending seminary, also at Chapman’s urging.
“He just loved me,” Shuler said. “He has always been in my life. He always watched me. He’s been through the lows with me and through the highs.
Somewhere in their twenties, people started looking for Shuler to write. First it was Chapman, who wanted him to write a letter to the staff of a church in Winston-Salem. But it was being pastor of a black, white, and Native American church, where he wrote a regular column, that laid the foundation for success as an author.
His first book, “Winning the Race to Unity” in 1998, explored racial reconciliation and was used as a textbook at Oxford University and other schools. He wrote it, he said, as a way to keep his sanity. “Often I was the first black person to work in a white Christian organization,” he said. “Which should have been fine, but wasn’t always the case. So I wrote the book for therapy.
Life in Colorado Springs
Shuler came to the Springs in 1995 to work for a Christian organization. Three years later, he left the post, but remained in town with his wife and daughters.
Much of his work focuses on helping people understand and maximize their differences, and understanding that one person’s strengths can outweigh another’s weaknesses: “We are better together than apart,” he said. -he declares. These are the ideas he covers in Maximizing the Difference, his diversity trainings. It’s also the name of the new book he’s working on.
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“He’s a faith leader and he brings a lot of biblical support for what he’s trying to share,” said Brad Meuli, president and CEO of Denver Rescue Mission, where Shuler conducted his four-part training l ‘last year. “He can talk to people of all races and has a really good heart in the way he does it. Race can be a very divisive issue. Clarence tried to bring everyone together.
Shuler thinks the secular community is doing a better job of improving race relations, especially after the murder of George Floyd and the death of Breonna Taylor. He knows there is fear in reaching out beyond the divide, but he thinks one way forward is to encourage people of different races and cultures to make the effort: “It’s a bit like dating. On the first date, you get to know them and whether you like them or not. You learn a lot on a date. Races and cultures must date. You don’t have to get married.
You have to take a risk, he believes. And if you miss it and say the wrong thing, apologize sincerely. Nobody wants to be rejected, of course, but it can be overcome.
“I say Jesus faced rejection, but he had the power to stay,” Shuler said. “What if you get rejected? To recover. In black culture, it’s really important. Are you going to be there long term? When you enter downtown, it doesn’t matter what color you are. The problem is, can I trust you with my life? »
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