Thursday, August 31, 2006

Not so conspicuous...

Apparently what I thought was obvious is not so obvious. Several of my brothers in reading my last post have suggested that I was referring to the fact that the Directory of Reformed Conferences did not include the Miami Pastors Conference or the New Life Bible Conference. Admittedly, these are glaring omissions, but I must give Challies the benefit of the doubt that he would not know about these conferences unless someone informed him. So while these are obvious omissions to us, they are probably less obvious to the vast majority of Challies' readers. Nevertheless, I am still of the mind that there is yet something missing, or better yet, someone(s) missing from these listings that should be obvious to all of Challies' readers. The missing element is the presence of Reformed African-American preachers at these conferences.
I am much appreciative of the conversations that Reformed evangelicals, churches, and denominations are having concerning the rightness and God-glorifying aspects of racial harmony and diversity. I do believe that there is much sincerity and genuineness in the voices and motives of the majority of these Reformed leaders. However, I must say that there can be no harmonization without representation. Until these Reformed organizations and leaders are serious about diversity, not just in their conference attendees but also in their conference speakers, their pronouncements of racial harmony and diversity are little more than an attempt to integrate their pews but leave their pulpits unchanged. Integrating the pew feels good because is soothes the conscience. Integrating the pulpit is the greater challenge because it challenges the heart. Teaching African-Americans is not a problem. Learning from and sitting at the feet of African-Americans, well, that has been a different story.
Looking at the list of conferences as they are constituted currently, the only known African-American speaker is Voddie Baucham, listed on the platform for The Pastor's Conference sponsored by Truth for Life. Admittedly, these list are not complete and there may be more African-Americans listed before the final rostrum of speakers is given. In fact, if recent history is any indication, I am quite confident that at least John Piper and the folks at Desiring God will have at least one African-American among their conferences' plenary speakers. I do commend Piper and Desiring God for being intentional in this regard. Nevertheless, the initial absence of Reformed African-American speakers has caused me once again to iterate the need for Reformed African-Americans to be proactive in devising conferences that speak with our voices, to our concerns (see post La Cosa Nostra part 1, part 2).
So, when my brothers say that the list is missing conferences sponsored by African-Americans, they are actually on the right track. The omission should underline for us the need to continue to develop our own conference tracks while actively participating in the tracks of our Reformed brothers and sisters of a lighter hue, and inviting them to do the same. One day questions of diversity and harmony will belong to former things. One day our conferences and platforms will be so diversified that the question will be if any could recall a time when they were not that way. One day true harmonization will be realized because we see true representation. Until then let us continue to raise the issue while also not neglecting those who have never attended a conference currently on Challies' list, namely the vast majority of African-Americans.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen

The issue of course is broader than just African American speakers, it is speakers from the other ethnicities in your land.

Surely, as we (pastors and lay people) seek to build 'reformed' movements, we need to look across our lands at who we need to reach and who we need to build up and encourage (and by extension who speaks at our conferences).

In the UK, we saw a mini revival of reformed theology (Lloyd Jones, Packer etc) / conservative evangelicalism (Stott etc) from the 1950s. But we never built a broad movement across the classes and ethnicities. Hence we are now in trouble, despite a few shining lights.

Praise God for what he is doing in the US. You may feel on occasion discouraged, but you are years ahead of us - I believe there are no African Carribean reformed / conservative evangelical pastors / elders (if there are I apologise).

Two reasons I often check your blog is for some encouragements of what God is doing in the US and also what can be gleaned from you as to what could be done here in the UK. So keep pressing on in His strengh.

In His Service
Colin

ajcarter said...

You are so right my brother. The Reformed Evangelical community has no one to blame but itself for its lack of diversity and often times the wall of hostility that exist. Nevertheless, the way things are is not the way things must be. By God's grace, we can see things change for our good and God's glory. Let's continue to work and pray to that end. I know you are. I will too. Thanks for your checking in.

Lance Roberts said...

Since God raises up the leaders, it's his choice who is doing the speaking.

Why should race or ethnicity have anything to do with that choice? Christians should be color-blind.

bchallies said...

This doesn't directly address your concerns, just a question...Have you ever attended New City Church in Chattanooga? (PCA)...It is the most successfully integrated church I have ever attended (or heard of, for that matter) - African Americans, whites, and Hispanics. My daughter Grace, Tim's sisiter, attends there while studying at UTC - absolutely loves it. ..Thanks for your interesting comments.

ajcarter said...

Bro. Challies,
No, I have not had the pleasure of attending New City, though I have met Randy Nabors and some of the brothers and sisters who attend there. Another racially diverse church is Green Run Baptist in VA Beach. The good folks at Green Run do a fantastic job of creating a community where racial harmony is bearing fruit. One of the ways in which they are finding success is harmonization through representation. I understand this to be the case with New City as well. Thanks for your visit and welcomed question.

billmelone said...

Cool post Anthony. Movies with an all-white cast always struck me as false, and just kind of weird, and conferences can't be any different. My guess is that a lot of the conference leaders don't know black reformed preachers. What I noticed about Mark Driscoll having the black guys that he did, was that he already had relationships with them--that he emailed them and stuff, talked about them like he knew there family. Is there a way to facilitate more of those connections and relationships? Some way to expose white leaders to black leaders and their teaching/churches?

ajcarter said...

