In Friday’s post, Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige made two profound statements which offer a great transition into the second part of this series. Her statements were:
1. “Race still matters,” and
2. We need to “create a safe space for people to really learn about each other.”
I want to acknowledge the truth of these statements as we discuss “Neglected Voices in the Church.” For centuries, the standard voice in the church has been white and male. That voice offers creditability and validation for which others seek.
The problem with this standard, however, is other voices are marginalized or completely ignored in the process. We all, therefore, come to believe the deception that minorities (either racial, ethnic, or women) have not made significant contributions to the church, particularly in the areas of leadership, scholarship, or theology. That is simply not true.
Even today, we look around and see special occasions for celebrating the “other” voices that are “exceptions” to the standard. In their October 2012 issue, Christianity Today’s cover reads “50 Women to Watch: Those most Shaping the Church and Culture.” I am thankful that Christianity Today took the time to highlight the ministry of these women, but the need for such an effort reveals that women and their contributions to the church and ministry are not being engaged, honored, and valued enough in the day-to-day process of our faith journeys. If acknowledging and experiencing women’s leadership contributions in the church were “normal,” there would not be a need for such a glamorous article. After all, rarely do I see a white male sharing his cover story with 49 other white males.
Likewise, when ChurchRelevance released its annual Top 200 Christian Blog List consisting of “today’s most influential church leaders, journalists, theologians, and Christ followers” a couple months ago, I found the article, “I was Thinking of Giving Up Blogging” quite intriguing. In his reflective article, Thabiti Anyabwile, “realized there [were] very few ethnic Christians on the listing!” Scott Williams, whom we have featured several times throughout this series, makes the cut. UrbanFaith, which I write for, also makes the list. Aside from them, however, there are approximately five ethnic voices featured in the list of 200. Anyabwile closes the article asking the question, “What does this mean?”
For me, it does not mean that we measure someone’s faithful commitment to the Lord or his or her work with articles, evaluating stats, blog hits, social media connections, etc. It does mean, however, that from one evangelical perspective, the gatekeepers and standards of relevance in the American church for leadership today is still white and male, and all other voices are in many ways secondary.
Today, that reality alone is not always a direct result of racism. It can, on the other hand, be an indirect result of the privileged who continue to benefit from racism. So in some ways, we do need to make race an issue. Scott Williams writes, “The only way race will become a non-issue is if we make race an issue (94).” Being intentional about overcoming the challenges associated with racial reconciliation means that we acknowledge that race matters. It also means that we create safe places for people to learn about each other.
In the second part of this series, I am creating a safe place for previously “neglected voices” to share their history, stories, struggles with race, racism, identity, American life, and the church. While none of these voices speak to the totality of any one race or ethnic group of people, I hope these interviews will at least give a brief look into other people’s lives and culture so that we can all have a better perspective of living out the gospel, viewing God, and loving neighbors who are different.
Feel free to be bold. Ask questions. Share your perspectives as we journey on together.
Is the white male voice still the standard? Does this matter in the church?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012