When facing a truly complex challenge — the kind of challenge that is sometimes referred to as a “wicked problem” — one of the temptations for a leader is that we endeavor to solve the problem on too small a scale. We respond to symptoms while ignoring underlying pathologies.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this temptation as society endeavors to engage in the work of racial reconciliation and racial justice. I’m struck by how readily those of us in predominantly Anglo congregations set our sights too low — defining the “problem” (and thus the “solution”) too narrowly.

In this Weekly, multiple writers ask us to appreciate the challenge of racial justice in its complexity, specifically asking us to interrogate the theologies that have supported and sustained racial injustice. Professor Oluwatomisin Oredein implores us to examine the frameworks of white belief. Professor Korie Little Edwards cautions us that multiracial churches don’t really challenge racism until they explicitly confront white supremacy. Then, Pastor William H. Lamar IV is equally blunt when he says that it’s not just the novel coronavirus that is killing persons of color disproportionately; it’s bad theology. Activist, speaker and author Mark Charles says that there must be real repentance for the Doctrine of Discovery and its enduring legacy. Finally, a personal reflection from Professor Grace Ji-Sun Kim on the challenges faced by Asian American women as they navigate the academic field of theology. 

This isn’t an easy Weekly, but if our congregations hope to resemble the Beloved Community, this is the theological work of leadership that we must do.

Welcome to the Weekly. 

We need to talk about white belief

We need to talk about white belief

If our efforts toward racial reconciliation in the United States are rooted in white belief, they will serve only to erase difference and center whiteness, says Brite Divinity School Professor Oluwatomisin Oredein.

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

Multiracial churches don’t challenge racism until they challenge white supremacy

Multiracial churches don’t necessarily accomplish the goals they set out for themselves. According to Professor Korie Little Edwards, people of color are often asked to set aside their preferences and settle for visible roles that are not substantive leadership positions. Can that be different?

It’s not just the coronavirus — bad theology is killing us

William H. Lamar IV is a preacher, which means, in his words, “as I dust the COVID-19 crime scene, I am ultimately in search of theological fingerprints.” What he finds is that pervasive bad theology has exacted a terrible price.


There must be real repentance for the Doctrine of Discovery

According to Mark Charles, congregations and people of faith must examine the history and theology that informed the exploration of the “New World” and laid the foundations for generations of injustice.

On being an Asian American woman theologian

Earlham School of Religion Professor Grace Ji-Sun Kim offers a poignant reflection on the paradox of a title that both empowers and confines you.

From the Alban Library

Third Culture Faithful: Empowered Ministry for Multi-Ethnic Believers and Congregations

by Mario Melendez

Third Culture Faithful: Empowered Ministry for Multi-Ethnic Believers and Congregations

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in1960. This quote remains true and begs the question, “How do we heal the church divide?”

Mario Melendez presents an engaging introduction to the experiences of multi-ethnic believers and a path by which church leaders increase engagement and service to these diverse communities. Finding a model in Saint Timothy, Melendez reveals that multi-ethnic believers have always played a crucial role in Christian fellowship. Having experienced the mixing of their parents’ heritage during their upbringing, third cultures kids are invaluable cultural and religious ambassadors. Embracing the unique gifts of third culture congregants and leaders, churches can embody the kaleidescope of their communities and bring about healing amongst the people of God.

Church clergy and lay leaders, as well as members of multi-ethnic households and those looking to increase the engagement of diverse groups within their congregation, will find Third Culture Faithful an inspiring call to action.

Before you go…

In the Christian tradition, we are hastening to the end of another Lent, that season of reflection and repentance as we prepare to mark Holy Week and to celebrate Easter. Often that preparatory work is narrated at the individual level — asking us to examine our conscience and make amends for our wrongdoings.

The writers in this Weekly invite all of us to a deeper reflection, examination and repentance — a collective reflection, examination and repentance — for the ways that our theologies have perpetrated injustice. But beyond awareness and acknowledgement, they also invite us to excise from our theology all that would continue to oppress the people of God.

Obviously, this will take much longer than any Lent. This may well be the work of our lives.

We’ll see you next week, and in the meantime, peace! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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