The Gift of the Multiethnic Church
Insights The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary
Wingeier-Rayo • Colmenares • Martinez • DeYmaz Anderson • Kohlmann • Donahue • Monie • Todd
The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary Fall 2017
Editor: David F. White Editorial Board: Phil Helsel, Asante Todd and Randal Whittington The Faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Margaret Aymer Whitney S. Bodman Gregory L. Cuéllar Lewis R. Donelson William Greenway David H. Jensen David W. Johnson Carolyn Browning Helsel Philip Browning Helsel Paul K. Hooker Timothy D. Lincoln
Jennifer L. Lord Blair Monie Suzie Park Cynthia L. Rigby Asante U. Todd Eric Wall Theodore J. Wardlaw David F. White Melissa Wiginton Philip Wingeier-Rayo
Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary
is published two times each year by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 100 East 27th Street, Austin, TX 78705-5797. e-mail: email@example.com Web site: austinseminary.edu Entered as non-profit class bulk mail at Austin, Texas, under Permit No. 2473. POSTMASTER: Address service requested. Send to Insights, 100 East 27th Street, Austin, TX 78705-5797. © Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Printing runs are limited. When available, additional copies may be obtained for $3 per copy. Permission to copy articles from Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary for educational purposes may be given by the editor upon receipt of a written request. Some previous issues of Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary, are available on microfilm through University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106 (16 mm microfilm, 105 mm microfiche, and article copies are available). Insights is indexed in Religion Index One: Periodicals, Index to Book Reviews in Religion, Religion Indexes: RIO/RIT/IBRR 1975- on CD-ROM, Religious & Theological Abstracts, url:www.rtabstracts.org & email:firstname.lastname@example.org, and the ATA Religion Database on CD-ROM, published by the American Theological Library Association, 300 S. Wacker Dr., Suite 2100, Chicago, IL 60606-6701; telephone: 312-454-5100; e-mail: email@example.com; web site: www.atla.com; ISSN 1056-0548.
COVER: “In Christ,” by L.R. Woodsmall; ©2016; ePainting; used with permission from the artist.
Theodore J. Wardlaw
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church 3
The Future of Mainline Churches: The Challenge of Race by Philip Wingeier-Rayo
Models for Multiethnic Church
An Interview with Philip Wingeier-Rayo
The Heresy of Sameness in a Landscape of Difference by Nora Colmenares
Imagining Browner Churches: Being Faithful Christians in a Changing US by Juan Martinez
Spiritual Disruptions: Reflections on Mosaic by Mark DeYmaz
David Anderson, Cindy Kohlmann, Consuelo Donahue
34 Required Reading The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, reviewed by Blair Monie
36 Christianity & Culture In Search of Prophetic Missions by Asante Todd
ow wide is your church? I’m not asking how big is it, because “big” by itself does not necessarily welcome “wide.” “Big” was all the rage maybe twenty, thirty, fifty years ago, when mainline churches of size could more often than not look like a collection of those who were guaranteed to look (and think, and sing, and pray, and vote) pretty much like each other. But in a time in which our culture expresses increasingly a greater desire for, and interest in, difference, we yearn for our churches to reflect that desire and that interest. In these days, we yearn not so much for “big,” as for “wide.” But “wide” is often an elusive goal, especially for the Protestant mainline. In various ways, the articles in the pages ahead investigate the challenge of being “wider.” In just the first paragraph of Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo’s piece, Martin Luther King’s classic lament appears: “11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours of the week—if not the most segregated hour of Christian America.” That lament, by the way, is referenced twice in other articles in this issue of Insights. Professor Wingeier-Rayo challenges mainline churches with several approaches to enhance multiethnic congregations which, by being more ethnically inclusive, might also become part of the racial healing of America. Dr. Nora E. Colmenares reminds us of the biblical and theological resources of our Christian faith that give us new eyesight with which to see God’s work going on already in churches open to all “nations.” Dr. Juan Martinez invites us to embrace the vision of multicultural churches and denominations in order to become “browner” and thus more able to reflect and reach out to increasing diversity and the changing face of Christian churches. The Reverend Mark Ymaz draws on his experience as the founding pastor of a multiethnic church to point us toward a reconsideration of the attributes and character of the first-century churches described in the New Testament. In each of these articles, we are being encouraged to be not so much “big” as “wide.” Elsewhere in this issue, Professor Blair Monie reviews the recent book The Divine Dance, a delightful consideration of the Trinity that is co-authored by Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell. Monie joins the authors in inviting us to reconsider this pivotal doctrine that, for all of its centrality, is often maligned as dry and dusty. In Rohr’s and Morrell’s hands, though, God invites us into a relationship with God’s own Self that resembles a dance that enlivens our faith rather than a formula that shrinks it. “Just as the Trinity is primarily relationship,” says Monie, “so everything is connected and part of the dance.” Before this issue is through, three religious leaders muse upon the challenge of diversity for American Protestantism, and Dr. Asante Todd, who has the last word, expresses a profound yearning for the renewal of the prophetic voice of the black church. That voice will be grounded, he says, in “both priestly transformation and prophetic engagement, the kind that disrupts the status quo, challenging the very social and economic structures that cause their distress.” Read on, and look with longing for a church that is as wide as God’s imagination! Theodore J. Wardlaw President and Professor of Homiletics
The Future of Mainline Churches: The Challenge of Race Philip Wingeier-Rayo
n Easter Sunday I attended two church services. First United Methodist Church in Pflugerville is close to my house and the congregation was nearly all white. Then I went to Mosaic Church where I am conducting ethnographic fieldwork on multicultural congregations, and there was a mix of African Americans, whites, Hispanics, and Asians. This experience reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement that “11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours of the week—if not the most segregated hour of Christian America.”1 Unfortunately it seems that this statement still rings true today. While certain areas of American society (e.g. schools, sports, military) have been integrated since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the church remains largely segregated. According to Michael Emerson, 85 percent of U.S. congregations consist of at least 90 percent of one ethnic group.2 This figure includes all congregations; however, Roman Catholics tend to be more diverse than Protestants. In an earlier study, Emerson estimated that only 3 percent of mainline Protestant churches are multiethnic, but even this figure is misleading because some of these churches are in transition as neighbor-
Philip Wingeier-Rayo is associate professor of evangelism, mission, and
Methodist studies at Austin Seminary. The author of books on the Cuban and Mexican church experience, he served as a commissioned missionary in Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, and the Rio Grande Valley, and he taught in seminaries in Cuba and Mexico. He has led student trips to Brazil, India, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Mexico.
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church hood demographics shift.3 Emerson and Christian Smith argue in their book, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, that segregated churches “help perpetuate socioeconomic inequality of race and generally fragment and drown out religious prophetic voices calling for an end to racialization.”4 In other words, not only do monoracial churches not help race relations in America, they actually perpetuate and exacerbate them. In his book, Ministering with New Immigrants: the Challenges that Mainline Churches Face, Lucas Pina shares about efforts to diversify the PC(USA) and resistance to this plan. Specifically, in 1996 the 208th General Assembly of the PC(USA) created a strategy toward having 20 percent of the membership being people of color by 2010. Lucas conducted a survey in the year 2000 about this plan and found that 68 percent of the pastors and 93 percent of the lay members did not know about it. The poll further revealed that those who knew about the plan resisted it because it called for white congregations to reach out to ethnic minorities.5 The overwhelming whiteness of mainline churches is a barrier to church growth as the country is becoming more diverse. The 2010 US Census that reported 72 percent of the American population is white, 14 percent black, 17 percent Hispanic/ Latino, 11 percent Asian, 2 percent Native America and .4 percent Pacific Islander. And if the current growth trends continue, the US will become a majority minority country by 2044.6 We have already seen this new reality in certain regions of the country, especially in Texas where I live. Depending on where you live, if you visit your local elementary school you can get a glimpse of the new face of America. In the year 2014, American public schools had more children of color enrolled than whites.7 Comparing schools to churches, Emerson writes: “The mean diversity of public schools in the US is .48—suggesting that public schools … are six times more racially diverse than are religious congregations.”8 Unfortunately, mainline churches do not reflect the nation’s ethnic diversity and this gap is widening. In general, people of color in the US tend to be younger and have higher birthrates. The median age for African Americans is 30.2, 28 for Native Americans, 27.5 for Asians, 24.6 for Hispanics, and 37.7 for whites.9 According to US Census projections, the white population is expected to peak in 2024 at 199.6 million and then decline, while the population of people of color is projected to grow significantly.10 These national trends are directly opposite to the age trends of mainline denominations. The average age of PC(USA) and UCC members is 59, while the average of Episcopalians and United Methodists is 57.11 The median age in the US is 37.9. In other words, the membership of mainline denominations in the US are generally older and whiter than the US population. Paul Taylor writes about the dramatic cultural changes facing the United States as he contrasts the preferences of the baby boomer and the millennial generations in his book The Next America. He writes that only one in four boomers is non-white, while one in two millennials is a person of color. As a result, younger Americans are more accustomed to being around people of a different ethnicity. “As a society, we’ve become more polarized and more tolerant, and no matter what we’re like today, we’re going to be different tomorrow. Change is the constant,” Taylor writes.12 4
Wingeier-Rayo In a May 2015 study the Pew Research Center reported that between 2007 and 2014 the Christian share of the US population fell from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent. These figures are consistent with the decline that David Olson reported in his book American Church in Crisis with data from 1990 to 2007. The trends are so dire that Robert P. Jones wrote a book, The End of White Christian America, where he gave specific cultural examples of the decline of mainlines. He concluded his book with a eulogy for the white church. As a professor of evangelism and mission who teaches seminary students to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, I am greatly concerned by these trends. I worry that the current model offered by mainlines does not appeal to younger Americans who are more comfortable relating to people who are different from themselves. Today there are more interracial marriages and blended families. Why would a person go to a place where his/her family members and friends did not feel welcome? Faced with US demographic projections, mainline denominations either need to be more inclusive and welcoming of younger people of color, or they risk being irrelevant for what will soon be half of the US population.
