Is The Emerging Church for Whites Only?


Last week I posted a link to the discussion that is going on about the male dominated nature of the emerging church movement. This week I wanted to highlight the broader discussion on The Emerging Church and Race.  This is such an important discussion as we move forward into a majority future in which the Christian church will be more non-white than white.  And until the present time, not only has this movement been very male dominated it has also very white dominated.  But that is beginning to change, something that all of us should applaud.

God calls us to share life together with sisters and brothers from every tribe and nation and that is not possible if we do not welcome them as friends, and sit down at table with them – not inviting them to our table where we set the agenda and make the rules, but sitting down at a new table at which all of God’s children are listened to and embraced.

The posts below are in response to the Sojourner article Is the Emerging Church for Whites Only?. Sorry you do have to register at Sojourners to read this article.

Here are some other posts on the God’s Politics blog that you do not need to register for.  First of all is a great article by Mustard Seed Team member Eliacin Rosario Cruz – Can the Subaltern Speak? or Moving the Conversation Forward

If you want to catch up on the entire conversation check out this: Emergent and Race. It has lots of great links to posts by, amongst others:

Onleilove Alton – The Global Emergence Won’t Be Televised

Brian McLaren – Turning the Tables of White European Male Privilege – Our Tables, Their Tables and New Tables

Julie Clawson – Emerging or Converging

Lisa Sharon Harper – An Open Letter to the Emerging Church Movement

Sarah-Ji – What Is Happening Is Bigger Than Emergent

Shane Caliborne – The Emerging Church Brand: The Good The Bad and the Messy

13 Responses

  1. To my simple mind, all this talk of white male domination fuss in the Church is absolutely wrong-headed!
    In the first place, I believe it misses the example Jesus sets for us. In another, and equally important text, the entire, truly democratic nature of the Church is set forth. I wonder if Paul actually understood what he wrote, because it contradicts so much else of his writings – (Galatians 3:28) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    It bothers me deeply that so much of the mess the Church finds Herself in today rests solely upon the errorneous determination that the Church is: a) patriarchal; and b) hierarchical.
    We, the faithful, need to alter the perception of the Church and all her memebers, for the up-coming generation so that a more balanced view is taken, and the Holy Ghost may speak more freely. Paul advises us:(1Th 5:19) Quench not the Spirit.
    It may be that for the better part of 2,000 years, that seems to be ALL the Church has done. No one has benefitted thereby!

  2. I agree and I think that is the point that many of the posts that have been contributed for these series affirm

  3. I’m not concerned that the emerging church is dominated by white males. In fact, it could be a very good thing. It means that Western men are finally getting tired enough to get up and do something about their spirituality. Typically, church congregations have more women in them than men, so when its the men who are motivated to seek a more meaningful relationship with God, then it is a positive step forward.

    Also, it reflects a major dissatisfaction with the level of spirituality in the Western church, which may not be present in the churches of other cultures which aren’t so driven by Western capitalistic and self-focused values. It makes sense that cultures that are not so self absorbed will have a church culture that is more along the same lines, and therefore people won’t feel the same need to move to something new.

    I’m suggesting that it might be just the Western church that needs an emerging church.

    • Brian,
      I know what you mean but I think that the importance of this conversation lies not in whether or not there are men in the church but rather in how those men that are in the church often try to dominate without giving voice to women, children or to those of other cultures.
      It is ironic that though the Western church has far more women than men in it when it comes to church leadership the opposite is seen and in many situations the women are still not allowed to speak for themselves or teach. It is this domination that the emerging church conversation is seeking to address.
      And you are right that the church in Africa, Asia and Latin America has less need of the emerging church as we see it in the West but one of the challenges all our cultures face is that we are becoming mulitcultural – we don’t even need to go to other parts of the world to live alongside and worship with people of other cultures. Again the problem is that white males tend to dominate the conversation and are often not open to other viewpoints or theological perspectives

  4. The post by Claiborn really spoke to me. There comes a point when we need to stop talking about how we do theology in order to do it. I have been SOOOO guilty of that. I’m grateful to have Claiborn as a guide. Thanks for sharing some of the voices in this discussion.

