Whites Only 1: Listening to the criticism

Sojo Mag published an article today that you probably heard was a’comin’. You can buy it here. The article is called “Is the ‘Emerging Church’ for Whites Only?” Brilliant graphic, btw, and something that was intended to be a little funny and not too serious – so dont any of you white people take offense.

is the emering church for whites only

This will be a big conversation over the next week, and in some ways already has been on Tony’s blog. Julie will get some traffic also. I think the issues are very important and deep so, instead of pumping out a quick response, as I probably unwisely started to do on other blogs, I think it would be more appropriate to slow down and listen, and allow all the voices to be heard.

So . . I will post parts of the article on the blog and let you listen to hear whats going on. I will give some response, and at the end I might even defend myself a little, since I am quoted in the article as “the blogger” [and also as “one blogger”] and i hope to make myself heard also, eventually.

But first, hear from Soong-Chan Rah

Is the Emerging Church for Whites Only?

“At the turn of the millennium, I (Soong-Chan) began hearing a lot about the “emerging church.” It seemed that everywhere I turned somebody was talking about the emerging church. A clear definition of the term was elusive (see “What is the Emerging Church?” by Julie Clawson, below), but the emerging church seemed to reflect ministry and theology rising out of the generation after the baby boomers. In particular, the emerging church was Western Christianity’s attempt to navigate through the context of an emerging postmodern culture.

At the time the emerging church was coming into vogue, I was pastoring a multi-ethnic, urban church plant in the Boston area. It seemed that every brochure for nearly every pastors’ conference I received featured the emerging church. As I began to attend some of those conferences, I noticed that every single speaker who claimed to represent the emerging church was a white male. A perception was forming that this was a movement and conversation occurring only in the white community.
On one occasion, I was at an emerging church conference and was told directly that non-whites were not of any significance in the emerging church. Granted, this was one specific instance, but it led to the sense that the emerging church was not a welcoming place for ethnic minorities. At another conference, on the future of the church, one of the speakers invited up a blond-haired, 29-year-old, white male, replete with cool glasses and a goatee, and pronounced him the face of the emerging church. “This guy is a great representative of the future of American Christianity.” I cringed. In terms of the public face of the emerging church, white males dominated. It seemed like the same old, same old. As per the lyrics by The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.””


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.

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