09.10.13

Ethnicity and the Mission of God

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Hear Thabiti Anyabwile discuss how ethnicity and the mission of God intersect.

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

C’mon Up!

  • Tabulous

    Great message. I have often felt that if the church can’t get race relations right then no one can… b/c we have the Holy Spirit on our side.

    Now for my comment: You seem to want to downplay the word race which I am ok with because it is a man made construct. In my opinion, I do believe that the terms black and white can be useful if used “correctly” as very broad categories in which to place a person until more facts about a person are known which allow us to place a person in a different category that designates their ethnicity or nationality. I find it ironic that you want to remove the word race from our collective vocabulary while at the same time posting the message/sermon on a website that targets the “black” church.

    • Thabiti Anyabwile

      Hi Tabulous,

      Thanks for joining us on the porch! It’s great to have you.

      I don’t know that we disagree very much on this issue. It all depends on how you define and “correctly” use the terms. I’m fine with “black” and “white” as broad descriptors in the way you describe. Thus, “Black church” isn’t a contradiction at all. For example, that broad description applies equally to the church I pastor in the Caribbean and a traditional Black church in inner-city Detroit. But once you get past that broad label you discover that ethnically these are very different congregations. My church here has about 30 nationalities, not all of them “Black” or all of them “Black” in the same way. You don’t really get to know this church until you get well beneath general labels like “Black,” “Brown,” and “White,” which don’t tell you much. You don’t get to know people until you get BOTH their ethnicity AND their nationality (for those aren’t even the same thing: in my office are both white and black Jamaicans, one Scottish-descent Jamaican and the other Afro-Chinese!). You see? These are complex identities which, I would argue, we mistreat when we generalize too broadly with the concept of “race,” defined or signaled in large part by something as superficial as skin color.

      I’m happy to refer to “African-American church” rather than black church. I use the latter mainly because it’s commonplace and most people who think about these matters will think primarily of the major historical AA denominations and predominantly AA congregations.

      Hope that helps in some way.
      t-

      • Tabulous

        Greetings,

        Thanks for the quick reply. I think that you are correct in that we do not disagree on this issue. Your examples in your response remind me of a conversation that I recently had with my wife about the concept of race and how limiting it can be. We were discussing her godson that was born in Germany on a US military base to a father that was born in Trinidad with Indian (not Native American) roots and a mother that was born in Sierra Leone. The question was: What is the son?

        Thanks for inviting me up on the porch. I love the entire concept of the front porch and have been sharing it with others.

        To God be the Glory!

  • James McCall

    Mr. Anyabwile,
    I really enjoyed your message! At the outset I was afraid that the message was calling for the ignoring of ethnicities. But, after listening to the whole message I realized your whole point. I do have a couple of questions. And this is coming from a place trying to understand not criticism. As a Christian African American man in an interracial marriage how does one deal with some of the unjust systems that are in place? Also, does it seem like the majority culture can take some of the things that you said as a call to “ignore” any issues or injustices hoping that they will go away without intentionality? I really am trying to understand, this is an area I am very passionate about, and would like to have a better and deeper understanding.