  5. Lisa Sharon Harper (see link above) said “No church … ever just naturally evolved into a truly multi-ethnic, multi-racial, or multi-cultural church without setting their face toward Jerusalem”

    I have thought about this from many years, and my conclusion is that it isn’t important for individual churches to be truly multi-ethnic, multi-racial, or multi-cultural. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I don’t think it will ever happen this side of Heaven.

    If I went to live in a country where the language and culture was totally different from my own, I would seek out people from my own culture and associate with them (socially and spiritually) simply because they would have the same historical and experiential framework as me. Not because I am biased against the other culture. The reverse is when people of foreign cultures move into my neighbourhood. I don’t expect them to suddenly become like me with my likes and dislikes (culturally speaking).

    So why would I expect them to immediately adopt my style of worship and give up their own meaningful style?

    None of what I’ve said above excuses negative cultural bias which puts down other cultural values or practices.

    God is gracious and allows different styles of worship, hence the number of different denominations within our own culture. If we were to say that the only acceptable church is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, or multi-cultural one, then we should also encourage the unification of all the denominations into one common church.

    • Brian,
      I appreciate the fact that you have been reading so many of these posts and I am inclined to agree with you that the truly multi-ethnic church in which we all treat each other with respect and open ourselves to other cultural perspectives of the gospel is not likely until we reach the kingdom of God. But on the other hand we are meant to be representatives of God’s kingdom and so even though we can’t do it perfectly I think that we are meant to seek to embody something of the multicultural nature of the kingdom.
      Pentecost is only a few weeks away and one of the things that I love about Pentecost is that “they all heard each other in their own languages” In other words Pentecost was about mutual understanding across cultures – something which we will never accomplish unless we spend time together – worshipping, eating, singing and having fun together.
      Church should never be about us trying to get everyone to worship in the way that we like. It should be about learning to appreciate the gifts that all people have and learning to share life together as a result.

  6. In response to Brian (above): What you say is correct.
    The very nature of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, the Bride, gathered by the Holy Ghost, is NOT to be divisive or separatist. The Church is, by Her very nature, a welcoming, inclusive family, in which differences are celebrated. Each brings unique gifts to glorify the Holy One and those gifts, and the vessels which bear them, are creations of the Most High and, so, ought to be respected.
    What matter the color of the vessel so long as the giver is honest and the gift is glorifies the Body? (According to the Apostle!)
    And, aside from the fact that we all seem to agree that the church ought not to be divisive or racist in any sense, is whether WE are truly, in our hearts, open and welcoming to all who truly seek HIS Presence and Grace. Rich or poor, white, black or otherwise – THAT is not our determination. OUR conern is whether we are right with the Father!

  7. Christine said: “Church should never be about us trying to get everyone to worship in the way that we like. It should be about learning to appreciate the gifts that all people have and learning to share life together as a result.”
    Amen, and amen, Sister.
    I would only add, from my perspective, we are to work to re-establish the True Creation, the Garden, as it, and we, were intended to live!
    Wasn’t that the Life and Message of Jesus – to establish the Kingdom on Earth?

    • Scott I hope you don’t expect any disagreement from me. As a keen gardener and a teacher of seminars on spirituality and gardening I am very keen to help people reconnect their lives to God’s good creation. God intended us to steward the creation and make it flourish not to destroy it.

  8. NO, indeedy, Sister. In fact, I think it would behoove us all to “remove our shoes for the place whereon we stand is holy.”
    We should run barefoot through the soil, and go to the beach and run through the sand and surf to remember, “dust we are, and to dust we shall return.”
    There is something wonderfully primal and child-like in being barefoot in the soil! The smell of raw earth, the spume of the sea…it is the stuff of our creation!
    We are given this brief moment, yesterday is gone and we can only trust HIM for tomorrow. This NOW is all we have – let us LIVE, as HE IS LIFE. “I AM that I AM.”

  9. I agree with the overall sentiment of this thread, but am not sure I really think it will come to pass in practice. It is a spiritual ideal. The fact that an ’emerging church’ now has a name is proof that the good folks who align their thinking with the EC, cannot find what they want with Christians of other view points.

    This brings me back to my overall point: different cultures and different denominations are here to stay. We can’t wish that them away, or say that they are bad or in some way negative. Because we are all different in personality, age, gender, culture etc, we will tend to associate with people of like type. I do not believe this is inherently wrong or bad.

    If in those groups, we become exclusive, then we have a totally different issue.

    Blessings,
    Brian

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