How to reverse these trends? Models for multiethnic ministries
Author and pastor of a multicultural church, Mark DeYmaz writes in his book Building a Healthy Multiethnic Church that segregation was not a phenomenon in the early church. He refers to the story of Peter and Cornelius to break down the divisions between Jews and Gentiles. DeYmaz also analyzes the leadership of the church in Antioch and argues that it included people who were both Jews and Gentiles and representatives of various regions, for example, Barnabas and Lucious were from Cypress, Paul from Tarsis, Simeon from Niger, and Manaen from Palestine. The leadership of Antioch was very diverse, and this was the place where the people of the way were first called Christian (Acts 11:26). This is also the church that formed and commissioned Paul on his three missionary journeys to Asia Minor and Europe. DeYmaz argues that the early church was not intended to be segregated by race; that was a later construct.13 Based on DeYmazâ€™s Bible study, the church isnâ€™t inherently segregated. Now I will offer three current models of multicultural ministries that I have studied. 1. The Nesting Model: Faith United Presbyterian Church, Farmers Branch, Texas The city of Farmers Branch made national news in 2006 after passing two ordinances in response to a growing immigrant population. One ordinance stated that English was the cityâ€™s official language and another one required people to show proof of citizenship to rent an apartment.14 A judge challenged the constitutionality of the second ordinance and won an injunction. Meanwhile, further south in Dallas, a congregation of the Church of South India (CSI) was forming and looking for a place to worship. As individual Indians immigrated to the US, they banded together and sought out one another in major metropolitan areas. In Dallas, the CSI registered as a legal entity in 1985 and began worshipping in the chapel at Cochran United Methodist Church near the corner of Midway and Northwest Highway. In 5
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church 2008 the congregation outgrew the chapel and made contact with Randy Lee of Grace Presbytery, who helped the group find a new home at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Farmers Branch. The pastor of Covenant at the time, Rich Rosenfeld, had previous experience serving a Korean-American congregation and was open to nesting the CSI group. Covenant Presbyterian Church was declining and no longer needed all the space in the building. So an exploratory meeting was planned with three representatives from Covenant and twelve people from CSI. Layman Lloyd Yost attended that meeting and recalled: “At the time we had a 10:30 a.m. Sunday service, but they said that their service lasted an hour and a half and there would be a time conflict.” Yost continued: “Their faith is very lively. They have a lot of new Christians who want to learn. They are a very close-knit group that goes to one another’s homes to have Bible studies and celebrate birthdays.” He also remembered more about the meeting: “The CSI wanted use of the whole building: sanctuary, classrooms, kitchen, and fellowship hall for their activities. We were open to having them use the building since our congregation was aging and didn’t use all of it. We just asked that they make reservations with the church secretary.” At the conclusion of the meeting the session at Covenant voted to offer the CSI a lease for use of the building. In the meantime, another Presbyterian church in nearby Carrollton, Ridgeview Presbyterian, was in a similar situation and agreed to merge with Covenant to form Faith United Presbyterian Church, which currently has one hundred and twenty members and averages about half that number in worship.15 I first visited Faith United in September of 2015 and was struck by the sight of the two congregations meeting concurrently in the same building. I arrived around 9:00 a.m. and found the sanctuary full of the Church of South India congregation, with children and youth gathering and passing in the hallways. The CSI congregation averaged one hundred and twenty people in worship with many young families, youth, and children. The host congregation was all white, had no children or youth, almost everyone was over sixty, and there were about thirty people in worship. I was curious about their arrangement to share space, so later I followed up to interview the pastors from both congregations and two lay people. Franklin Sherwin, associate pastor of CSI, acknowledged that there were some tensions and conflicts at first. Having so many children running around the building scared some of the older members of the host congregation: “Sometimes the older members thought that the children were going to run them over. So we had to talk to our children and set up some guidelines, and we also worked on scheduling to avoid being in the hallway at the same time.” There were also incidents when some of the children or youth would break a table or a chair, and the CSI would simply buy a new one to replace it. Sherwin added that over time “some of the members of the host congregation were very friendly and we have formed lasting friendships.” The two congregations have had four joint worship services and four fellowship meals together every year. Some of the members of the host congregation, for example, Lloyd Yost and his wife, Ruth, have been invited to the homes of the Indians for birthday parties and 6
Wingeier-Rayo meals. In addition the Yosts have also received some of the Indian parishioners in their home. The original church lease expired after one year, but the CSI stayed and continued to pay their rent month-to-month. Grace Presbytery began conversations with the CSI congregation to invite them into a formal relationship with the denomination. There was even talk of a formal merger. Eventually a memorandum of understanding was negotiated and signed by both parties allowing the local CSI to be in a formal relationship with the denomination but also retain its autonomy as a legal entity. The two congregations continued under the same arrangement with CSI paying rent to Faith United but growing in mutual love and understanding—even as two congregations meeting in the same space.16 2. Ministry Among Ethnic Groups Model: First United Methodist Church, Denton, Texas17 First United Methodist Church was organized in 1857—soon after the city of Denton was established. Currently the church has 1700 members, averages about 800 in worship, and is very involved in local ministries. One of the outreach programs is the adoption of nearby Tomás Rivera Elementary School where they donate backpacks full of school supplies at the beginning of the year, support teachers, and volunteer at the school. The school is located in the southwest part of Denton, which is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the city. The school itself is 47 percent Hispanic and a quarter African American.18 Several members through the years have been teachers at the school, worked in the administration, and one was the school nurse who also attends to a lot of social concerns. Don Lee was appointed lead pastor of this church in June of 2013 and is the first non-white to serve as pastor. “Denton is located in the buckle of the Bible belt and has a lot of racism,” acknowledged Lee. He has worked hard to win over the congregation. Lee brought a vision of trying to reach out to the surrounding community and pointed to the church’s mission statement “to shine God’s light into every life.” Lee shared that his motivation comes from the experience of his home church growing up that was also located in a region of California where there were many Hispanics. He said that in retrospect the church did not want, or did not know how, to reach Hispanics, and so it closed and deeded the property to a nondenominational Hispanic congregation. A few years later, when the associate pastor of First UMC, Denton, resigned, Lee suggested replacing her with an associate pastor who could build relationships with the Hispanic community. In July of 2014 Lee got his way and hired a Hispanic associate pastor who has responsibilities over women’s programs and missions, in addition to starting a new Spanish worship service. So shortly after being the first non-white pastor at the church, Lee went out on a limb to sell the church leaders on a new ministry. I attended and was a participant-observer of this ministry for two years, and as an Anglo, I have often felt the tension between insider and outsider. I was an insider because my wife was the associate pastor hired to begin this ministry; how7
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church ever, I was an outsider because I was not a member of the church and could see how the dominant culture made assumptions and at times misunderstood the Hispanic culture. Several of the members who volunteered at Rivera Elementary School saw the Spanish-speaking ministry to be a natural outgrowth. The church also started English as a Second Language classes two nights a week. The biggest difficulty starting a Hispanic ministry within a primarily Anglo church is the cultural difference. One of the challenges is the understanding of time. The activities on the church calendar, such as classes and worship services, are expected to begin at a proscribed time; however, Hispanics tend to be more relational and understand time differently. In addition, the Hispanic families were not used to the strict rules on childcare. Often within the Hispanic culture it is perfectly acceptable to have an older sibling look after the younger ones, whereas the Anglo congregation has strict rules known as “Safe Sanctuary” that prohibit leaving children alone in the building. These cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings that make blending the existing Anglo congregation and emerging Hispanic ministry difficult—especially when exacerbated by a language barrier. After some attempts at blending the two cultures using Spanish translation during worship, the decision was made to have a separate Spanish worship service on Sunday afternoons at 1:00 p.m. This meant, however, that the Hispanic children and youth would not be integrated into the Sunday morning activities of the primarily Anglo host congregation. In spite of the separate worship time, First Denton still considered the Spanish worship service to be one of the ministries of the whole church and not a separate entity. When a person or family decides to join the church, he or she makes a vow to support the church with prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness—and this vow is to the whole church, not just the Hispanic ministry. The group on Sunday afternoons grew to over forty people in two years in addition to the active engagement at the local elementary school and the ESL classes. Additionally, a group of Anglos began studying Spanish to learn more about Hispanic language and culture. The two groups are integrating more and more, in spite of language barriers, as they learn to be members of the same congregation. 3. Multiethnic Church Model: Mosaic Church, Austin, Texas Another congregation striving for integration is Mosaic Church, a multiethnic non-denominational congregation in Austin, Texas. I have been conducting ethnographic research at this church for the last year. The church has been in existence for twenty years and nearly closed in 2010 after the previous pastor stepped down following a series of poor leadership decisions that sent the church spiraling downward. Morgan Stephens became the lead pastor, and in 2015 the church changed its name from Christ Community Church to Mosaic to more fully embrace its multicultural constituency and mission. If you only read the vision statement you wouldn’t notice anything different about the church, but once you enter the door you would definitely see the rainbow of participants.19 Since 2010 the weekly attendance has grown from 200 to over 1,000 in three services. The staff is just as diverse as is 8
the membership and lay leaders that appear on stage every Sunday. The pastoral team consists of three elders—one African American and two whites—one of them being Stephens. There is also a team of twenty-five deacons, eight of whom are women, eight are African American, one is Hispanic, and sixteen are white. Once a quarter Mosaic hosts a conversation on difficult topics called “Gospel And Culture” where the congregation can discuss race and politics in light of their faith. These conversations became increasingly more difficult during the 2016 presidential elections, which were polarizing for the whole community. Mosaic, however, provided a space where Christians could openly share their thoughts and feelings of what was happening through the lens of faith and ethnicity. Referring to the Gospel And Culture program, Mosaic’s youth minister, Wendell Williams, said, “We are tackling an area, and sometimes topics of conversation, that the church as a whole doesn’t really want to have, especially in regards to race and politics. We have created space and avenues to have those difficult conversations with church members and other people who live in Austin.”20 As part of my research I attended a Gospel And Culture night that used the 9
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church story of Naomi and Ruth as a compass for their discussions. Naomi, Elimelek, and their two sons traveled to Moab to escape famine. The sons married two Moabite women, however tragedy struck as all three Hebrew men died leaving three widows. Naomi decided to travel back to Judea and encouraged her two daughters-in-law to stay in Moab. Ruth, however, decided to accompany Naomi to a land and culture that she has never known.21 The program followed this cross-cultural story and fostered small group discussions about one’s personal encounters with people of other ethnicities. Participants were asked to reflect on questions such as: 1) Think of a meaningful relationship you have had with someone who is culturally different from you (i.e. race, ethnicity, class, gender). What was the “thing” or common interest that brought you together? 2) Describe a time that you had a multiethnic/ cross-cultural relationship that experienced significant tension, fractures, tears, or broken trust. 3) When have you found it challenging to trust someone who is culturally different from you and why? 4) How would fighting through those challenges make you better, us better?22 These were very deep conversations that invite people to share personal experiences and seek healing and understanding together. The night concluded with a panel of church leaders sharing very intimate stories of working through painful experiences in race relations.
