The 2018 EFCA Theology Conference theme explored The Gospel, Compassion and Justice, and the EFCA. Events in our nation and world have made it clear it is both timely and necessary to address the topics of racial reconciliation and immigration. The gospel is being undermined and tarnished by the lack of reconciliation among believers and the lack of concern for the immigrant. Join with fellow EFCA pastors and leaders in listening and learning from the speakers at the 2018 conference as they address this theme from biblical, theological, historical and pastoral perspectives.
As Evangelicals more broadly, and as the EFCA more specifically, we are people of the Book. One EFCA motto has been and remains, "where stands it written," which addresses both the biblical truth of a doctrine and also the practical outworking of that truth in life. Dr. Jarvis Williams is an Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- How is race a gospel issue when the Bible knows nothing of the modern construct of race? On this issue, how do we balance between now and not-yet of the kingdom, between those who want to usher it in and those who emphasize the not-yet of the kingdom and do not believe it is worth “mak[ing] every effort” to live out its truth here and now?
- What are some specific examples how racial justice and the gospel can apply to our modern experience of racism?
Banthum, Brian. The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016.
This book shows that the construct of race is bad and has historically led to death.
Cleveland, Christena. Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013.
This book shows the social factors that separate Christians.
Dupont, Carolyn, Renée. Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975. New York: New York University Press, 2013.
This book shows southern evangelical involvement in segregation.
Emerson, Michael O. and Christian Smith. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
This book provides a careful sociological analysis of the evangelical movement in American. The book shows that evangelicalism is a culturally white movement in this country that is connected to whiteness.
Williams, Jarvis J. and Kevin M. Jones, editors. Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African-American and White Perspectives. Nashville: B&H, 2017.
The book discusses the historic stain of white supremacy in the SBC and offers specific steps to help make the stain less apparent.
Williams, Jarvis J. One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology. Nashville: B&H, 2010.
This book argues that horizontal reconciliation is a gospel issue.
The church, committed to and compelled by the gospel of Jesus Christ, has engaged in both the proclamation of the gospel and its accompanying social ministries of compassion and justice. This has been reflective of the church from the beginning. Affirming this reality, it is important to address and assess how Evangelicals have historically addressed these matters of race in the 18th-19th centuries, some of our significant right-steps and have some of the other painful missteps and sins of the past 150-200 years which remain with us today. Doug Sweeney is Distinguished Professor of Church History and History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical School.
- How do you explain the fact that so many of our forebears could have justified the modern European slave system, and what should our attitude be about an evangelical inheritance so full of such justification, enslavement, and racial prejudice?
- What and how are we to think about, learn from and respond to flawed historical “heroes”? (For example, in this 50th year of MLK’s assassination, how many Anglos are even aware of it? How many African Americans? Why the disparity? Often one’s perception and perspective of MLK is along racial lines. African Americans will focus on his passion, his preaching, his commitment to justice, his living out the gospel to change structures and society. Anglos will focus on his adultery and liberal theology. On the other hand, consider how we view Jonathan Edwards. Anglos will focus on the positive aspects of Jonathan Edwards’ theology, but say nothing about the fact he had slaves. African Americans consider the fact that he owned slaves, and that at least ought to be raised when discussing the history and heritage of Edwards.)
Espinosa, Gastón. Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014.
This is the best academic history book on Latino/a evangelicals in America, though it is mainly a history of Latinos in the Assemblies of God.
Harvey, Paul. Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
This is a hugely influential book among American historians. It's written by a scholar at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, and pays special attention to the religious dimensions of the Jim Crow era.
Lincoln, C. Eric and Lawrence H. Mamiya. The Black Church in the African American Experience. Durham: Duke University Press, 1990.
If you want a detailed and reliable survey of African-American church history, this is the book for you.
Martinez, Juan Francisco and Lindy Scott, editors. Los Evangélicos: Portraits of Latino Protestantism in the United States. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
This is the best general introduction we have for now to Latino/a Protestantism in the U.S. It includes a chapter by Lindy Scott on Latinos and Latino ministries in the EFCA (based largely on oral interviews with Hispanic pastors in the Chicago area). Watch for a number of books by one of this volume's contributors, Prof. Daniel Ramírez. He is the most promising, up-and-coming scholar in the field, though he specializes in the history of oneness Latino Pentecostals.
Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.
This is now considered a classic by most people in my field. It offers a poignant and academically sophisticated treatment of the religious lives and worship of enslaved black Christians.
Sandoval, Moises. On the Move: A History of the Hispanic Church in the United States, revised edition. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2006.
Though written by a journalist with a Roman Catholic bias and a political orientation, this is still the best survey of both Protestant and Catholic Latino/as in America.
It is one thing to address this issue theoretical or academically. It is another to address this personally and experientially. One is not more or less important than another. Both are necessary, even though the issue is approached from different vantage points. Both provide significant and important insights. Dr. John Perkins discusses the need for unity within the church.
