Today I read Trillia Newbell’s United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity and will have a review up soon at Grace For Sinners and subsequently here on my blog. The book has elements of a memoir, and though I can’t relate to many of the horrific experiences of my African American brothers and sisters, there is still solidarity and shared difficulties by virtue of being non-white.
Several times Newbell mentions that being female, African American, and Reformed makes her a rare breed. As a female Asian American who is Reformed, I can relate. Reformed circles are predominantly white, more drastically so than the American Church in general. During graduate school I attended a Reformed church for the first time, and I was one of only three members that was not white. In addition to the lack of ethnic diversity, up until recent years it seemed like the race conversation just was not happening in Reformed circles. In the church at large InterVarsity staffworkers and InterVarsity Press have been influential in championing the conversation for decades, with much material to facilitate ethnic identity development, ethnic diversity and harmony, and ethnic reconciliation. The Reformed world seemed either oblivious to these issues, or perhaps shunned them as the concern of the “liberal-leaning” wing.
I am profoundly grateful that the trend has been changing in my camp in recent years. Newbell frequently quotes from John Piper’s book Bloodlines, and I do think that this book had a significant part to play in bringing the race conversation into the forefront of the Reformed world. I was so encouraged by the birth The Front Porch and Reformed African American Network, where important gospel-centered conversations through the lens of Reformed theology are happening about issues of ethnicity in general and African American issues specifically. I was surprised and ecstatic at the diversity I saw at the inaugural Cross Conference (a Reformed student missions conference) last December. Trillia’s book is another encouraging event – you don’t see many books in the Reformed world on issues of ethnicity.
I am encouraged by the conversation that is going on, and the changes that are starting to happen in pockets here and there. But there are definitely times when I think, “What about my people?” I love what’s happening on The Front Porch; but what about The Rice Aisle?* For my fellow Asian American Calvinists, where are our Anthony Carters, Thabiti Anyabwiles, Trillia Newbells? I long to see some focused conversation and official banding together for Reformed Asian Americans. I would love to eventually see Asian Americans represented in the books and conferences and networks. And I don’t even know if it’s “okay” to have these desires, and I don’t know if there are even other Asian Americans who feel the same way. What I do know is that diversity in the Church benefits its members inwardly, provides a compelling witness outwardly, and pleases God vertically. I’m glad the conversation is happening in the Reformed world; I would just love to see more diversity at the table of the conversation on diversity.
I welcome comments from anyone with thoughts on any of these issues.
*I’m not serious about that name, it’s supposed to be funny. I long to see similar initiatives for the Asian American Reformed community.
**See here for a bit about my journey in regards to coming to terms with my ethnicity.
*** See here for some follow-up thoughts I wrote the day after this post.