Conclusion After attending my local United Methodist Church and then Mosaic Church on Easter Sunday, I became aware of the need for mainline churches to make intentional efforts to reach an increasingly younger and more diverse population. It is disappointing that today we are not closer to overcoming Martin Luther King’s observation about segregation than we were in 1960. The three models named here, nesting, ministry among ethnic groups, and multiethnic churches, are attempts to become more diverse in our outreach. Faith United Presbyterian Church in Farmers Branch, Texas, has hosted a congregation of the Church of South India in an attempt to share space. At the same time, the Indian congregation has been a blessing to the host church bringing young families with youth and children into the building of an aging host congregation. First United Methodist Church in Denton, Texas, is reaching out to a growing Hispanic population by adopting a local elementary school, teaching ESL, and starting a Spanish-speaking ministry. Hispanics are joining the church and some members of the existing Anglo congregation are studying Spanish and Hispanic culture. Finally the non-denominational Mosaic Church in Austin has become an intentional multiethnic congregation with a multiracial staff and leadership team. They have interracial small group meetings in homes and once a quarter host a Gospel And Community night to discuss difficult questions of race relations. The leadership of these three models will all admit that there have been misunderstandings and tensions. As the demographics of the United States grow more diverse, these three church models are offering different models of overcoming racial divisions and being unified as the body of Christ. There is no “one size fits all,” nor is there a formula to overcome the racial segregation of American Christianity. However if mainline churches do not attempt to become more ethnically inclusive, 10
Wingeier-Rayo they will soon be irrelevant to half the American population. On the flip side, if churches become more welcoming, they will open themselves up to new opportunities for ministry and being part of the racial healing of this nation. v NOTES 1. Martin Luther King, Jr., quote on “Meet the Press,” April 17, 1960. Accessed on May 24, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q881g1L_d8 2. Michael O. Emerson, “A New Day for Multicultural Congregations,” Yale University Reflections, The Future of Race (Spring 2013) http://reflections.yale.edu/article/future-race/new-day-multiracialcongregations (Accessed September 26, 2017). 3. Jack Marcum, “Racial-ethnic Diversity in Congregations,” Go Figure, (Jan/Feb 2014) https:// www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/jf14_gofig.pdf 4. Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 168. 5. Lucas Pina, Ministering with New Immigrants: the Challenges that Mainline Churches Face, e-book, 2015, loc.15. 6. US Census Bureau, “Projecting Majority Minority,” accessed June 15, 2017 https://www.census. gov/content/dam/Census/newsroom/releases/2015/cb15-tps16_graphic.pdf 7. “Dept. of Ed. projects public schools will be majority-minority this fall,” Pew Research Center, August 18, 2014. Accessed June 15, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/08/18/u-spublic-schools-expected-to-be-majority-minority-starting-this-fall/ 8. Emerson and Woo, People of the Dream, 37. 9. USA Online, “Age of the U.S. Population,” 2001, accessed June 25, 2017 http://www.theusaonline.com/people/age.htm 10. US Census Bureau, “U.S. Census Bureau Projections Show a Slower Growing, Older, More Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now,” accessed June 22, 2017, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/ releases/archives/population/cb12-243.html 11. Michael Lipka, “Which U.S. Religious Groups are Older and Younger?” Pew Research Center and The CIA Factbook, 2015, accessed June 25, 2017 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/theworld-factbook/fields/2177.html, July 11, 2016. 12. Paul Taylor, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown (New York: Public Affairs, 2015), ix. 13. Mark DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments, and Practices of Diverse Congregation (Jossey & Bass, 2007), 13-26. 14. Karen Olsson, Texas Monthly, May 2008, Vol. 36 Issue 5, 88-96. 15. These numbers were provided the church secretary. 16. Since the writing of this article the CSI congregation has fulfilled its dream of securing its own worship space and moved. Faith United is open to nesting another emerging ethnic ministry. 17. Ministry among ethnic groups is one of the models described by Juan Francisco Martinez in his book Walk with the People: Latino Ministry in the United States (Wipf & Stock, 2016), 26. 18. http://www.dentonrc.com/local-news/local-news-headlines/20150528-twenty-years-in-themaking.ece?ssimg=2314418 19. “Our vision is to see lives and the city of Austin transformed and shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” accessed June 22, 2017 https://www.mosaicchurchaustin.com/about-us/ 20. Taylor Jackson Buchanon, “Church Finds New Path to Growth with Mission of Diversity” Reporting Texas, May 20, 2017. 21. Ruth 1:1-21 22. Field notes, June 9, 2017
Interview Phil Wingeier-Rayo
Models for Multiethnic Church I wanted to first of all just thank you for your article. What’s at stake for you in this research? Why is this important for you? Well, after the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville and then the counter protests, I think the topic of racial/ethnic harmony is more important than ever. If Christians believe what the Bible says—that we are all created in the likeness and image of God—then it’s a prophetic challenge for the times that we’re living. When Jesus was asked what’s the greatest commandment, he says to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. And if that’s our commandment then we need to live like that in our context in the United States. But churches have accepted the status quo in the United States and we’ve segregated ourselves. So, at this time I think the church needs to find ways to live together as a model for society. I think we’re at a very critical point. For the sake of our discussion, how would you succinctly articulate the three models of how churches address their call to ethnic diversity and unity? The nesting model is when an existing church has the space available and so they invite a separate congregation or people group to share the space. Maybe they rent the space or just loan the space, but the intention is not initially for that second group to join the first group. They serve more as a host congregation. This is a way to be in ministry, to use the resources that God has entrusted us—to share space and allow another congregation to go and reach their people group. Many of our congregations have been blessed with buildings they’re not using to full capacity. And sometimes the rent can actually help out that host congregation to pay its bills while at the same time helping a separate congregation to minister to a different segment of society. So it is more than a mere practical arrangement; there is a missional dimension to it. Yes, for example, I studied a small Texas community, and once a quarter they had some type of a fellowship activity, and they held joint services together during Holy 12
The Migrant People of God
A gift of multicultural churches—and a sign of hope for America—is that they’re one of the few places where you can build genuine friendships with somebody who is from a different walk of life. —Phil Wingeier-Rayo
Week. There were other opportunities for the two congregations to get to know each other. They would invite each other to birthday celebrations. So what started as an economic arrangement turned out to be maybe not joint in mission because they’re two separate congregations, but definitely building friendships and personal connections. Say something about the second model. In the second model a church initiates an outreach that’s intended for a certain sector or ethnic group, but it’s not a separate congregation—they are always intending to become one congregation. The example that I elaborate on is a church that had cultivated a tie to the Hispanic community through their adopting an elementary school. They already volunteered there and had a Big Brother/Big Sister program and supported the teachers. So it was just a natural next step to begin a Spanishspeaking ministry. When a vacancy came open on the church staff, they hired an associate pastor who was Spanish-speaking and began a separate worship service in Spanish. And the third? The third model is from the outset an intentionally multiethnic church—or perhaps one they transition to, but it becomes at some point a core aim. In the case of the Mosaic Church in Austin, the church transitioned. They had a different name with a 13
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church different vision. But then a new pastor came along nine years ago and brought a vision of being intentionally multiethnic. They added staff accordingly, so that when people come they’ll see people who look like them in the role of music ministry or Sunday school teachers and preachers. You said that staffing is key to moving in that direction. But what are other strategies they stumbled upon that facilitated this multiethnic environment? I think another strategy is community groups or small groups. In this case, different parts of the city have small groups meeting that mix people up and get people talking on a first-name basis. Another strategy is they have a Gospel And Culture night where they have intentional conversations about race. These discussions are based on a biblical theme but focus on getting people around tables to discuss their experience with race relations in regard to their faith. And it gets very personal. So they ask people, Have you ever been hurt by somebody of a different race? Have you ever felt betrayed? And so they have a space in a church where people can open up and talk about race in a grace-filled environment—bracketed with prayer and Bible study—where you’re not criticized or judged, you just talk about your pain. And that’s something churches have a unique capacity for doing. How do churches like Mosaic prevent conversations from becoming destructive and polarizing? Actually they do sometimes lose families who have difficulty with the hard conversations, especially when they get political. But they keep with it in a spirit of love and reconciliation. It is a sign of hope for America because it’s one of the few places where you can go and build genuine friendships with somebody who is from a different walk of life. It’s one of the gifts of multicultural churches. Every church doesn’t have to become a multicultural church, but I think it is one way for the church to be a witness in a very divided society. It also seems that they’re engaging a common text, a common tradition, common practices of prayer and other practices, it seems like there’s more there to knit people together than merely individuals encountering each other in a more transactional environment. It seems like there has to be something that knits them together and serves in some way to open their hearts to God and to neighbors. At Mosaic they say that the gospel takes priority over the culture. That if we give ourselves over to God, we should allow God to work through all areas of our life. So if you’re Christian there should really be more that unites you than separates you or divides you. Christians in the context of the early church had to give up their culture in a sense and they no longer are Jews or they’re no longer Romans. They become Christians and it’s a third race—a new race. 14
Interview As a white person, I’m fully aware that African American and Latinx congregations represent the gospel to me in some ways more fully than my own ethnic traditions. So encountering those other cultures and traditions can be enhancing and enlivening for me. Yeah, yeah. I think anytime we come in contact with another culture we see that kind of as a mirror to our own culture. My culture tends to be very individualistic, and so when I see another culture where all the family sits together, I think, well, that’s really kind of nice. Jesus came in flesh. He had to live here on earth. Had to walk, learn a language. He had to talk. So the gospel is incarnate: Christianity narrates a God who enters into culture to take on real flesh and blood. So we’re always going to have culture with us and it’s a matter of how the Christian message can shape that culture and try to be true to the gospel message. What are the limitations or hazards that a congregation faces as they make these efforts to extend themselves to others? Well, there are pros and cons of these three models, and one model may be appropriate and work in one context but may not be appropriate and work in a different context. So each congregation needs to pray and discern where God is leading them. If nothing else, we can find sister congregations. An all-white church, for example, in a small town can befriend an African American church across town. Maybe you don’t have to merge and become a multicultural congregation, but you can have a pulpit exchange. You can have a fellowship time. You can have a joint worship service together. You can build ties within your community with folks who are different from yourselves so that the next time there’s a Charlottesville, for example, you’re not dependent upon the media to interpret for you what this other group is like because you know their story. You suggested that one of the things that inhibit this work is the different forms of jockeying for power. Could you say more about that? Power is an important question. It’s always important to notice who has the power and how power is being used. There’s power in the leadership positions. There’s power in money. There’s power in the building and who has access to the building. For people with faith, everything belongs to God and we are stewards. If you’re using power to hold onto something then you’re putting up barriers. But if you’re using power to give, to share, to welcome, to invite, then you’re including people in the gospel. So, make your building welcoming. Invite people in. Power gets coalesced in lots of different ways. How do congregations confront that entrenched traditionalism where power is veiled by tradition? Trusting God, trusting the Holy Spirit—and not in our own power or subject to our own fears. Continued on page 35
The Heresy of Sameness in a Landscape of Difference
Nora E. Colmenares
ow often do you encounter a church that no longer reflects its neighborhood? Probably very often. The current reality is that the cultural and ethnic landscape in the United States has changed drastically. As of 2012 nearly forty-one million immigrants live in this country, which accounts for 13 percent of the total US population.1 The diversity of cultures these immigrants bring is complex and rich. The current population of the US comprises newly arrived immigrants, those who had their roots in this country long before colonization, and those who were forcibly relocated, as well as their descendants. In addition, post immigrant generations are themselves a diverse group on their own; they have grown as part of two or more cultures that have profoundly influenced their perspective, life style, and faith. Demographic reports show that the white-alone population in the US has declined over the previous ten-year period and its share of the total population has decreased.2 At the same time, the population that identified itself as having two or more races has increased by about one-third since 2000.3 Reports also show that about 353 of the United States’s 3,143 counties (11 percent of all the counties) are now “majority-minority;”4-5—and in 2012, thirteen states and the District of Columbia had an under-five age population that was majority-minority, up from five states in 2000. Additionally, in twenty-five states and the District of Columbia, minorities now make up more than 40 percent of the under-five group.”6 Newer reports show even more dramatic changes. A June 2013 article reported that the United States’s percentage of non-Hispanic whites had hit an all-time low
Nora Colmenares serves as Community Engagement Lead in the Center
for Mission Innovation for the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Her work involves opening spaces for innovative models of community engagement that facilitate relationship building within the framework of mutuality and asset-based development. She is a native of Venezuela.
