Review: Aliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions – Anthony Bradley

Anthony Bradley’s edited volume, Aliens in the Promised Land, is a collection of essays on the topic of minority leadership in evangelical Christian churches and institutions. These essays were complied so that evangelical institutions might learn how to adequately address issues of race that often lie underneath the surface. On the surface, it seems as though there has been much progress in the area of race and leadership in evangelicalism. Despite appearances, however, what seems like progress, Bradley explains, is actually tokenism. Amos Yong, in an essay titled “Race and Racialization in Post-Racist Evangelicalism” summarizes the situation well. He says that, although it appears that “evangelicals live in a post-racist world—at least in the sense that racism is illegal in this country…there are strong undercurrents of racialization that persist.” (Yong, 45) What is racialization, he defines it as “the social process of devaluing nonwhite ethnicity and culture, of subordinating the latter to the dominant white regime, and in some cases, even seeking to eliminate such from the contemporary cultural landscape.” (Yong, 45) One example of devaluing nonwhite ethnicity—an example provided by Ralph Watkins in his essay—is the fact that in many schools the theological curriculum excludes voices of nonwhite scholars. (Watkins, 126)

In the afterword Anthony Bradley describes four changes that will need to happen in evangelical churches, colleges, and seminaries if they are going to produce the kind of racial solidarity that ought to mark the church. First, there is a need to “situate discussion of race within an understanding of white privilege.” (Bradley, 153) Second, these institutions need to “Advance racial solidarity in ways that do not require minorities to conform to white evangelical cultural norms.” (Bradley, 154) Third, there is a need to, “Understand that multiethnicity is not necessarily progress. Fourth, there needs to be an attempt to “Develop leaders who are not white males.” (Bradley, 154) Finally, these institutions need to, “Recognize the necessity and importance of homogeneous ethnic churches because of the reality of white dominance in American society.” (Bradley, 155)

There are a number of elements that I appreciated in this book. Carl F. Ellis Jr’s essay on discipling urban men is especially helpful for my own ministry context working among a (primarily) urban Latino population. As an aspiring theologian and teacher I found it very helpful that a number of the essays addressed the issue of race in educational settings. I can affirm first hand the observations of Vincent Bacote that institutions like ETS—while not explicitly trying to do so—can feel alienating to minorities and to women. I found Ralph Watkins’ essay and his stress on thinking carefully about what our curriculum speaks to students to be very insightful as well. The most helpful part of the book was the appendix which contained the report on “Racism and the Church” that was formulated in 1994 by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. This report provides a number of definitions including: racism, race, culture, ethnic group, ethnocentrism, prejudice, and power. Naturally one can dispute specific definitions, nevertheless, they serve as a helpful starting point for discussions about race and theology. Conspicuously absent from this book, however, are the voices of minority women. This absence is especially surprising given that Bradley calls for the development of “leaders who are not white males.” (Bradley, 154)

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