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

(Read the Introduction to this 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 arrivers (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 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 happens among almost every stripe of Christian gatherings. 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 to 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.

  • carla

    while i can’t speak definitively to the nature of the emergent movement, i can attest to the fact that even good intentions don’t appear to successfully bring people of color to the table or to the pulpit in meaningful ways. thank you for speaking the truth to your community about the need for real steps for connection and communication. i hope others within the emergent church will listen and really hear your critique and respond in love. grace and peace.

  • http://thebridge-cu.com Ron S

    AMEN. I have attempted for a couple of decades to work at this challenge, and it is still difficult to be consistent and/or meaningful. Good theology! Good doctrine! Obviously, hard work at Corinth and still is in the USA. Blessings.

  • Jill

    Will you then boycott “blacks only” or “Chinese only” or “women only”, “men only” and “believers only” events?

    • Jay

      Not if the events are specifically meant for those groups only.
      Overall, the white evangelical church still seems entrenched in “separate but equal” mindset abandoned decades ago by the society at large. Their “gospel” seems unable or unwilling to come out of their racist past (or present!), lacking any credibility or impact in the world.

  • http://comingoutforstraightpeople.wordpress.com quakerstan

    Really good stuff, Randy. Your posts are really instructive for me. One glaring omission, though, was the mention of LGBTQ folks. Shouldn’t they be at the table as well.

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