Colmenares of 63%7, and a December 2014 new population projection released by the Census Bureau forecasted that the United States population will become majority minority in 2044.8 These reports and many other projections show that the fastest growing population in the country is non-white. This is the landscape where the US Christian church exists in the 21st century, a church that was born out of the iconic “Great Commission,” the charge to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28). This divine assignment was given to the disciples after three years of Jesus modeling for them a new kind of kingdom where old rules no longer apply and where God has incarnated to be in relationship with humanity. Jesus demonstrated this new paradigm through many transforming encounters with the outcasts of his time. Contrary to the expectations of his culture, Jesus defied social norms and crossed boundaries to relate with outsiders. The Jesus of the Gospels healed and touched the untouchable, he sat at the table with a crook, violated the holy day, and broke protocol by praising the faith of a Gentile. In John 4 Jesus broke social and religious norms by approaching a woman from a culture he had been raised to despise—a Samaritan. His unsuitable request opened a conversation about faith that not only transformed this unnamed woman, but compelled her to become the unthinkable, a spokesperson for Jesus in a town that would otherwise have rejected him. The courageous witness of a once -muzzled voice opened the door for many to believe (John 4:39). Other transforming encounters are described in the Gospels: with a soldier of the occupying army, with a sick woman impure by religious standards, with many sick and maimed who would not have been otherwise recognized, touched, or even seen. And it was a Samaritan whom Jesus used as an example when asked by a Jewish religious scholar how to inherit eternal life (Luke 10). At the end of his time on earth, Jesus gave his disciples the assignment that included the phrase “all nations” (Matt. 28). Although there is considerable discussion about what this phrase means, most are in agreement that it means all people, all people groups, all nations without distinction. Matthew’s words referred to the blessing promised to Abraham and through him to all people on earth (Gen. 12:3), which is now to be fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah and through his followers. This phrase refers to much more than just making disciples of people; it refers to the challenging task of including those who had been excluded before.9 These words made real to the disciples what Jesus had already shown them: that they were to take the Gospel message to those from other ethnicities and cultures and to the outcasts of their society; that they were to do what was not accepted or comfortable for them to do: to cross cultural and ethnic boundaries to share the Gospel message. On the Day of Pentecost this message is once more revealed. The emerging church is to be diverse and united in its nature. This unity is not based on ethnicity, phenotype, language, culture, or socioeconomic class; it is not based on personal preferences or affinity; it is founded on the peace acquired by Jesus Christ who formed a new humanity reconciled in the cross (Eph. 2:11-22).10 17
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church The early disciples did not readily embrace this directive. Violent persecution pushed them out and into uneasy encounters that forced them to start to understand the wide range of God’s vision. From baptizing a Gentile on the side of the road (Acts 8), to receiving hospitality from a Roman soldier (Acts 10), to agreeing circumcision was not a universal requirement for a disciple (Acts 15), the early disciples took slow and painful steps to grasp what the mandate of making disciples of all nations entailed. This struggle is particularly poignant in Peter’s disconcerting vision on a rooftop, when he was asked to eat that which went against the religious laws he had been taught to strictly obey, and in the process he realized the bigger lesson: that God’s mandate went beyond the food; that God wanted him to put aside the restrictions set by his society and culture and share the message with someone he despised: an enemy soldier of the occupying army. And in this outrageous encounter the Gospel message was not only shared but lived, and transformation happened. The early church continued to evolve in the understanding of the task to “all nations” entrusted to it. The Book of Acts describes the congregation in the city of Antioch, with an ethnic diversity that included Syrians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Persians, Armenians, Parthians, Cappadocians, and Jews.11 Its leadership reflected the diversity of its community: a Jew, two Gentiles, a Gentile educated in Rome, and a Jew from Tarsus. They were from Asia Minor, Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East (Acts 13). The congregation in Corinth also gathered a diverse congregation. It had both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 18), as well as slaves and free (1 Cor. 7). These communities of believers were no longer separated by their cultures, ethnicities, or status; they were brought together as “one body and one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12). The early church struggled with this identity. Cultures clashed and human frailty brought its best and worst into the mix. The church struggled to live into this new paradigm that was part of God’s vision from the beginning: that all nations would know God (Isa. 66:18; Rev. 15:4) and that the church will cross boundaries of culture, ethnicity, language, status, and class to share the Gospel message. The letter to the Colossians articulates more fully the identity of the body of believers (Col. 3:9-11) when it describes the contrast between the new self and the old self. This list of behaviors that characterize the new self and the old self is often interpreted through the lens of individualism. However, to reduce the understanding of the old/new man to an individualistic nature renders the affirmation in verse 11 nonsensical. A more accurate understanding teaches that the relational affirmations of verse 11 are a reality in the new man, which is the collective new man—the church—for whom Christ is all and in all. Just as the old man is the entirety of humanity alienated from God and within itself, the new man is the entirety of humanity reconciled to God within itself. Through the redemptive work in the cross, believers of all ethnicities are identified as the new man, and the new humanity, which is the church (Eph. 2, Eph. 4, Col. 3).12 However, not long after the birth of a church that had outrageously brought together enemy peoples, the church deviated from the original vision and subscribed 18
Colmenares to the practice of sameness—the belief that being with those like us was more important that living out the Gospel of the One that ate with the outcasts of society; the belief that being comfortable was more important that sharing Jesus’s message with “the other.” And the church is still buying into that belief today. This belief is fed by the erroneous assumption that God’s grace is limited and scarce. The community of Christ’s followers has been given instead a divine grace that is abundant and immeasurable (Eph. 2:4-9), one that urges Christians to move toward extending boundaries and sharing God’s grace with the stranger and the outcast.13 Grounded on this rich theological foundation, and to fulfill God’s original vision for the church, it is imperative for the Christian church to leave the heresy of sameness to embrace the fullness of its identity as the body of Christ—a body that welcomes all not as guests but as an enriching and essential part of the body, a body that dismisses boundaries and embraces differences. This process is by no means an easy one. It requires much more than programmatic efforts. It requires a personal conviction that a church is not complete until it includes all, with their different stories and experiences. Grounded in this conviction, we can choose to see the changing landscape in our communities not with fear but as an opportunity to join God who is already present in our neighborhoods; as an opportunity to welcome the voices of others to shape the church as we faithfully respond to the call to “all nations.” v NOTES 1. Chiamaka Nwosu, Jeanne Batalove, and Gregory Auclair. “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States,” Migration Policy Institute, (April 28, 2014), accessed August 10, 2014, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states, 2. Ibid. 3. Nicholas A. Jones, and Jungmiwha Bullock, “The Two or More Races Population: 2010,” US Census Bureau, (September 1, 2012), accessed August 15, 2014, http://census.gov/content/dam/Census/ library/publications/2012/demo/c2010br-13.pdf. 4. The term “majority-minority” refers to a population in which more than half represent social, ethnic, or racial minorities, and in which fewer members of the more socially, politically, or financially dominant group are represented. “Majority-minority,” Dictionary.com, accessed April 25, 2017, http:// www.dictionary.com/browse/majority-minority. 5. “Census: White Majority in U.S. Gone by 2043,” NBC News, (June 13, 2013), accessed August 18, 2014.http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/13/18934111-census-White-majority-in-us-goneby-2043?lite. 6. Ibid. 7. Michael Walsh, “U.S. Percentage of Non-Hispanic Whites Hits All-time Low of 63%,” New York Daily News, (June 13, 2013), accessed August 20, 2014, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ percentage-non-hispanic-Whites-hits-all-time-63-article-1.1371772. 8. William H. Frey, “New Projections Point to a Majority Minority Nation in 2044,” The Brookings Institute, (December 12, 2014), accessed December 18th, 2014, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/theavenue/posts/2014/12/12-majority-minority-nation-2044-frey. 9. Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), VIII: 596-597. 10. David E. Stevens, God’s New Humanity (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2012), 136.