- You were born one year after Martin Luther King Jr. You lived through the civil rights movement. Do you think Black Lives Matter is a contemporary expression of the civil rights movement? What is its main motivation and message? Are there different responses based on racial lines? How does the gospel form and shape our response, and is there a place for godly, Spirit-empowered activism?
- As one who has been and remains on the front-lines of compassion and justice ministries for many years, how have you kept the gospel central and without compromise in all you do? By God’s grace, you have been at this for a long time. I am sure you have at times grown tired and weary, yet you have persevered. It appears we have reached a point of racial fatigue – blacks and other minorities are tired of another corporate confession with another verse of kumbaya with little substantive change; whites are tired of repenting again, and uncertain of what to do next. We believe the gospel compels us to press on and through it, and God’s grace enables us. What do you recommend for us to stay at the relational and communication table, to keep pressing against the lies that this is optional and nice, but not necessary?
Perkins, John M. Let Justice Roll Down, revised and Updated. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012.
Perkins, John M. Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017.
Gordon, Wayne and John M. Perkins. Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This often is one of those racial markers over which there are differences of opinion. Likely, many white brothers and sisters have probably not thought much about this anniversary. Conversely, most African American brothers and sisters are quite aware of this anniversary, and not to remember or recognize this in some way would be hurtful. Many of the differences regarding Martin Luther King, Jr. are along racial lines.
- You affirm John Frame’s definition of theology: “the application of the Word of God by persons to all areas of life.” You also write that all theology is contextual – historically and culturally determined, which means it is necessary to make a distinction between Scripture and theology. Confusing the two is a form of idolatry. What do you mean, and what is the significance for this discussion, especially for those in the majority?
- What are your thoughts on being an Evangelical? (“I cannot identify with much of what evangelicalism identifies with . . . Yes I believe Scripture to be the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God and all of that, but on the other hand, there’s so much baggage that goes along with it.”) How real and pervasive is this notion of “white evangelicalism” and the reference to “identity development” among African Americans? How shall we process this, what do we learn, what are some next steps? Additionally, activism is one aspect of a definition of Evangelical (with the other three being biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism according to Bebbington). As a Christian (Evangelical) activist, why is it important to distinguish between reform, revolution and revolt? How do you ground this in the gospel, and ensure it does not fall prey to the tired trope, social-concern-leads-to-liberalism?
Bennett, Lerone, Jr. Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America, 1612-1962. New York: Penguin Books, 1962.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. New York: New American Library, 1968.
Ellis, Carl F., Jr. Free At Last? Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1981.
Ellis, Carl F., Jr. Going Global. Chicago: Urban Ministries, Inc., 2005.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. Why We Can’t Wait. Boston: Beacon Press, 1963.
Malcolm X with Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove, 1964.
Salley, Columbus and Ronald Behm. What Color is Your God?: Black Consciousness & The Christian Faith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1981.
One of the word of the year lists last year consisted of xenophobia, a "fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers." In light of the worldwide migration, and of the fear associated with immigration, it is not surprising. But is it biblical, is it the appropriate response of a believer, of an Evangelical? Interestingly, one of the biblical commands is the opposite of this, evidence in the term philoxenia, a "love for strangers or foreigners; hospitality, kindness to strangers." Dr. Daniel Carroll explains the response of believers in an increasingly xenophobic society.
- When discussing immigration, where do we begin and what do we emphasize and why: legality or hospitality? Which citizenship has priority (the heavenly or the national), and how do we coordinate the two? What are the different responses and responsibilities between Christians as faithful citizens and Christians as members of the church of Jesus Christ?
- Must we assume that U.S. immigration law is good, after its many changes over the last 140 years? How might we consider trying to insert biblical values into the discussions about reforming and updating immigration law in this country? In thinking about this, what is the importance of the placement of Romans 12 (the church’s ethic) before Romans 13 (the church’s relation to the state)? How are we to think of and respond to the notion of migration as mission in the plan of God?
Amstutz, Mark R. Just Immigration: American Policy in Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017.
A good survey of U.S. immigration law and religious documents. Makes good points about the need for better Christian political theory. Misunderstands to some degree the evangelical movement for immigration reform.
Carroll R., M. Daniel. Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2013.
This is an updated and revised study that presents the breadth of the Bible’s teaching concerning God’s concern for the outsider. A unique study.
Carroll R., M. Daniel and Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., editors. Immigrant Neighbors Among Us: Immigration Across Theological Traditions. Eugene: Pickwick, 2015.
This publication has chapters written by Latino scholars from different theological traditions (Lutheran, Reformed, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Methodist, independent Evangelical), who argue for God’s concern for immigrants explicitly from those traditions. Each has a distinct theological way of looking at immigration.
Hoffmeier, James K. The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2009.
