See Me: A Call to Christians in the West to Invite Those Different Than Them to the Table by Randy Woodley

(Read the Intro to the series)

So, what is the cost to the whole community of faith when a particular part, in this case indigenous followers of Jesus and other minorities, are shut out?

One of the most severe and indicting statements made by the Apostle Paul concerned those advantaged believers “hogging” the whole table and keeping out those who were disadvantaged.

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat,  for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own    private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to  you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For       whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

In I Corinthians 11:17-27 Paul seems to be saying that the well-fed, early arivers (early because they don’t need to work for a living) are unconcerned about the welfare and interest of those who are more marginalized, (in this case probably the poor, the working class and slaves). When this kind of social inequity (which may include race as well) exists among Christ’s Body, we are told to examine ourselves. If we fail to judge ourselves under these conditions, it is those who are discriminating against the marginalized who are eating, as one translation puts it, “damnation unto themselves.”

Paul’s injunction comes after a long explanation of how the Body of Christ needs all the parts in order to function. There are no lowly parts. Each part is important. Paul describes a vision of diversity for which we all should want to ascribe. Paul adds the addendum here that, not only do we need each other, but those who are deliberately shutting out the ones who are disadvantaged, marginalized, disenfranchised, are unworthy of the blood and body of Christ. Harsh words I know, and I can barely get my head around them…but, in honesty, I think I know how those poor folks sitting outside on the porch, trying to hear the conversation of all the wealthier folks, felt. The porch gets cold. The porch doesn’t hold back the rain. The porch makes those who have been discriminated against feel different than everyone else-like they are not really part of the Body of Christ. In America right now, the table set in the warm living-room belongs to White Christians. The system was set up for White folks. So what is it that makes the theological table only fit for White folks?

Traditionally, European contextual theology has been universalized. We call it names like Systematic Theology or Biblical Theology. In America new conversations have begun over Process Theology, Open Theology, Eco-feminism and others ideas but the table still seems to be too small for the voices of “the other.” I wonder how far they will have to go until they realize that Christ’s table is big enough for us all. Sure, new movements like to say they have a theology of diversity and that they respect and honor those of us “on the porch,” but most of the time their actions have not shown it. At best, most are still operating in tokenism, regardless of the theological genre.

I was excited recently to see a reference to an upcoming Emergence Conference. I followed the link to learn which of my minority friends would be speaking. Did I see the names of Richard Twiss, Lisa Sharon Harper, Soong-Chan Rah, Eliacín Rosario-Cruz, Andy Smith, Jimmy McGee or any number of folks who would add new perspective to the conversation? No, I was hurt to learn of yet another conference made up of White, Western Christians. This same scenario occurs among almost every stripe if Christian gathering. They simply act as if they don’t need us.

This is not how Jesus planned his dinner parties. So what can be done? Many of my minority friends have given up. They have lost faith in their Christian sibs who won’t give them a place at the table. That is sad because they have so much to share and we all have so much to gain, and without them, we have so much to lose. New Christian movements that simply continue the historic colonial legacy, and the White supremacy behind it, have an opportunity to shift the power to build equality at the Lord’s table. I have heard many of my White brothers and sisters say that they want to stop the game of exclusivity and tokenism. So, what can we do?

I’m putting out a challenge to all White Christian speakers to boycott every “Whites Only” conference or meeting. Simply refuse to speak unless there is significant minority representation that goes beyond tokenism. And if you are an attendee, you can make a change by not supporting the hypocrisy of exclusivity and tokenism. Simply write the organizers and scheduled speakers and tell them how you feel. If they don’t respond, don’t buy a ticket and don’t attend. It’s got to start somewhere. How about with you?

Please post here and let us know you are in solidarity with us. Even if you just say, “I’m boycotting Whites Only.” Thanks! Oh, and don’t forget to “like,” “tweet” and “share” this post.

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13 Responses to See Me: A Call to Christians in the West to Invite Those Different Than Them to the Table by Randy Woodley

  1. Charlie Kamilos says:

    Boy, Randy! I “enjoy” white privilege to the max. It convicts me.
    In my defense I have attempted to get my own parish to address some of these things. We still have four services on weekends — three white and one Hispanic. I think the Hispanic population is OK with this in as much as the language at this service is their own. I was also successful getting the ushers to realize they were greeting the white folks but the people of color went into the sanctuary without a greeting.
    I know I am racist when it comes to “more than tokenism.” Painful but yet it is really tough for me to identify where I am uncomfortable and, therefore, ignoring my prejudice. The Hispanic voice is now at the table on the parish council (the decision making body) and not in just a token sense. It is a group of about 12 people and three of them are Latino. The Hispanic worshippers make up one-third to one-half in terms of raw numbers so we are at least two – three people short of equal representation.
    But, Randy and the others who read these comments, I personally have a long way to go. Frankly, it is easier for me to share the Body of the Lord and the Cup of Salvation than it is to cede real power and authority. It is really hard to admit this but it is true.