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church
Imagining Browner Churches: Being Faithful Christians in a Changing US Juan Martinez Demographic shifts and the secularization of white America are creating Christian churches that are increasingly minority and immigrant. Can white Christians see these browner Christians as an asset to Christian faith in the US? How will churches work together through this shift toward browner churches?
he Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the accrediting agency for seminaries in North America, developed a program for member schools called “Preparing for 2040.”1 The basic premise was that, according to current estimates by the US Census Bureau, sometime in the decade of 2040 the majority of people in the US will no longer be of white European background. Seminaries were invited to participate in a three-year process in which they could analyze various aspects of their work and develop plans for their institutions to better prepare their students for ministry in this changing demographic reality. As we worked through the learning and planning process, it became clear that some of the demographic changes were going to have an impact on churches and seminaries earlier than 2040. For example, given that “whites” are more secular and minorities groups more religious than the general population, it is likely that the “2040 shift” will happen during the 2030s in the churches. It is already the case in places like southern California that on any given Sunday the majority of people actually in church might be non-white. Because seminaries include international students, it is possible that the majority of students in ATS schools will be nonwhite by the middle of the 2020s decade. How are Christian churches adapting to this changing situation? One response has been to develop intentionally multicultural churches. Since the US is
Juan Martinez is professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at
Fuller Theological Seminary where he has served as vice president for diversity and international ministries, vice provost, associate provost for diversity and international programs, and director of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community. His forthcoming book is The Story of Latino Protestants in the United States (Eerdmans, 2018).
Martinez increasingly racially mixed, should not Christian churches reflect the diversity of their communities? Michael Emerson, who has done some of the most extensive research on these types of churches, uses the 80/20 rule to determine whether a church is multicultural. The logic is that if a church has at least 20 percent of a specific minority group, there is more possibility that this group will have an impact on the church at large.2 By this standard only about 14 percent of churches in the US today are multicultural. According to Emerson the Mosaix Global Network has the goal of having 20 percent of US churches reach the 20 percent mark by 2020. Another place where change is happening is among denominations that have made a strategic commitment to attract people of different ethnic groups, usually through developing churches and ministries focused on those groups. Currently about 66 percent of the US population is white. Denominations that have somewhere around 34 percent (or more) non-white members clearly have made the commitments to racial ethnic diversity within their denomination. Currently, the Christian denominations that have a diverse membership or, at least have come close to reflecting US demographic realities, are: Seventh-Day Adventists, Roman Catholics, Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and the Churches of Christ. All other denominations are predominantly white, except for historically black denominations and other smaller groups of Latino, Asian, or Native American denominations or church networks. Historically, immigrant groups from Europe formed many of the churches and denominations in the US, and these have maintained their predominantly white makeup even as they have expanded beyond their specific immigrant origins. Because of structural racism there is also the issue of black and white churches, which was the background for MLK Jr.â€™s famous observation that 11:00 a.m. on Sundays was the most segregated hour in America. The US in which King made the statement was predominantly white, with African Americans and other minority groups a small percentage of the population. During the 1960s most people assumed that this would be what the US would look like into the foreseeable future. Many changes have happened in race relations, but the fundamental divisions caused by racism and the black-white divide have never healed. Nonetheless, the changes in migratory patterns after the 1965 Immigration Act changed the demographic makeup of the US. The current situation is still deeply impacted by the black-white divide, but the US is much more diverse than anything Dr. King might have imagined. This increasing ethnic and racial diversity is reflected in US Christianity. Overall, the ethnic diversity of Christian churches in the US reflects the diversity of the population, with minority groups slightly overrepresented. That increasing diversity is seen in denominations like the ones previously mentioned or in multicultural churches. But overall, US churches and denominations are still largely organized around a predominant ethnic or racial group. The 2016 elections exposed the reality of how divided our country is and how our political divisions largely reflect our racial divisions. In the midst of a politically and racially divided country, how can churches be agents of change? How can 21
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church churches reflect the unity of the body of Christ in the midst of the growing diversity? Will churches merely reflect our divisions or will they be able to transcend them? Clearly the challenges are profound. We have a multiplicity of churches because of very real linguistic, ethnic, cultural, social, and theological differences. But some of our separations are also reflections of our sins, nationally, as specific churches and as individuals. Some of our separate churches and denominations are the result of the legacy of racism and are mixed in with issues of privilege, power, and control. On top of that, the very real differences between us sometimes make even the best intentions of working together go awry. One wishes that we could easily separate out the first set of issues from the reality of our human sin. But they are often mixed in together. It is clear that the work of unity has to happen at several levels. At the congregational level several things can be done. Both intentionally intercultural churches and multi-congregational churches are models that can provide concrete ways forward. Of course, these models will only provide spaces for all if they seriously work at intercultural relations and regularly speak into the issues of sin that mar the efforts of working together. Local churches of all types can also develop projects to work together with sister congregations that are significantly different. These types of relationships will also need to account for the issues already mentioned since often ethnic and/ or working class congregations are the only place where otherwise marginalized people find a place to use their gifts for the glory of God and the service of others. One thing that stands out when looking at the most diverse denominations in the US today is that those denominations are growing while those that are predominantly white are shrinking. Clearly, ethnic diversity is not the only reason for this reality. But these denominations and churches may be pointing us toward one of the futures. Not all individual churches should become intentionally multicultural, but churches can work together across ethnic and cultural lines. Multicultural churches and denominations that are diverse have the challenge of creating spaces for shared power and authority in ways that all voices feel heard and accounted for. As non-whites become a larger percentage of the membership in churches and denominations, leaders have to address what it means to give power to those who have not had a voice in the past. This is particularly crucial because whites have held power in most of these structures. It is yet to be seen how they will respond. The growth of non-white congregations means that browner voices will need to be at the center of many of the intercultural conversations among churches and within churches. No longer will the only significant conversation be the one about how white Christians create spaces for others. Minority churches will need to think about how they interact with other minority congregations. Some of these immigrant churches have a mission mindset toward the US. Are we ready for a mission effort toward secularized whites led by non-white congregations?
Martinez These changes also call us to broaden our sense of how to express the unity of the churches in the midst of our increasing diversities. The most diverse denominations are already showing us the way. They are, in a sense, developing multi-congregational networks. Churches of various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds are working together toward a broader vision. We need to be more intentional about developing these types of networks. Some churches will link under a common theology, others under a common mission, while others will come together because they share geographical space. Some of them will look like denominations while others will cross denominational lines and others will be looser networks. Minority and immigrant churches are showing us other models of networking. Some of these networks cross national boundaries, following the lived experiences of the people who are a part of them. These networks are expanding the mission of the churches, but also the sense of the church as a global network. These types of connections will usually be dynamic and may not have a strong structure to support them. But they will help expand the way that churches in the US look at mission. Building these types of networks will be difficult for many of the reasons already mentioned, not the least of which are the issues of power, authority, and control. Given the power differentials in our society, white leaders will tend to naturally take positions of leadership as intercultural relationships develop. People who are part of cultures that naturally defer to others, those who do not have as much education, who do not speak English well, who are bi-vocational, or who are part of smaller movements will find it hard to create a space at the table. There will need to be an intentional process of empowerment in which those who are finding a space will be encouraged and those who easily take leadership will need to consciously take a secondary role. The book of Acts shows us that this will not be an easy process. But we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and know that God is doing new things. Those who are ready to participate in these types of intercultural relationships will need special training and special grace. In Churches, Cultures and Leadership Mark Lau Branson and I invite readers to address the complexities of intercultural life, but always within the realities of grace and sin. It is only as we recognize that we live between both that we can begin to take steps toward that browner church that is our common future. Part of the solution will point us toward looking at our current reality through different eyes. For example, many, if not most, US Latino and Asian-American churches are multicultural, though they are usually not seen in that frame because of how we think about â€œminorityâ€? groups in the US. A growing number of traditionally African American congregations include immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and other peoples of African descent. Outsiders might look at these churches and assume that they are monocultural. But they are also working at crossing important divides within the communities that were placed under a common umbrella by the US Census. These demographic shifts are also changing how we think about race and the future of the US. On the one hand, the majority of children born in the US today are 23
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church no longer white. Also, the number of inter-cultural marriages with inter-cultural and multiracial children is changing how we define “races” in this country The five “race” categories used by the US Census Bureau are starting to blur into each other and into something new. As we look toward the future it is clear that our current framings for thinking about intercultural church life are quickly changing. The churches in the US will continue to diversify. That does not mean that each individual church will reflect the ethnic diversity of the country or even of its own community. It will mean that denominations and church movements will address the increasing diversity successfully or slowly fade away. Also, local churches of various ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds will need to find new ways to work together. Minority and immigrant groups are changing the face of Christian churches. But there is also a sense in which they may be the salvation of Christian churches in the US. Some white Christians fear that the US is losing its Christian core. What it is losing is its white Christian majority. Minority and immigrant Christians may help the US keep its Christian core. Given current patterns we can anticipate that the churches that will be thriving in ten to fifteen years will have learned to navigate these changes, and many more that are coming, in many and creative ways. Various types of intercultural and multi-congregational models will continue to develop. The newer and growing minority and immigrant churches will need to find new ways to interact with churches outside of their ethnic communities. But the demographic changes will only make some of the existing challenges more acute. Will we finally be able to break the chains of the legacy of slavery and racism that continue to bind churches in this country? Will we make peace with being a multilingual church in the US? Are we ready to see ourselves as part of the global church that is much larger than our nation-state? Are we ready to follow Jesus Christ together as the church in the US becomes browner? That is our challenge and the opportunity that God has placed before us. v NOTES 1. I participated in this program as a member (and chair) of the ATS Committee on Race and Ethnicity (CORE). I also served as a coach for one of the groups of almost forty seminaries that participated in this process. 2. Emerson uses “20 percent rule” because if a particular ethnic group represents at least 20 percent of the membership it is more likely to influence change in the church. Given the realities of power and change dynamics in the church, a congregation with an 80/20 reality may be on its way to become more multicultural, but it may also be that the “20 percent community” may see itself as having a very limited role in the leadership and direction of the congregation.