Argues that the Bible supports distinguishing legal from the undocumented in its concern for immigrants.
Jipp, Joshua W. Saved by Faith and Hospitality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017.
Argues from the biblical text, especially the New Testament, that hospitality to outcasts and strangers is a fundamental mark of the Christian faith.
Soerens, Matthew and Jenny Hwang. Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009.
Brief on the Bible, but very helpful with history of immigration law and current rules.
Are compassion and justice ministries the gospel? Or are they entailments of the gospel? On the one hand are those who make them the gospel who end up denying the biblical gospel, that which is done and accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is the good news that affirms "it is finished," and is to be proclaimed. Rather than a biblical gospel, they end up with a social gospel applying Christian ethics to the social ills of the day, e.g., economic inequality, poverty, racial tensions, addictions, etc. but without the biblical gospel.
- Due to the EFCA's commitment to reaching out to all people groups with the gospel and also due to the growing diversity in many of our communities, many EFCA churches are becoming more ethnically diverse. In what ways, if any, is this development impacting our churches' ability to participate in the ministry of compassion and justice?
- How does the TEDS community, our EFCA seminary, define what justice is and how is it engaging in the ministry of justice within its institutional context and beyond? As you do this, how do you remain gospel centered? What and how are you teaching and training students, future pastors and ministers of the gospel, in the ministries of compassion and justice? What can pastors and leaders learn from this for ministry in the local church?
Henry, Carl F. H. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947. (2003 edition recommended).
Keller, Timothy J. Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road, 3rd ed. Phillipsburg: P & R, 2015.
Keller, Timothy J. Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010.
Mott, Stephen Charles. Biblical Ethics and Social Change, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Stott, John. Issues Facing Christians Today, 4th ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
The first three chapters, where Stott builds his biblical framework for Christians' social engagements, are particularly helpful.
At the end of the day, we long to hear the words of Jesus: "Well done, good servant!" (Luke 19:17). In light of the topic of this Theology Conference, what does that mean? What guides us to that end? What enables us to live in such a way? Jesus informed us in some of his final words to his disciples on the way to the cross, the time and manner in which the new covenant would be ushered in through his death, burial and resurrection and the subsequent pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Introduction to discussion
- This might be somewhat difficult in that you may not personally know each other. Remember, we are in the family of God through faith in Christ, and we are part of the EFCA family.
- We come from different backgrounds, with different experiences, with different hurts, with different hopes and expectations, and yet with a common commitment to love God and to love one another.
- This is an attempt to move beyond the lectures and learning to the implications of the teaching and the application of these truths in life and ministry.
Small Group Discussion Questions
This time of interaction and engagement with the topics and discussions is important to help us think through and ponder the “so what,” and “what is next.” We need to move beyond apologies and singing kumbaya yet one more time. The apologies and love expressed are important and foundational, but that love needs to be lived out. And without some guidance, and apart from messages like this, and a few guided questions, this kind of thinking and discussion does not often happen.
- Briefly explain what you were hoping to gain from listening to the messages? As we process this topic, what is your racial autobiography?
- How are you processing the teaching from the messages? What has been particularly helpful – eye-opening, challenging, encouraging, convicting, informative?
- What elements of the biblical teaching on racial reconciliation are you most likely to forget or downplay in emphasis? How can we ensure that we are teaching and applying the whole counsel of God in this area?
- From your perspective, what have been the biggest right-steps and missteps in American Evangelicalism in regards to race and ethnic relations in the last 150-200 years, and especially in your lifetime? What has truly improved? What has set us further back? What have you personally seen, experienced, felt? What part of the history do you believe you need to learn more about?
- What will it mean to live out the truth of the gospel in your life, in your family, in your ministry context, in relation to race and multiethnic realities? How does the realization of Side A and Side B theology, that which is more doctrinal and that which is more experiential, help you to understand some of the difference in emphases? How do you retain both without compromising either?
- How does the issue of immigration affect you in your own ministry context? What new steps, if any, do you see you and your ministry team taking because you've been exposed to this teaching? What questions were raised?
- Why is it that love is the struggle we must win and the final apologetic? By God’s grace, what part will you play to win this struggle and bear witness to the truth of Christ and the one new humanity he created?
Personal Reflections and Considerations
With these messages focused on this topic, we learn much, and we also want to live the truth we learn. These questions will guide us to consider seriously what next steps we will be taking. Too often it is another verse of kumbaya, another group hug, and nothing changes. This is an attempt to get us thinking of the "so what," the next steps we ought to be considering. Please remember: undergirding all of what we include in response to the questions is a life of prayerful dependence on God to renew and revive, as we “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
- What are 2-3 action steps, or steps of implementation/application you are considering, both personally and as a church?
- What are 2-3 key questions that remain, questions you would like to discuss?
- What are 2-3 significant next steps we ought to consider in the EFCA?