I actually began the series See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me as a challenge to the colonial Western Church to be inclusive of ethnic minorities at all levels. (intro to series) Then, almost as if it was planned, it broke wide open and the next thing I knew, I was calling for a boycott of “Whites Only” and “Tokens Only” conferences by White speakers and attenders (See Me). With some help from Andrea Smith (her post), Curtiss Paul DeYoung (his post) and a bunch of interested Emergent folks, (see all posts comments and this post) not only has a great conversation been started but some good suggestions are being made. I am especially grateful to my friends Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt who sat and talked with me and about twenty others in a tipi at Wild Goose West in order to create better understanding and more opportunities for partnership on the journey.
The greatest idea so far comes from a White speaker who has asked to be kept anonymous (humility exhibited here). The person I am referring to has penned an addition to the normal query he sends out when asked to speak somewhere. It reads as follows:
“John Doe (insert name) is committed to expanding theological conversation beyond the circle of speakers like himself who have predominated in the past and continue to predominate in the present – usually white, male, straight, affluent, published, etc. If there are multiple speakers at your event and all of them are from these standard demographic categories, John would rather your speaking invitation be offered to someone else – someone from the diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and heritages that are too seldom heard from. We can provide a list of potential speakers who could speak in his place or with whom he would be especially honored to present at your event. Thanks for working with John to bring new and more diverse voices to the table of theological, spiritual, and missional conversation.”
Although addressing the conference genre is just one piece to a larger concern, it is none the less, a very visible concern. In the end, a statement such as this could discourage conferences from inviting this person from future events. It could cost them a lot.
I applaud such courage and ask you to spread this statement around to all the conference speakers you know or know of. In the end, I believe we will be a much fuller expression of Christ’s body on earth, and accomplish more work in Christ’s community of creation when we all have a seat at the table. I’m happy there are people out there who “feel me” and all the under-represented voices missing from the table.