Spiritual Disruptions: Reflections on Mosaic
or eighteen years, from 1984 to 2001, I served in homogeneous churches. Frankly, I never thought much about who we were or who we might become if we were not separated by race and class from other believers living in close proximity. Yes, people were saved, baptisms recorded, and ministries grew, but I can’t say entire communities were transformed through our efforts.
All Aboard On January 21, 2015, I wrote a piece for Christianity Today titled “Segregation and the Church: From Where We’ve Come”1 to interpret data recently released by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The piece called attention to an article written just a few days earlier by Bob Smietana titled, “Sunday Morning Segregation: Most Worshipers Feel Their Church Has Enough Diversity.”2 Smietana observes that, • More than eight in ten congregations are made up of one predominant racial group. • Two-thirds of American churchgoers (67 percent) say their church is doing enough to become racially diverse. • More than half (53 percent) disagree with the statement, “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.” Smietana wrote, “Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life … and most worshipers think their church is fine the way it is.”3 However, I countered, “There’s another equally valid way to interpret the data that is much more promising given the fact that twenty-five years ago, even fifteen years ago, very few pastors or denominations were even asking the questions.”4
Mark DeYmaz is the founding pastor and directional leader of Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and president of Mosaix Global Network. Portions of this article have been adapted from Chapter 3 of his latest book, Disruption: Repurposing the Church to Redeem the Community (Thomas Nelson/Leadership Network, 2017).
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church More positively, I observed: • Some 14 percent of churches today have at least 20 percent ethnic diversity in their attending membership, a percentage that has doubled in the past ten years. • One-fourth of American churchgoers now say their church is not doing enough to become racially diverse. • Almost half (40 percent) agree with the statement, “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.” To be clear, I was not challenging the research. Rather, my purpose was to call attention to how far the American church has come in this regard. In fact, the piece documents a history of the growing movement toward multiethnic churches in the United States from the 1940s to the present as follows: 1960–2000 || Forerunner Stage5 Initial outliers begin experimentation and pursuit of the vision. General understanding and receptivity to the message is low across the board. Perhaps only 1 to 3 percent of churches throughout the United States have at least 20 percent diversity in their attending membership. 2000–2020 || Pioneer Stage Theology, core commitments, common challenges, promising practices, and more are discovered and proliferated through the rise of intentional multiethnic church planting and development. Many more books, articles, and national conferences on the subject all help to explain the why, what, and how of multiethnic churches for a growing number of interested pastors and church planters. In 2000, just over 7 percent of churches have at least 20 percent diversity in their attending membership. Ten years later, the percentage has doubled and movement leaders push for 20 percent diversity in 20 percent of churches by 2020. 2020–2030 || Early Adopter Stage In these years, a surge in understanding, planting, and multiethnic church development will take place. Entire denominations will embrace the vision as well and routinely empower diverse leaders at the highest levels of responsibility and authority throughout their organizations. The most vibrant and relevant churches in the United States will be multiethnic. 2030 and Beyond || Mainstream Stage Multiethnic churches will be understood as biblical and normative. Churches choosing to remain systemically segregated will be marginalized by a society that does not get it, does not like it, and wants nothing to do with it—that is, any Christian organization that does not reflect the diversity of its community. This stage will coincide with a period in American history when it’s estimated that one in two people in the United States will not be white.6 Readers will notice that the length of stages is being progressively cut in half due to the proliferation of ideas, connection, and encouragement via the internet. 26
DeYmaz Prior to 2010, general interest in and receptivity to the message was low, as was the number of pastors actually leading or serving in a multiethnic church context. Soon after Mosaix’s first national conference on the subject (November 2010), there was a surge in interest and receptivity to multiethnic church work. Of course, it wasn’t simply the conference that led to this surge. Growing division throughout the United States affected by race and class helped to prioritize the need for multiethnic churches as some fifteen to twenty years of seed planting by pioneers had begun to bear fruit. To this day, increasing numbers of pastors are intentionally planting or repurposing their churches to embody the multiethnic vision. From Russell Moore to Jim Wallis, a variety of nationally recognized denominational and organizational leaders also are calling for such spiritual disruption—a substantive movement away from local church segregation in the twenty-first century for the sake of the gospel. In short, the train has left the station and there is no turning back. The future of the local church is multiethnic, a welcomed and biblical return to first-century congregational practice in which diverse men and women walk, work, and worship God together as one so the world will know and trust God’s love (John 17:20–23; Acts 11:19–26; 13:1). I wonder, is your church on board? Indeed, it will need to be in the future in order to effectively engage its community for the sake of the gospel. Chris Rice explained it best in a book he coauthored with Spencer Perkins nearly twenty years ago titled More than Equals: Yes, deep reconciliation will produce justice and new relationships between the races. Yes this will lead Christians to become a bright light in the public square. But I have become convinced that God is not very interested in the church healing the race problem. I believe it is more true that God is using race to heal the church.7
Establish Credibility Can a church really hope to redeem its community if it does not authentically reflect its community in terms of ethnic and economic diversity? The desire to establish multiethnic churches must not merely be rooted in the fact that Barack Obama is biracial and somehow representative of the changing face of America or in the late Rodney King’s emotional appeal, “Can we all get along?”8 Nor should we pursue the dream simply because demographic shifts are bringing change to North America.9 Rather, our intentions must be firmly rooted in God’s Word. The starting point for such a discussion is not sociology but theology, and more specifically, the New Testament. I’ve written extensively on the biblical mandate and practices of multiethnic local church ministry over the past sixteen years. In fact, in the summer of 2001, during the prenatal stage of our church plant in Little Rock, we first articulated the vision of Mosaic Church. That statement of purpose remains on Mosaic’s website today: 27
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church Mosaic is a multiethnic, economically diverse church established by men and women seeking to know God and to make Him known through the pursuit of unity in accordance with the prayer of Jesus Christ (John 17:20–23) and patterned after the New Testament church at Antioch (Acts 11:19–26; 13:1ff.).10 Take a moment to consider the following questions and responses that characterize our theological thinking. Q: For what reason was the church established? A: To know God and to make Him known. Q: By what specific means do we seek to know God and make Him known? A: Through the pursuit of unity, specifically in bringing men and women of varying ethnic and economic backgrounds together as one in the church. In fact, the Apostle Paul expected this of the local church and prayed that we be “rooted and grounded in love, (may be) able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17–19). Biblical evidence does not support the notion of a homogeneous church at Ephesus (Acts 19:8–17; 20:21). Paul’s use of the phrase “all the saints” in Ephesians is a direct reference to his expectation that believing Jews and Gentiles, grounded in the love of Christ and a love for one another, would become fully complete in faith, mature, lacking in nothing, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church” (3:10). Further, the word “manifold” means “many various colors” (Greek, polypoikilos; poly meaning “much” or “many” and poikilos meaning “various colors, variegated, of various sorts”). In other words, believers can more closely experience the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven and more credibly demonstrate to others God’s love for all people in a healthy multiethnic church (3:21). Q: On what authority is our work predicated and modeled? A: The prayer of Christ (John 17:20–23) and the work at Antioch (Acts 11:19–26; 13:1–3). God’s heart for the nations is made clear in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. “Sadly, however, the general narrative has not necessarily informed local church development through the years.”11 Therefore, I argue, “The intentional planting and development of local churches that reflect God’s love for all people … is not optional in the New Testament; it is mandated.” I provide three primary theological insights in support of this claim:12
DeYmaz I. Christ Envisioned the Multiethnic Church –John 17:20–23 On the night before his crucifixion, Christ prayed specifically that future generations of believers would be united as one to provide a manifest witness of God’s love for all people so that the world (the entire human family) might recognize him as the Messiah, sent from God, and believe. II. Luke Described the Multiethnic Church –Acts 11:19–27; 13:1–3 It is the multiethnic church at Antioch and not the homogeneous church at Jerusalem that should serve as our primary model for local church development in the twenty-first century. Indeed, the church at Antioch was history’s first multiethnic, missional, multisite megachurch. III. Paul Prescribed the Multiethnic Church –Book of Ephesians The theme of this letter is the unity of the church for the sake of the gospel. A common error is to assume that the mystery of which Paul is speaking is simply the mystery of the gospel—the good-news message of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and atonement for sin. Yet, in Ephesians 3, Paul made it clear that the mystery of Christ is the mystical union of Christ’s body. Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (vv. 2–6 NIV). Jews and Gentiles have been made one with God through faith in Jesus Christ and are to be one in the church on earth as it is in heaven, in order to proclaim a credible witness of God’s love for all people. With such things in mind, it is important to restate that a healthy multiethnic and economically diverse church is not driven to be merely politically correct, but biblically correct for the sake of the gospel. Its focus is on reconciling men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ and on reconciling the church to the principles and practices of the New Testament congregations of faith where men and women of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds walked, worked, and worshiped together as one so the world would know God’s love and believe. In fact, it was the observable unity and diversity of believers in the local churches at Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome that fueled the church’s credibility in the first century, in a society much like our own today, prone to division and conflict along the lines of race, class, and culture. The need to overcome systemic segregation in the local church, then, is essential to repurposing the church to redeem the community. The systemic segregation of the church unintentionally undermines the very gospel we proclaim. In observ29
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church ing racial, class, and culture division in the church today, the community rightly wonders: • Why is the church so segregated if it believes God loves everyone? • Why are there no people of color in positions of responsible authority? • Why does the church send people overseas but not across the street?
Think About It Only by returning to the principles and practices of the first-century churches can we hope to reach an increasingly diverse and cynical society with a credible witness of God’s love for all people. To repurpose the church and redeem the community, we must spiritually disrupt the entrenched homogeneity of our systems in order to build healthy multiethnic and economically diverse churches, denominations, and networks. v NOTES 1. Mark DeYmaz, “Segregation and the Church: From Where We’ve Come,” Christianity Today (January 2015), www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/january/segregation-and-church-fromwhere-weve-come.html. 2. Bob Smietana, “Sunday Morning Segregation: Most Worshipers Feel Their Church Has Enough Diversity,” Christianity Today (15 January 2015), www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/january/ sunday-morning-segregation-most-worshipers-church-diversity.html. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. I first wrote about these stages in the Introduction to Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church (formerly Ethnic Blends) by Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010, 2013). 6. I could also speak of gender and generational divides here as well; and there are indeed pastors and churches equally intentional in this regard. By and large, healthy churches in the United States reflect gender and generational diversity in their laity if not yet as they should, in my opinion, on their leadership teams. Thus, I am more focused on getting the American church beyond systemic segregation along the lines of race and class, two of the three great sociological divides addressed by Paul in Galatians 3:26–28 (NIV) where he wrote to local churches in the region of Galatia: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Again, in my opinion, it is primarily ethnic and economic segregation in the local church that is today hindering the credibility of our efforts throughout the country. 7. Chris Rice and Spenser Perkins, More Than Equals (Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 261. 8. See this short video clip of Mr. King uttering those words during an interview aired by CNN on May 1, 1992, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sONfxPCTU0. 9. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/13/18934111-census-white-majority-in-usgone-by-2043. 10. Mark DeYmaz, Disruption: Repurposing the Church to Redeem the Community (HarperCollins, May 2017), 55. 11. Mark DeYmaz, 57. 12. Mark DeYmaz, 57.
