Home Christian News Open Letter to John Piper on White Evangelicalism and Multiethnic Relations

Open Letter to John Piper on White Evangelicalism and Multiethnic Relations

We need to be aware of how we bring unconscious biases to our own litmus tests of whether people of color are theologically correct enough based on their emphasis on justice issues. Often times, people of color are viewed with greater scrutiny simply because of their skin tone.

We need to be concerned with the ways our political commitments co-opt our faith commitments. The fact that people equate Christians with a particular political party is problematic, especially if we consider how both parties are deeply flawed. We need to redefine our understanding of organizational fit. This means we need to reconsider what it means to be equipped. For example, is someone equipped for the pastorate if they have racist tendencies or beliefs? And who gets to decide if they do, white people or the people they disparage?

We also need to be mindful of how networks and credibility is established. Consider who is promoted within evangelicalism through publishing deals. If a Christian publisher looks through their catalogues and white people overwhelmingly occupy the authorial space, it is likely because the people they have come across were developed through their white evangelical network. Consider who speaks at conferences like The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel and you’ll see how people who had local or regional platforms, now have national or international ones. Whether you are aware of it or not, we normalize whiteness in evangelicalism by having an overwhelming majority of white speakers and only one or two plenary speakers of color. Consider the ways in which people get mentored. There are tremendous barriers to mentorship felt by Christians of color who would say they hold the same faith commitments and convictions as evangelicals do, but don’t either know or have an entry point into these networks (I fortunately, had people who helped me navigate in, but I am a part of the exception, not the rule). Consider who is appointed the most senior level leadership roles and how they are found and determined upon. It cannot be true that only white people are “called” to these positions of authority and influence and people of color are not.

If white evangelicalism is serious about representing the unity Christ calls us to in this world, this means you cannot find successors who preach like you do, see the world like you do, and share the same skin tone as you. This means Thabiti Anyabwile or Bryan Lorritts (or any of the small handful of others) cannot be the only black preachers in your conferences (despite their wonderful gifts). This means that conferences need to provide substantial opportunities for Asians and Latinos and Native Americans to speak as well. This means that senior leadership at churches cannot be satisfied with a disproportionate percentage of white pastors/elders to non-white pastors/elders.

Further, we need to look deeply into the reasons why leaders of color who occupy the top spots in Christian (evangelical) organizations and churches do not last. This means we need to have the humility to listen, but not just listen, and act upon the problems we see. This also means evangelicalism needs to allow people of color to speak for themselves and on their own terms. We also need to create pipelines for evangelicals of color to grow in leadership opportunities (see what Intervarsity did with the Daniel Project) because we know that leadership matters and that leadership shapes organizations.

What Lecrae’s departure symbolizes is the beginnings of what could be another great schism in the church, but this time, it will not be for doctrinal issues. Instead, it will be for cultural reasons that have long benefited one group, while burdening another. What I see Lecrae doing today is a considerable move for evangelicals of color in deciding if its worth fighting to stay in, when those on the inside aren’t willing to make room. What Lecrae did in his “divorce from evangelicalism” is post his 95 theses on the door to say, enough is enough, except the enough is not about the theological, but the cultural.

This should serve as a wake up call for (white) evangelicalism, which you are a part of and lead. It is a wake up call for white evangelicals to consider the ways they have wielded the power, the platform, the positions, and the preferences that have perpetuated this immense difficulty for people of color to simply be with their own family in Christ. It is a wake up call for white evangelicals to decide whether it will be willing to change dramatically enough, and quickly enough, in order to prevent Lecrae’s decision from becoming a memorial for the great neglect white evangelicals have committed against their brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a wake up call for white evangelicals to determine whether the unity of the church is worth the obedience required to put on the mind of Christ as Philippians 2 suggests.

But there is hope. I have to believe there is hope. And I, as a person of color, stay because of this hope. I also stay because, quite frankly, it is easier for me to stay as an Asian American male than it might be for others (at least for now, though I have an increasing concern that Asians will divide along “conservative” and “progressive” lines based on the litmus tests white evangelicalism places on us too). Most importantly, I stay because of evangelicalism’s stated commitments to the Gospel and to its core tenants of Biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism. Sadly, those who leave will hold to these same commitments as well, they will simply hold to these apart from the evangelical identification.

My hope is that the work we do will give reason for Lecrae to look back into evangelicalism in the future and find that we are a people who carry each other’s burdens and have made room for all believers by the power of the Gospel. Pastor, let us work together to be a unified evangelical community that doesn’t need to be marked by the adjectives of white or black, not because we are colorblind, but because we live so deeply by ethics of the Kingdom. Let us work together to show the world how Christ gives us every compelling reason to make room for all who call upon His name. Let us work together to demonstrate to the world the unity Christ prayed for in John 17.

With hope in God and faith in my brothers and sisters in Christ,

Raymond Chang

P.S. I’d like to say thank you. Thank you for the ways in which you helped people think in theological categories. Your preaching has impacted me in ways that helped me to crisply and clearly think about God and His glory. I will never forget the first time I heard, “God is most glorified, when you are most satisfied in Him.” Like many others, this single phrase changed the direction of my life.

This article originally appeared here

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Ray Chang is a pastor/preacher who was born in Chicagoland and has lived all around the world, including Hawaii, Los Angeles, China, South Korea, Guatemala, Spain, and Panama where he served in the Peace Corps. As an avid traveller, he has visited more than 40 countries throughout Asia, South America, Europe, Africa, and North America. His travels have also included extensive volunteer, speaking, and consulting roles. Ray received a Bachelors of Arts (BA) in Communication from Wheaton College, a Masters of Divinity (MDiv) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Higher Education from Azusa Pacific University.