White Presumptive

March 24, 2007

    Dear friends, just a few thoughts for you this weekend, especially on the topic of the unity of races as a witness to the truth of the Gospel.  My least favorite sentence in the T4G Affirmations and Denials document comes in Article XVII.  It’s the 3rd sentence, and it reads:

"We further affirm that evangelical Christianity in America bears a unique responsibility to demonstrate this reconciliation with our African-American brothers and sisters."

    I think this statement is true.  I am sorry that it seems to assume that evangelical Christianity is made up only of those who are other than African American brothers and sisters.  This is of course not the case, and it is not what we meant, but I think the statement does seem to imply that.  Thanks to those many of you who have both noticed this, and over-looked it in light of affirming our intention.

    Our inability at this point to express ourselves well, our speaking fundamentally as 4 friends, explains some of the "white presumptive" language of the sentence, but so many others are desiring to appropriate the document that I wish we had found a more accurate way of stating our concern here.

    Edward Gilbreath has done us a favor by publishing a good and thought-provoking first-hand account of the challenges before us.  His IVP 2006 book is called Reconciliation Blues and I would encourage all of you to read it.  Mr. Gilbreath is a good writer, a lover of the Gospel, and a brother who transparently shares his longing for a God-glorifying unity in the churches.  Mr. Gilbreath, if you should read these words, thank you for sharing yourself with us through this project.  Friends, read this book.

    You might also benefit from listening to Thabiti Anyabwile share his own story in our most recent 9marks interview.  It’s an interview with Thabiti on his life and ministry.  His discussion of his own childhood, of what it meant to be basically growing up father-less are perhaps the most moving moments of my several years of interviewing folks.  Listening to this interview, looking at the world through the eyes of an African-American teenager could well be used of God to help you better understand the challenges we face.

    One of the things I hope will happen through Crossway publishing Thabiti’s new book, The Faithful Preacher, is that those of us who are evangelicals but who are not African-American will begin to learn that part of our history that we have so largely ignored.  Why would Thabiti’s lovely daughters when they were in Sunday School at Capitol Hill Baptist Church only hear stories of white missionaries and white heroes of the faith?  Praise God, they didn’t only hear those stories.  But they mainly did.  And it’s because of our ignorance.  In his new book, Thabiti helps to share parts of family history too often overlooked.

    African-American Christian history is more fundamentally Christian than it is African-American.  I realize that may be a controversial statement, but inside the body of Christ, we must realize that our racial identities (while seeming in Revelation to last into eternity) are not as fundamental as our Christian identity.  In Gen. 12:3 God promised to bless all nations through Abraham; in Matt. 28 Christ commanded it; in Acts we see it beginning to happen; and in Rev. 12:9 we see that it has happened.  Why deprive ourselves through ignorance of some of the most amazing things God has done?  We should proactively investigate getting to know the Christian history of various ethnic groups, because contained in them are, no doubt, amazing stories of God’s action for the building up of His united people.  Forgive me, for ways my language has been wrongly "white presumptive" and revel in the richness of God’s grace as you explore histories newly discovered to you.