Monday, May 30, 2005

Why I Want an Embracing Church

My family 1986. front row: Dad, Timothy, Mom, nephew KC, son Charlie, son Thomas. back Row: sister Marcia, niece Rena, daughter Kimberly, Laura, Me, sister-in-law Michelle, brother Keith. Missing brother Carl and nephew Shaun Posted by Hello

We introduced our Embracing Church course with personal reflections on why we were there. Here’s a version of my comments:

"My crisis of faith began when I was in graduate school studying Christian education. I was serving as a junior high minister at a large church in Nashville. This church was born out of a rather restrictive heritage, but had experienced a charismatic awakening several years earlier. They were now at the forefront of the charismatic movement. From my assessment they were beginning to become as restrictive about their charismatic experiences as they had been in the past with other issues.

But I’m in graduate school, studying theology and Bible at one of the country’s most progressive divinity schools. I didn’t agree with many of my professors’ biblical conclusions. But I tried to show my understanding of the issues while disagreeing with the conclusions.

While few of the issues were new to me, I hadn’t anticipated that the tension would affect me so profoundly. I hadn’t accounted for how my livelihood and my spiritual life depended on my making some sense of this church and this academic experience.

One reason I hadn’t anticipated the tension was that I was used to living with diversity. First, I’m African American. And as WEB DuBois put it, we Black Americans all live with twoness.

Second, I was nurtured in the Protestant Sunday Schools on military bases, where denomination meant close to nothing.

Third, I had lived for the longest time in my life in Hawaii, where the cultural salad bowl meant than everyone knew exactly who they were ethnically regardless of the mixes, we were proud of whatever we were, and we were continually learning to live together.

Which leads me to the other reason I am here. Nothing has grieved me in the Christian church as much as the lack of unity. I saw it most blatantly when I moved to Nashville 20 years ago and looked for a multiracial church. In this city of churches, multiracial congregations are still hard to find. And while the reasons for such are complicated, I still long for the reality of unity."

I didn’t mention the rest of the story evidenced by my family picture above. The pic’s almost a decade old. My dad has since left us. My kids, nephews and nieces are a lot bigger. And (depending on your accounting) we have added one, four or six grandchild(ren) to the picture.

Since the racial embracing is obvious, let me make clear that Laura and I did not marry to make a point. It was (and is) pure love, but it was a hard-fought decision, trying to anticipate possible problems for us and our children. In the end, hard-fought (not mushy) love won out. The hard-fighting hasn’t ended, though I think we’d both say it is mostly internal, along the lines of the theological tension mentioned above. The love of God and one another, and the shared mission to follow Jesus have sustained us.

1 comment:

Panoplia Soljah said...

Grace2U, and Peace.

You obviously made a decision, and I assume that you grew up during the 60's, that you had some wrestlings with. I do have a question or two, though, and I hope that you don't mind...

I grew up in Gary, IN AKA Choklit City. My wife grew up in Pomona, CA and Leavenworth, KS. We are both African Americans. Because of the complex issues relating to romantic relationships between blacks and whites, particularly the issue of the desireability of white women, I have always said that I would not disrespect a sista by rejecting her for a white woman.

My wife was formerly married to a black man who left her and her (at that time) 1 year old for a white woman. As you can well imagine, she views mixed race relationships somewhat differently than you and your wife do.

I believe you when you say that you married her out of love, but was there ever an element of "I married up" for you? I don't say that with any rancor, but I know that black women still feel like they are treated as if they are less attractive simply because of the darkness of their skin tones.

How does/has this issue affected your family, as well as the larger issues relating to race? As it relates to church, would you be less interested in an embracing church, in the ethnic sense, if your wife were from the hood instead of the 'burbs (not necessarily literally, but you know what I'm saying, don't you)? Do we look for church fellowship based upon large issues, or at the end of the day, is it just based upon where I can feel accepted and free to serve?

I know I've asked a lot of questions, but you did ask for comments, and this is what I've got for now.