We asked religious leaders for their reflections on multiethnic ministry in light of this issue’s lead article. Here is what they told us.
Pastor, author, speaker, and radio talk show host, Dr. David Anderson is the founding senior pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland. A sought after consultant around issues of racial reconciliation and multicultural ministry, he is the author of five books including the award winning Gracism: The Art of Inclusion. The Reverend Cindy Kohlmann (MDiv’99) serves the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England as the resource presbyter, a position that replaced the traditional general/executive presbyter model. Prior to this shared position, she pastored the Clinton (Massachusetts) Presbyterian Church, which went from 99% white to at least 50% West African/50% white. Now honorably retired, The Reverend Consuelo Donahue (MDiv’96) has been a hospice chaplain and was the corporate chaplain for GoodWill Industries of San Antonio. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, she has served as an interim pastor and served on the boards of Planned Parenthood in San Antonio, The Religion Coalition for Reproductive Rights, and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Why are mainline Protestant churches less diverse than the broader society? David Anderson To use an agricultural analogy, you get what you plant. If you plant multiculturally, you will reap multiculturally. Unfortunately most mainline Protestant churches are not planted multiculturally, nor are many planted in ethnically diverse areas. Cindy Kohlmann There are many factors, but I believe white supremacy and white privilege are the main problems. If you had to live in a culture and language Monday through Saturday that wasn’t your home culture and language, why would you choose to fit yourself into that same culture when you worship as well? Choosing to worship God in a way that feeds the heart and soul is something we all desire, and white-centered worship often doesn’t provide that nurture for people of color.
The Gift of the Multiethnic Church Consuelo Donahue In my opinion, the mainline Protestant churches are afraid of change: afraid of new music, new ideas for worship, and even afraid of new leadership. The old concept of “we’ve always done it that way,” needs to be discarded and transformed into “maybe this new happy music will attract younger parishioners.” One way to look at the richness of other cultures could be an inspiration/transformation introduction into learning from other cultures. Maybe these churches are “paralyzed” by focusing on safety rather than adventure. What should be done to increase diversity in churches? Consuelo Donahue Invite other forms of worship, for example, a group that does liturgical dance; a praise team that plays differently from the “old traditional hymns.” Make a visit to an ethnic church. Invite a guess preacher from another tradition. Here is my favorite: invite jazz player and singer Judy de Leon to play: “The Gospel according to Jazz!” Cindy Kohlmann Making space in the center, being willing to favor other ways to worship and encounter Scripture, and co-creating the Sunday service are essential to increasing diversity. Churches that have successfully made the shift from white-centered work and worship to work and worship that reflects the whole community have grappled with white privilege and supremacy in order to “normalize” other expressions of faith within their midst. Drums and dancing, shouting and passionate sermons, or other culturally nurturing forms of worship become expected in the Sunday service. David Anderson Established churches must be intentional in building bridges to diverse communities, and that begins with the pastor. If the shepherd is living a life that is intentionally multicultural in his or her relationships, the rest will follow. Once relationships are built, what is conveyed (the importance of diversity) must be portrayed (diversity on the platform, in worship, in leadership, etc.). In nested churches one group uses another’s space while in multiethnic churches different ethnic groups worship together. What is needed to move from a nested to a multiethnic model of ministry? Cindy Kohlmann Relationships developed between people within the congregations can create a foundation of trust and mutual understanding. Especially important is the process of asking permission to enter into the work and worship of the ethnic congregation, joining them instead of expecting them to “do it our way.” These relationships help us see where white assumptions of what is right and proper create tensions 32
Pastors’ Panel and misunderstandings. Then we can begin to sense where different ethnic groups can build on common ground or common experiences. Consuelo Donahue While Protestant churches are big on worship, the first thing would be to focus on Christ as the model for ministry, versus ethnicity. In other words, we should do better to emphasize Jesus Christ. Ministry should be based on the love and inclusiveness that Jesus showed. Americans don’t celebrate the diversities of cultural perspectives. For this reason minorities can feel excluded, rather than included into leadership. It is my belief that minorities should be recognized for their gifts and invited into leadership roles. David Anderson Relationships must be built between the home church and the nesting church. Leadership must come alongside one another and forge a bond, learn from one another, and do life together. Then congregations can be brought in to continue the work that leadership has begun, under the covering of that leadership. A direct invitation to visit each other’s services is one option, as is a “pulpit swap” in the early stages of the relationship. Eventually leadership must feel comfortable as well as compelled to merge and begin to worship together.
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Required Reading Books recommended by the Austin Seminary faculty The Divine Dance: the Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell (Whitaker
common form of Trinity theology), we should begin with the three— the relationship—to discover that the relationship defines the One. The Divine Dance draws from wide sources of Christian history and includes creative (and sometimes challenging) treatment of the biblical text. Central to Rohr’s view of the Trinity is the Greek word perichoresis, a term coined by the Desert Mothers and Fathers of the early church that is best translated “dancing.” God is defined in relationship, one that resembles the grace and delight of a dance. Rohr then points to the little rectangle in the front of the table, which art experts have studied and found remnants of glue. The theory he posits is that the icon originally held a mirror on that spot. The figure representing the Holy Spirit points there, suggesting that the work was meant to be an invitation to participate in the divine dance. One side of the table is meant for us! We are invited to the Trinitarian, divine dance. The book is not arranged in chapters as such, but short, one to three page topics, best read then reflected upon. Some topics deal with gender (“I think the spaces in between the members of the Trinity are unmistakably feminine.”), penal substitution (the Franciscans have rejected that doctrine since the fourteenth century, and Rohr argues for restorative justice over retributive justice), and sin (“We are not punished for our sins—we are punished by our sins!”). But the overarching theme of the book is grace—the freely given love of a God who has created all things out of love. Even quantum physics is viewed as evidence of the dance (“Imagine this: the deepest intuitions of our poets and mystics and Holy Writ are aligning with findings on the leading edges of science and empirical discovery.”) In a kind of repeated chorus, Rohr sings of the Trinity, God for us, we call you Father. God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
House, 2016). Reviewed by Blair Monie, Professor in the Louis H. and Katherine S. Zbinden Distinguished Chair of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership
ichard Rohr, a Franciscan priest in the New Mexico Province and founder of The Center for Action and Contemplation, is the author of numerous popular books such as Falling Upward and The Naked Now. This book was conceived in several retreat presentations, but co-author Mike Morrell (best known as the founder of The Wild Goose Festival) saw the promise of a book, and the final work bears his influence. Rohr begins with the assumption that although the Trinity is a central doctrine of the Christian faith, it is seldom explored deeply or creatively. Trinity is often treated as a “dry doctrine” either shrouded in unexplainable mystery or limited to Sunday School explanations of “water, ice, and steam.” This book offers a deeper and more creative treatment of the Trinity; the title is well-chosen, for Rohr’s Trinity is an invitation to participate in the Godhead in a way that transforms. On the inside and outside of each cover is The Trinity by the fourteenth century iconographer Andrei Rublev. Based on Abraham’s encounter with three figures under the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18), the icon also became associated with the three persons of the Trinity, each one pointing to the next in a circular formation around the table. Rohr finds the icon suggestive of a relational view of the Trinity. He reflects that electrons, protons, and neutrons are meaningless alone; it is the relationship among them that forms the stuff of matter. He suggests that rather than beginning with the One and moving to the Three (a
Divine Dance mirrors every other aspect of life. Just as the Trinity is primarily relationship, so everything is connected and part of the dance. Perhaps this is most beautifully expressed in these lines, which Rohr quotes from Meister Eckhart:
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit. You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things, Even us and even me.
Rohr eschews theology that is afraid of sources outside Christianity, pointing to a highly suggestive Hindu teaching of the “three qualities of God”: Sat, which means “being,” Chit, which means “consciousness” or “knowledge,” and Ananda, meaning “happiness” or “bliss.” Rohr adds, “Truth is one, and universal.” There is surely much here to disagree with, and some of Rohr’s fantastic reflections invite pushback; but if his goal is to dust off an “old, dry doctrine” and show how the Trinity relates to and enlivens faith, he has clearly succeeded. The
Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity? I will tell you. In the core of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.
Continued from page 15 Why don’t more churches blend or engage in joining multiple ethnic traditions? I think that’s the million dollar question, and that’s what we have to figure out because otherwise our mainline denominations are going to lose relevancy in a rapidly changing society. One reason is resistance to change. Another may be fear. Another reason may be they just don’t know how. They have the desire, the disposition, but they just don’t have the skills or know-how to do it. Are there any initiatives on behalf of denominations that encourage you? Oh, yes. I think that PC(USA) has a great movement in 1,001 New Worshipping Communities. I think that’s wonderful. And they’re using all kinds of experimental models of meeting in coffee shops and working with ethnic minority communities, immigrant communities. I think that’s very exciting. The United Methodist Church has the national plan for Hispanic and Latino ministries which provides grant money and training for conferences and congregations trying to reach the Hispanic/Latino population. v
A Heresy of Sameness Continued from page 19
11. David E. Stevens, 133, quoting Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (Princeton, University Press, 1996), 156-158. 12. David E. Stevens, 161. 13. Eric H. F. Law, Inclusion: Making Room for Grace (Chalice Press, 2000), 35-36.
