I've been following the recent online conversation about racial reconciliation and the New Monastics rather closely. Why? Because it is a conversation whose time has come. I honestly believe that much good work is being done in regard to engaging the mosaic of Christians about issues of poverty, race, privilege, and voice. That said, in the words of James Weldon Johnson, "Stony the road we trod."
Some time ago, I blogged about a mosaic revival happening in the United States. I would add that this mosaic revival has been happening all over the world for some time. By mosaic revival I mean a Christlike movement across race, gender, culture, and economics where we all come to the table as equals, as children of God. I think that this revival in many of the movements (it is not limited to these but I am responding to a particular conversation) such as the New Monastics, Sojourners, and the Emergent Church is in an embryonic but promising state. Many congregations, denominations, and para-church organizations can learn from this fledgling conversation, including the groups to which I belong. Visions of the "peaceable realm" (Isaiah 11) or the multiethnic, multiracial multitude of the book of Revelation (Revelation 7:9) are still a work in progress.
What does this mosaic revival imply for me as a Latino pastor of an urban multicultural congregation, the New Monastics, Sojourners, the Emergent Church, and denominations that still do not have diversity represented in leadership? Here are some of my thoughts desde otra voz (from another voice):
- Internal Critique: First, that the critique of empire and power that I, the New Monastics, Sojourners, and Emergent Church make of the church and leaders in all spheres of life must continually be turned inwardly. This critique must be true of any movement. Entitlement and privilege is not just something others clutch. We too must confess where we have sought to be the principal and only protagonists. Pride is ubiquitous and subtle. The teachings of Jesus and the writings of Desmond Tutu, Reinhold Niebuhr (Moral Man and Immoral Society), and the book of Proverbs are helpful here.
- Conversation: We must maintain the dialogue and stay at the table even when we disagree. The world needs followers of Jesus committed to loving one another through their differences, be they ideological, cultural, generational, etc.
- Confession: There must be a continual confession of the privilege of platform and influence and where we have used that influence to exclude others.
- Promoting and Highlighting Diversity: The writings, tours, blogs, books, and particularly leadership on board and executive positions should intentionally highlight diversity. We seek inclusion not simply for diversity's sake but because it is a model of the way of Jesus and the Realm of heaven. This is beyond a token representation, where we have a Latino(a), women's, Asian, African-American caucus, etc. speak to and from their particularity or only on issues that we think are particular to them (immigration, racial justice, women's rights). Diverse leadership (this should neither exclude nor privilege white males) should be at the center of decision making processes. White, black, brown, red all have something to contribute to the Christian story. Mosaic leadership can speak to many global issues such as genocide in Darfur, just war, poverty, human trafficking, environmentalism, a consistent ethic of life, etc. Perhaps instead of having racial-ethnic minorities join already-begun initiatives, we should join mosaic initiatives as a sign of solidarity and support. All established leadership should endeavor to use their platform to promote an emerging mosaic leadership. Moreover, one group need not always be at the forefront.
- A Historical-Contextual Perspective: This is no small point. Often in the public presentations, books, and conferences of these aforementioned movements, they are presented as something new going on. (I don't think this is intentional.) I have been on college campuses and multiple emerging leaders' gatherings where many well-intentioned next-generation Christian leaders see these movements as if something new is happening. This dangerous omission often makes many indigenous grassroots workers feel like there is some type of cultural capital being cashed in at the expense of lifelong indigenous Christian leadership. Present-day movements should continue to clearly tie and partner, when possible, with the legacy of the black church, the Latin-American and Latino(a) grassroots communities, abolitionists, faithful women's movements, the South African church, etc., around the world. Also the New Monastics, Emergent Church, etc., could learn and partner with the work of storefront Pentecostal and indigenous congregations who have lived and worked in economically challenging contexts for some time. Some of these leaders and pastors did not choose to relocate; they were born, raised, and chose to stay in these contexts.
- Persistence: Continue to work. Despite our shortcomings and critiques, we must continue to do the work of Christ and allow room for growth. Critique is neither for rousing guilt or surrender but for seeking a better way. We must all continue our work. Not speaking or acting is not an option. In the words of Antonio Machado, "Caminante no hay camino se hace camino al andar."
Rev. Gabriel Salguero is the pastor of the Lamb's Church of the Nazarene in New York City, a Ph.D. candidate at Union Theological Seminary, and the director of the Hispanic Leadership Program at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also a Sojourners board member.