Why Exclude Us?
Recently, a "statement on social justice" was released online to fanfare and confusion. Some of the fanfare was echo chamber affirmations. Some of the confusion was over how the statement was written and what was trying to be opposed.
Personally, the statement left me curious as to why we—black individuals who hold positions which the statement was supposedly written against— were not valued and respected enough to be invited to the table for dialogue? Even in the ancient times (I just like how that sounds), the sects of disagreement were allowed to partake in the councils. If this was not true, we would not have the epic story (probably a myth but nonetheless) of St. Athanasius from North Africa known as the ‘Black Dwarf’ punching Arius at the council of Nicaea. On September 4th, 2018 evangelical leaders released a document in creed form to address the issue of social justice. This document has been signed by John MacArthur, James White, and other who’s who of the celebrity evangelical Baptist culture. My question is why were the leaders of the so-called social justice/social awareness platform not invited to participate in this dialogue?
On May 12th, 2018 respected Pastor and Doctor Eric Mason requested a modern-day ecumenical council to Mr. James White (one of the signers of the document being discussed) and others on Twitter. This is not a small private medium. It was even talked about afterward by Mr. White and resulted in his refusal to participate in such a thing.
He—James White—even ranted about the perceived intent and why he would not accept the request on various twitter threads. Even after ignoring this clear request by a leader in the black community, one would think that a counter would be sent to a black leader inviting interaction from the side requesting social justice. Solely out of respect and for acknowledgement, they are a peer group and their insight could be valued in delimiting the language used in any resulting document. The men on both sides of the debate are viewed as Christian brothers if I recall correctly and thus their exclusion is utterly disrespectful.
Leaders such as Pastor Thabiti M. Anyabwile, Mr. Jamar Tisby, Pastor Tyler Burns, Pastor Mika Edmondson, Pastor Charlie Dates, Dr. Eric Mason, Pastor Carl Ellis, Pastor CJ Rhodes, and a slew of others should have been invited to collaborate (and perhaps they were without any acknowledgment). Until clarification otherwise, I have a hard time fathoming how no one within this illustrious group of men was invited. These men are accredited, scholarly, respected men of the faith and are leaders involved in the call for social justice in the church. How can they not be invited!
This exclusion speaks volumes given a recent blurb that was written by Fred Butler (Masters Seminary graduate and Grace to You staff member):
Okay. Sure, I’d agree, but lets face the hard truth: the white, European, Western Society Christians are truly the ones who not only preserved Christian orthodoxy for everyone, including recapturing the Bible in the original languages, they are the ones who shaped the course of Protestant Christianity throughout the world and specifically here in the United States.
I don’t mean to be dismissive of their contribution, but African-American Christians are a small portion built upon the main foundation, that just so happens to be, according to God’s providence, a white, Western European/English one. A seminary with a three to four-year tract designed to train men as expositional preachers must stay focused on the foundational matters, and that regrettably edits subjects others may believe are important. There is nothing racist about that.
This blurb is drenched in White supremacy language and this is particularly prevalent because it shows how people of color are viewed. Is it “the hard truth” that White Europeans are the saviors of Christian Orthodoxy for everyone? Martin Luther when writing against Islam referenced and pulled from Saint John of Damascus’s work from centuries earlier. John of Damascus was not European. He was not white or from Western Society. What about the Christians that risked their lives to spread the gospel in Europe, leaving Israel to spread the gospel to the farthest regions, they were not white either? The councils that defended Christian doctrine and declared what was heresy were filled with believers neither from Europe nor white. Yet, this notion that white, European, western society is the savior of Christendom is part of the reason presumed dissenting black voices are not respected. This whole notion speaks to the disrespect of Western White Europeans Christians thinking that they are God’s gift to the faith but we are not.
We ‘people of color’ are viewed as inferior and not worthy of dialogue—unless we agree with them step for step. This is my conclusion. I have read MacArthur’s blogs hinting that the advocators for social justice are dangers for to the gospel. I may be in the minority, but I do not see any other conclusion than a complete isolation and exclusion of brotherhood. We have a respected leader calling for an ecumenical council with over 300 people being ignored, only for them to get together behind closed doors and attempt a new creed for their pupils. If the attempt was for unity and for the body of Christ, how are the scholars in favor of social justice total ignored?
Scholars not from the Reformed tradition, scholars from the black church, and scholars that are not disciples of Mr. MacArthur are worthy of respect and their voices should be heard and considered in this dialogue.
Pardon a random discourse. I do not want to change the topic, but I think this is vital and has been on my heart. Minority ministry groups need to work together more closely; the value is shown by the uniting of the MacArthur disciples to join together at our exclusion in an attempt to paint a narrative and dictate the conclusions without actual dialogue.
As Protestants, you can complain about the Pope of Rome individually ruling and dictating as head of a church, but this is exactly what Mr. MacArthur (or at least his name) is doing. There is no room for dialogue when MacArthur rules form the comfort of his Southern California mansion—with his order of Jesuits lead by Phil Johnson ready to oppose any opposition. The truth is no other major ministry is going to stand up for us. No other major ministry has the audacity, courage, or gumption to stand up to Mr. MacArthur and his disciples. And I do not blame them. Desiring God, Modern Reformation, Ligonier, the SBC, TGC, any LCMS or Lutheran group, or any other ministry may be an advocate for our perspective or biblical faithfulness but not in print against MacArthur.
I firsthand know, that individuals in these groups oppose things spewed by Grace to You, but are told to stand down. It is disgusting, but the truth is we ‘people of color’ are being left on our own. The (&) Campaign, The Witness Collective (formerly RAAN), Urban Apologetics, Jude 3, and others need to work together more often and more visibly. I am not saying ditch each group nuance, but sometimes you have to unite like Voltron. My voice is minor, but each of you has a platform and a voice that has impacted and can continue to impact communities.
Needless to say … “No, I will not sign this creed composed by people that do not affirm or elevate the Ecumenical creeds as the measurement of orthodoxy.” I will admit that this newly created creed has aspects that no Christian can or should disagree with, but if the goal was truly to steer away from a perceived error then the actual people accused of error should have been involved in dialogue and the clarification of language. I pray that these events will lead to dialogue between various minority ministries to work closer together and that people who do read and sign the new creed will get involved in real life in reconciliation ministries.