by Randy Woodley
In regards to whether Emergent is just another colonization point for indigenous people: I would say this is a very important question. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I would say, no… For me, and from my limited viewpoint, I don’t believe this concern is one that I can say I have seen occurring.
In a general way, I see the emergent movements as a path for the dominant church to catch up to where indigenous people have been in our own praxis. In other words, in many ways, we have already been where they are going. If allowed in the conversation, I think we can serve as guides and we can speak prophetically into the same colonial “hampster wheel” they often get sidetracked on. This move requires a great deal of humility on both sides. The dominant cultural White church does not bend easily or take correction well. Sometimes, the mostly nice, intellectual, postmodern, love-in action-first, emergent folks even “kill the messenger.”
Our stance means we will not always be popular, even when at first they seem embracing. Unfortunately, my wife and I have been around long enough to see the Indigenous viewpoint become “flava of the month” more than once. I for one, am done playing church games with emergents or any one else in the dominant White church. As D.L. knows, I made a declaration of a problem with the worldview of some emergent folks whom I dearly love, about the lack of multi-racial composite in the leadership of a fellowship that we were a part of, and it cost me dearly by losing several good friends. I simply pointed out that after 10 years of ministering (in all the most noble of emergent ways) among poor Blacks and Latinos, the leadership (and almost all of the group itself) was still all White. The reaction I received was the same one that we have received from other White culturally dominant fellowships; one that we have experienced now for going on three decades when such topics are broached. It’s the one that says, the conversation is over! It doesn’t matter if they leave the table, or they ask you to excuse yourself from the table, or whether everyone just sits at the table in silence, the point is, the conversation is over.
Over the years, I have spoken personally very frankly on several occasions, with Brian McLaren about the diversity issue in the emergent movements (to which he fully agrees, and as a result, Brian has been very active in finding ways to get the indigenous voice in the conversation by creating opportunities for me, Twiss and others). Two of those opportunities have been the chapters we have written in the last two emergent compilations: “The Emergent Manifesto of Hope” and “The Justice Project.” If you read my chapters, they are a prophetic challenge to the emergent movements to learn by partnering with indigene. It is unfortunate that I have never been contacted by anyone who has read these in order to have a meaningful conversation, much less develop partnership and the real challenge, “friendship.”
McLaren has opened up several other opportunities for me including inviting me to blog on Jim Wallis and Friends blog space. If you read some of my posts there, you will find them to be challenging as well. McLaren also created the space for the initial conversation for me to get my current job. He knew my perspective would not be appreciated at 99% of seminaries and universities in the west and suggested George Fox could handle it. He was right-so far…As you can ask any of my students, I am very active in challenging western assumptions and in sharing indigenous perspectives.
My ultimate hope is that my limited involvement in these conversations will produce meaningful friendships and, somehow they eventually shift the conversations that will enable the kind of changes that Jesus wants to make in the church and in the world. Ultimately, our conversations and theologizing, etc. all come down to the simple truth of the Gospel being lived out on earth and to do that, we simply need to follow Jesus Christ.It usually gets more complicated after that…
Finally, this blog, “Ethnic Space and Faith” was developed to give indigenous people and others, a voice in all issues concerning ethnicity and faith, including the one we are having now. Any Emergents out there? Let’s keep talking.