Photograph by Rick Wilking/Reuters
Christianity & Culture
In Search of Prophetic Missions Asante U. Todd
e are living in perilous times with respect to democratic freedoms, including the freedom of religious exercise and other civil rights. Civil rights were already under threat for blacks, Latinos, and the poor under the Obama administration. In the current presidential administration, Muslims, women, and transgender persons stand in danger of losing protection of the law. In the stead of law, the American people would be ruled by one or a combination of elements—presidential decree or even more unregulated global market forces—with the likely results of accelerated destruction of the environment, increased police and/or military presence with relaxed accountability, and/or unchecked, ever-improving surveillance tactics. It remains a question whether Congress can galvanize enough support to be an effective force against the president’s policies. In a deeper sense, Trump’s administration tests the heart and will of the American people: Will our cultural agonisms give birth to new freedoms or oppressions? Democratic and spiritual unity are threatened on two sides: On one side, the Scylla of tribalism, racism, and xenophobia, and on the other, the Charybdis of the love
Asante Todd is assistant professor of Christian ethics at Austin Seminary. A graduate of Austin Seminary and Vanderbilt University, his publications include “Thomas Hobbes on Human Nature,” in Beyond the Pale: Reading Ethics from the Margins (Westminster John Knox, 2011) and “Black Lives Matter and the New Politics” in the new book Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump (Orbis Books, forthcoming).
Todd of wealth, which disregards the God-given worth of others and distorts their image with a cheapened and commodified market value. Thus, even as the presidential administration threatens the rule of law, our own identity politics threaten democratic unity at the societal level. Here, the most visible threat remains the vicious white supremacist nationalism that circulates in certain US public discourses and spaces. A less apparent threat is the gradualism of American progressivism, unable to see that its “tough” take on crime policy and silence about the underside of urban development exhibits yet another face of racism and operates to marginalize poor people concerning decisions on territorial governance, representation (bureaucratic enfranchisement, categorical grants v. block grants, influence over the entire scope of redevelopment decision making), and citizenship. In this context, I want to briefly review four understandings of the church’s mission in contemporary African American culture. These views may be understood as inflections on the larger theme of “freedom,” which has particular symbolic weight in African American culture given our history of enslavement, segregation, and now, mass incarceration. Over the centuries, freedom has been understood in various ways: as release from bondage, as the right to be educated, and as the ability to move about freely and from place to place, to name a few.1 Today, four views of freedom are preached by the black church: prosperity, favor, social justice, and spirituality. The first view is freedom as prosperity. The view, also known as the “Word of Faith” movement or “Prosperity Gospel,” exercises a strong hold on a significant portion of black US Christianity (and even across racial lines). Its persuasive power is rooted in a mixture of notions of God-sanctioned wealth, poverty as sin, and charity as danger with virtues of self-reliance, frugality, and industry.2 At its most basic level, prosperity gospel understands freedom as material and physical prosperity. It is available to anyone with enough personal faith, and any kind of bondage is due to one’s personal lack of faith. Associated priests include Creflo Dollar, Bishop Noel Jones, and Wayne Chaney. The second view is freedom as favor. Often prevalent in black megachurch cultures, the gospel of favor shares with the prosperity gospel an individualistic understanding of mission as evangelism.3 It also shares a vision of the Christian disciple as living a fulfilled, abundant life. However, unlike the prosperity gospel, the abundant life is not defined primarily by material possessions. The gospel of favor teaches that the saved qua saved possess certain categorical benefits that their unsaved counterparts do not. One is that the saved are empowered to live, or “plant the seed” of, a godly life and are entitled to expect certain outcomes, or to “reap a harvest.” Adherents find that its priests, such as Marvin A. McMickle, Alyn E. Waller, and Cynthia Hale, provide motivational preaching, sponsor multifaceted programs that meet religious and personal needs, and have class-diverse congregations prepared for volunteerism outside church walls. The two understandings of mission noted above currently predominate the black church landscape. To their credit, they often endow persons with attributes to succeed in society such as jobs skills and middle-class virtues like hard work, 37
Christianity & Culture respectability, productivity, and self-help. Yet my concern is that with respect to our current context, they don’t exhibit an efficacious prophetic presence on behalf of the poor and oppressed in American public life. Such criticism—that the black church is silent in terms of prophecy in American public life—is not meant to be destructive, but constructive. I recently made similar comments at a local ministers’ meeting, to which one minister responded, with slight offense and great pride, “The church is as healthy as it’s ever been!” It is indeed the case that the church continues to perform its priestly role effectively, to the extent that it serves many of the day-to-day functional needs of African Americans. Like the venerable postbellum “Negro church” of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (1867-1925), churches today serve as a “nation within a nation” as a means of social control, as a site for economic cooperation in the attainment of education, houses, and land, and as a site for entrance into the political arena. Yet many churches have an understanding of mission that keeps them silent about God’s desire for love and justice in the world and about the church’s prophetic role in the Missio Dei. Also, the priestly role, as lived out in a late capitalist society, reinforces a problematic market-driven status quo and facilitates ignorance or blindness about local community, city, or state issues beyond the “drug” or “prostitution” problem. Instead, minsters everywhere aspire to emulate prosperity preachers. The lack of a prophetic critical mass in contemporary affairs often leads scholars to lament nostalgically the loss of the 1960s revolutionary black church. The revolutionary black church actualized well the third model of mission—freedom as social justice. “Gone are the days,” we will say “of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, and others.” The black church of the 1960s took the civil rights and Black Power movements as its cues and was more radical than the Negro church. The 1960s church, motivated by a critical, revolutionary consciousness, played a key role in the black-led US Freedom Movement (1955-1970), the “Blackled eruption that shook the anti-democratic, white supremacist foundations of this nation for … civil rights … freedom, justice, democracy, and the creation of a new society.”4 Blacks provided leadership to the global community as they struggled for freedom and the expansion of democracy in the US. Among them, hundreds of black clergy and their congregations made extraordinary sacrifices in the movement. “Black churches were major points of mobilization for mass meetings and demonstrations, and black church members fed and housed … civil rights workers.”5 Yet today, the black church’s gospel of freedom as social justice faces at least two challenges. The first is the prevalence of more conservative and quietist politics that tend to accompany the priestly church. The next phase of the 1960s civil rights movement was to focus on economic inequality, but today, most black churches, with their theologies of favor and prosperity, easily accept the inequalities of a market-based society. A second challenge to the gospel as social justice is the widespread ambivalence about narratives of progress. In the wake of mass incarceration, Katrina, and other early twenty-first century catastrophes on black life, many 38
Todd African Americans question the possibility of progress as a people in America. It even seems that the language of progress itself, especially in its gradualist forms, justifies, rather than checks, racism and other forms of oppression. “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. “It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’”6 Thus, since the revolutionary black church emerged in the 1960s, it has battled against a reformist black church and a gradualist philosophy of history, then represented by Dr. Joseph H. Jackson, leader of the National Baptist Convention. The gradualist view subscribes to a particular understanding of social reality, namely that through open discussion and debate we will soon achieve a society where all are treated as equals and where everyone will be happy as respectable, hardworking, productive, property-owning, middle-class citizens. However, the recent emergence of movements such as the white supremacist “alt-right” suggests that for now, the age of pure discussion is over and that people are more easily given to direct action and racial myths than rational discussion. With the waning of progressive attitudes and the prevalence of the gospels of prosperity and favor, black Christian revolutionary consciousness, led by Rev. William Barber of “Moral Mondays” and the overarching “Forward Together Freedom Movement,” must again call not only for a political revolution but for a revolution of values through nonviolent mass movements for freedom. It should look for overlapping interests with black freedom movements such as Black Lives Matter, but the revolutionary consciousness of the black church has been quelled by its own traditionalism and classism, which alienates it from poor and/or black youth. However, for all of its public benefit and need, the prophetic voice of the black revolutionary church is largely “silent,” as yet another minister put it in the same minsters’ meeting. This is partly true, but also reflects our inability to see beyond romantic notions of an exclusively political and radical black faith, notions that draw their mythical powers from the public personas and representations of famous men.7 A fourth model of freedom lives elsewhere, beyond the black revolutionary church, among African American women in poor, rural northeastern North Carolina. Here, beyond the lights and cameras of fame and celebrity, everyday women such as Juanita Cleveland, Sylvia Jones, and Carmen Moore, prophesy as it emerges from their spirituality rather than religion, where “decisions to engage in public activism are not necessarily made at moments of crisis, but … based upon a series of unorchestrated interpretive moments that occur over the course of their lives.”8 Here prophecy emerges, not necessarily from a revolutionary consciousness but from a blend of both accommodation and resistance to social powers grounded in the women’s gratitude toward God, their empathy for others, and righteous discontent about oppression. For the rural women of northeastern North Carolina, freedom is spirituality itself, “creativity, the ability to invent, to reinterpret, to move beyond some of the limitations of the ritual and static notions of religiosity ... in the public areas of life as well as the more private areas.”9 Spirituality as understood here relies less 39
Christianity & Culture on a shared text, doctrine, or institutional protocol than on a process of personal, experiential engagement with God that informs one’s thoughts, motivations, and actions. While spirituality doesn’t neglect material concerns, it is ultimately “about living through moments of struggle and moments of peace and ultimately acquiring a better life, a life filled with a deeper knowledge of God.”10 Such knowledge of God leads to both priestly transformation and prophetic engagement, the kind that disrupts the status quo, challenging the very social and economic structures that cause their distress. Let us march on to freedom land. v NOTES 1. C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in African American Religious Experience (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990), 4. 2 . “Godly Riches: The Nineteenth Century Roots of Modern Prosperity Gospel” by Ginger Stickney in Religion and Class in America: Culture, History, and Politics ed. by Sean McCloud & William A. Mirola (Brill, 2009), p 160. See also Keri Day’s Unfinished Business (New York: Orbis Books, 2012). 3. See Sandra Barnes’ Black MegaChurch Culture: Models for Education and Empowerment (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). 4. Vincent Harding, Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement (New York: Orbis Books, 2009) 5. Lincoln and Mamiya, 211-212. See also Victor Anderson’s “Theorizing African American Religion” in Jeanette R. Davidson’s African American Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010). 6. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr. August 1963, https://web.cn.edu/ kwheeler/documents/Letter_Birmingham_Jail.pdf Accessed January 7, 2016 7. Marla F. Frederick, Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003), 12. 8. Frederick, 65. 9. Frederick 10. 10. Frederick, 14.
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Insights, the Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary. The Fall 2017 issue, "The Gift of the Multiethnic Church" features an essay by Professor P...
Published on Oct 12, 2017
Insights, the Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary. The Fall 2017 issue, "The Gift of the Multiethnic Church" features an essay by Professor P...