    • ethnicspace says:

      Charlie, looks like you are making a difference by drawing attention to the way the Latino folk were being greeted. The little things can mean a lot. Thanks for your encouragement bro.

  2. Emily says:

    Thank you for your words on this. We’re with you.

  3. Kyle says:

    Thank you for speaking the truth on this. I’ve witnessed this reality going back to my days as an undergrad at a major Evangelical University. The trend of ‘Whites Only’ conferences has been and will continue to be a dangerous practice. No doubt many will say, “Give me some names of blacks or minority conference speakers and we’ll invite them!”

    • ethnicspace says:

      I appreciate your comment Kyle. Another question for those folks might be, “why don’t you know the minority people?”

      • Kyle says:

        I guess there may be several reasons why many conference organizers don’t know minority people…one reason may be the assumption that blacks or minorities are ill- equipped to provide anything beyond information on race and/or class issues within the church. Of course I believe this is false but I just wonder. Another reason may be that many conference organizers may assume that the view of a ‘token’ black or minority panelist sufficiently explains the ‘minority’ position on a topic. Of course this ignores the varied perspectives that minority people can have on a topic. Lastly, I just wonder if organizers are just scared of black folk. I hope I’m wrong about that last point.

  4. I appreciate your words. We will not stop pushing forward.

  5. Greg says:

    This is the response that I left on my friend Jimmy McGee’s FB page…….
    “I hadn’t heard of Tickle previous to this, but this seems like a table that I wouldn’t want to be invited to. Maybe the exclusion of non-whites by the organizers is God’s protection. I would hate to see the heretical drivel that has become so ingrained in much of the emergent movement filter into the African American church (or other indigenous and/or minority churches)…”

    • ethnicspace says:

      Greg,
      Perhaps your right, but whether we like it or not, we are all part of this together. I’m all about the continuing conversation regardless of the questions. I think we all have stuff to learn from one another. It’s a big table.

  6. Eliacín says:

    Randy, perhaps Geraldo Rivera was right – it was the hoodie. The one everyone grabbed from their old college days, put it on, grabbed a shot with their iphone and put it on their facebook profile. It was the hoodie. the hoodie that people still put on in order not to see others, to hide their complicity with racism, and to evict others of common spaces. the hoodie of privilege which like that the ubiquitous piece of clothing fits so well, it is comfortable and seemingly irreproachable.

  7. Dawn says:

    Aniin Randy,
    I saw this article and thought wow this is what seems to be lacking in a lot of religious organizations. It saddens me that even though there seems to be talk of “all being welcome” , there is still none being invited to occasions such as the one you are talking about. It seems to go back to always putting on a good show but never lives up to the ‘diverse’ inclusion that it advertises. My husband and I feel called to ministry but with the inclusion of all being welcome and nobody being left out, I look up to speakers such as yourself, Richard, Terry, Shari and others that have tried to pave the way, I worry about those who are part of ministry that easily forget those that they were called to help in the first place.
    I look forward to more postings, meegwetch
    Dawn

  8. Hannah Haiu says:

    Kia ora!
    I really appreciate how you’ve addressed this issue Uncle Randy. My father was and still is, a minority speaker (NZ Maori) in our country. Each time he and his contemporaries were excluded or undervalued by others in the christian community, their wives and children were also left out on the porch. And you’re right – it’s cold.
    These issues deeply impacted me as I grew into adulthood. For many years my feelings were those of anger and frustration. But then I began to see the beautiful resilience of the excluded and their faithfulness to Jesus. And I’m so proud of them, and grateful for that legacy.
    The examples set by people such as yourself, Uncle Richard, Uncle Terry, my Dad and other elders we have met, particularly through the WCGIP, inspire the generations following, and become balms for the wounds of the children like me, who were left out on the porch. So, thank you.
    Until now, not participating has been my response. But your challenge to speak up takes it a step further for me, which is a good thing. I look forward to the day when we can all sit together at the table, as you say. But until then, I rejoice in the fact we can continue to have a whole lot of fun gathering together as indigenous Christians. And if it’s a Maori table, it will probably be laid with too much food!
    Mauri ora,
    Hannah

  9. Pingback: Feel Me: it takes a lifetime by Randy Woodley | Ethnic Space Blog

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