Race & Theology in Prominent Evangelical Seminaries

I recently finished my req’s @ Regent College in Vancouver, BC and am awaiting my Master’s degree diploma. Let me just say: I LOVE REGENT. I love so many things about it, its faculty, its ethos, its program, its student body, its campus – everything. But like all good things, it’s not perfect. While there I developed a nascent theology of race that found its way into many of my later papers, and while I got good marks on those, just felt they were dismissed. Of course, every writer is convinced of his/her importance and I inwardly raged; “This is the most important thing in the world!” “I’m not just writing academically, I’m writing from the heart.” Alas; profs are inundated with passionate writing; and mine was no more unique. Or is it? I’ll let you judge. Snippets of the convo:

* At heart the agenda is not multi-culturalism per se; rather it is cross culturalism – A willingness to become uncomfortable at someone else’s table.

** To do this is to fundamentally displace ourselves, a practice that some might question the necessity of; but I argue that such a step is vital if our “missional” endeavor be less beholden to cultural captivities.

*** Simply put, it is to replace the third person plural pronoun of “them”, “they”, to the first person plural pronoun of “us”, “we”. For us to do theology from a place of ascendedness – note: kenotic missional endeavors are never complete without ascension –  is to perpetuate the dialogue from the first-to-third person perspective; how can “we” reach “them”, how can “we” missionize “them”. When in fact, “them” is fast becoming “us” – last I checked. Our prided evangelicalism is no longer our possession. It is returning to the hands of the exile, the displaced, the immigrant, the minority. We perpetuate the we-to-them dichotomy when we refuse to allow “them” to represent our scholastic disciplines. To be sure, this does not occur as a conscious decision to marginalize; it is a systemic issue requiring systemic reform. To capitulate to the default is to silence the margins once again from speaking. So it is necessary to come off the fence when it comes to talking about diversifying faculty. It is necessary to take a stance when yet another “missional church conference” is pontificated entirely from a white, suburban perspective. While Elie Wiesel’s words speak to much more extreme circumstances, the principle still applies:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”

So ignoring race doesn’t make it go away, in other words. It actually perpetuates the problem. I hope more and more seminaries will catch this drift and understand that theology needs to take place more from the margins.

In the end what is happening is that I am finding a few people beginning to draw the same connection I made between the Trinity and a theology for otherness, that is to say, a theology for diversity, a theology for cross-culturalism, a theology to un-root a strong cultural captivity.

distincti, non divisi;

discreti, non separati

una substantia – tres personae

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

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