I first became aware of Dr. Anthony Bradley and his work through twitter, where I follow his commentary on evangelicalism, politics, where to get good haircuts, and college football. I became even more impressed with him as he facilitated (and was subsequently left out of news reports on) a discussion on race and the church with John Piper and Tim Keller. Anyone who can hang with those two White Evangelical heavyweights is someone I want to read.
When I began to hear about the book he was editing, Aliens in the Promised Land:Why Minority Leadership is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions I was excited. Having served in vocational ministry for 10 years I have seen much of white Evangelicalism less than succeeding in empowering minorities at various levels in ministry. I have longed for more help in clearly understanding the barriers facing us. The authors in this volume did not disappoint.
Synopsis of the Book
Edited by Anthony Bradley, the book is a collection of essays by various ethnic minority evangelical authors. Nine chapters are devoted to hearing from the Black, African American, and Asian American communities on what they perceive to be factors causing minorities to be overlooked within White churches and institutions. The essays range from topics covering discipleship in urban contexts to theological education.
What I liked
I found “Race and Racialization in a Post-Racist Evangelicalism: A View from Asian America” by Amos Young to be a particularly helpful essay. It was the first time I had heard the term racialization, which he defined as “the social proccesses of devaluing nonwhite ethnicity and culture, of subordinating the latter to the dominant white regime, and, in some cases, even seeking to eliminate such from the contemporary cultural landscape.”1 He recognizes that evangelicalism has come a long way in race relations, but also points out some of the problems still plaguing it. One quote hit home:
The point was that Christianity was characterized by North American cultural habits, and converts to Christianity were expected to leave behind their cultural traditions in turning to Christ.2
I’ve found this to be the unconscious reality in Evangelicalism. Because majority culture members tend not to be aware of how their own culture influences their perspective on and practice of Christianity, they are often unaware of how that plays out when they cross-cultures in ministry.
As a minister with Latino college students, I was also grateful for the essay by Dr. Juan Martinez: “Serving Alongside Latinos in a Multiethnic, Transnational, Rapidly Changing World.” Much of the essay focuses on the Biblical and Theological training of Latinos for ministry. He asks:
US Seminaries want more Latino students. But do they want Latinos in leadership, guiding the direction of those seminaries?3
That question remains unanswered, not just by seminaries, but by most majority culture dominated churches and parachurch ministries.
Anthony Bradley includes material he has published elsewhere at the end of the book that I found helpful for the continuing dialogue on the multiethnic church. You can read more here: “Moving Toward Racial Solidarity“.
What I thought could improve/Questions that remain
Christena Cleveland pointed out in a tweet to me that while this volume was about leaders being overlooked, it included no female authors. This has to be a significant (and sadly ironic) oversight that should be rectified in future volumes.
@missioeric I'm disappointed that female voices were excluded (just a day in the life of a WOC evangelical) but otherwise the book is good.
— Christena Cleveland (@CSCleve) June 13, 2013
One desire I have for future publications on this topic would be for case studies of institutions or organizations that have gotten this issue right. What mistakes did they make along the way? What helped them to be able to make the shift? It seems that so many are unable to make the shift to empowering ethnic minority leadership, is anyone doing this well?
I recommend this book to anyone in ministry in the United States, especially if you are not currently working in an ethnic minority context.
Aliens in the Promised Land is available on Amazon and other places Christian books are sold.