My friend, I never thought I would say this, but I do believe I have met someone with the "gift of knowledge." I believe you have hit the nail right on the head. It is about relationship. And the avenue to these relationships must not be one way streets.

I was much impressed when I listened to and watched the R&R Conference. Driscoll seemed intent on exposing others to the men - some black men - to whom he had been exposed. He did all those who attended the conference a service as well as served the broader body of Christ by letting them know that God's truth and movements are not only multi-faceted, but multi-cultural as well.

I believe many of these other leaders (like Piper and Dever) are seeking to establish more long term relationships across racial lines. Hopefully we will begin to see the fruit of those efforts.

Also, I have found that one of the most effective ways of establishing relationship and being exposed to others is to go where they are.

There are conferences sponsored by Reformed Black preachers and teachers. I remain convinced that if our brothers would attend these conferences and get to know more of these people, they will find a wealth of relationship and resources that are available to them. Perhaps we need to do a better job of making this known to them. Perhaps they need to do a better job of showing interest. Either way, we both have some work to do.

Sorry for the lengthy response, but your comments and question really sparked my interest.

I hope people will read your comments and find encouragement as well as a challenge. I have.
Thanks.

Not Aware said...

Anthony, could you please compile a list of Reformed African-American speakers that:
1. Have excellent speaking ability
2. Have excellent Reformed theology

I have seen Ken Jones at some conferences around the country, but am not aware of many more at his level.

ajcarter said...

To Not Aware,

I appreciate your desire to know more Reformed African-Americans preachers and teachers. However, I hesitate to give a listing because it would tend toward the subjective and my own evaluation of these men.

For example, you would have me to list those on the "level" of Ken Jones. While Ken is a good personal friend of mine, I am not sure exactly what "level" he is on. And how would one determine a person has reached that "level?"

Therefore, while I again appreciate your request, let me suffice it to say that you can check out The Miami Pastors Conference for a short list, though there are plenty more beyond that.
Thanks.

BlackXenos said...

I think you raise an interesting question. I haven't been to Challies site in awhile (or any other blogspots for that matter!)

Let me preface my comments by saying I love what you put down from time to time on the Non Nobis Domine.

Have you have all contacted Challies at all about the issue you raise?

I do cherish the fact that you and others have had an opportunity to partner through the Alliance Of Confessing Evangelicals for the pastor's conference a little while back.

I see what you all have done at the Miami Conference, I see what Piper has done in his conferences, and Ken Jones seems to be a regular with RC Sproul's conferences, and anyone that reads, and visits these websites can see what I've seen as well.

I think you raise a good issue. No disrespect to the individual that made the color blind comment, but this is the line of thinking that robs us for the unique way God made us, culture distinctions and personality.

ajcarter said...

To BlackXenos,
Thanks for hanging out with me from time to time.

I must say that I have not communicated directly with Challies because I did not find fault with anything he did. All he did was list Reformed Conferences as they are currently constituted. Actually, I would commend Challies for putting together that list. It allows people like me to be reminded of where would I want to be next year and when.

Be encouraged by brother. And keep checking in.

billmelone said...

Anthony, thanks for the response. What relationships do you have with white pastors? One thing that i see that would be hindering a lot of relationships is geography/segregation--for instance, Bill Hybels and James Meeks (i think) have been hanging out, but I wonder what permanent affect they're looking for, especially with the raw reality of geographical separation with where they both serve. But maybe with the internet, geography is basically a nonfactor.

Are the conferences you mentioned to someone else (that different black pastors sponsor) ones that have a lot of black speakers? If they are conferences that most reformed folks would approve, i'll bet that challies would post it on the directory. I'd be interested in hearing what conferences those are (even if challies wouldn't post them), and I'm sure a lot of white leaders would be too.

Also, with the colorblind point, I think christians should be colorblind, as long as it doesn't make us cultureblind.

billmelone said...

I just noticed what you said about the list being subjective--maybe you could have a list not of people you recommend but just people and list their various distinctives next to them.

ajcarter said...

Bro. Bill,
To answer your questions. Yes. I have relationships with white pastors.

The conferences I mentioned have as many black speakers as they want. They are not hurting or struggling to find speakers.

Again, if you are interested in knowing some Reformed black preachers and teachers you can begin with the Miami Pastors Conference and those who spoke at the Reform and Resurgence Conference. Also, look at those who have spoken at Bethlehem Pastors Conference and the Desiring God National Conference. These are good places to start for those who are interested. Once we begin to sincerely inquire we will find that God is doing alot more than we first perceived.

billmelone said...

Cool, thanks for the pointers with the conferences. I've enjoyed reading what Anthony Bradley posted at the resurgence website. With your relationships with white pastors, I was wondering more what type of relationship--I guess i was wondering about what from your experience is the best way to build relationships between black/white/hispanic/asian pastors--geography/through conferences/common doctrine, all of that?
Thanks again,

ajcarter said...

Well, I am not a guru on relatioships. You may want to contact Dr. Phil for that one :-). I suppose one has to be intentional about it. Meeting brothers at conferences, denominational meetings, community activities, etc. One white brother I know simply began calling a black pastor in his area until they were able to get together and have lunch and establish a mutually edifying relationship. I really don't believe we have to teach pastors how to be a friend. As pastors we just have to want to do it. But again, I do not have a formula for certain success.