Glory Road - Stories of African American Pastors
Theological training is always a journey of discovery. We never know as much as we need to know and we are always growing in our understanding and application of God's revealed Word. For many, studying in seminary opens up a whole new world that we didn't even know existed. Seminary also challenges us to reconsider many of our cherished beliefs and traditions. The Christian church is full of sloppy theology and Biblical "urban legends." As we examine the foundations of theological truth, we often find ourselves leaving behind some of our ideas, former churches, and perhaps even friends. This is the experience of the pastors who tell their stories in Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity. For these pastors, commitment to the Truth led them into uncomfortable spaces where they had to question parts of their tradition and heritage.
What do they mean by "Reformed Christianity"? Anthony J. Carter summarizes: "This means that we have a heritage that transcends our skin and ethnicity. It means that the grace of God has appeared to us according to his good pleasure. It means we see our God as sovereign, omnipotent, holy, and right. It means we see our sin for what it is, heinous and worthy of death. And it means we see our Savior as sufficient, immutable, and altogether good" (174).
Lance Lewis also summarizes Reformed theology: "Reformed theology begins where any creature should begin in our exploration and study of God: with God himself. Also, biblical Reformed theology ends where any and every creature's study of God should end: with a humble acknowledgment and focus on the overall glory of God. In between these two poles Reformed theology attempts to teach and show the biblical connections between our creation, fall, judgment, and redemption by our Savior Jesus Christ" (124).
As these African American pastors became convinced of the truth of Reformed theology, they sometimes found themselves in churches, or seminaries, which were predominately white. Although they were seeking the truth, to embrace Reformed theology brought them into conflict with movements like liberation theology and the prosperity gospel, both of which are popular in African American churches. However, this book is helpful because these ten pastors present an alternative to these movements--one that is grounded firmly in the Bible and historic Christian teaching.
The book is very helpful for helping us understand the challenges of racial reconciliation and dialogue. Reading the stories of these pastors should help us (in the majority culture) to get some sense of what it is like to attend seminary as a minority, and to have our beliefs challenged. At LAMP RDU, we are intentionally pursuing theological training that includes the voices and stories of minority cultures. However, this book also helps us to remember the source of our true identity. Anthony Carter writes: "We are black; there is no mistaking that. We are Reformed, and make no mistake about that. But these two distinctions have relevance only insofar as they are understood in light of the fact that we are Christian. C.H. Spurgeon said, 'I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what my creed is, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ'" (175).
At LAMP RDU, we need to remember that fact. Union with Jesus Christ, and with His people (the Church), is our ultimate source of identity. Because we worship a Triune God (One God in Three Persons), we can value and celebrate differences of skin color, cultural background, musical preference, and preaching styles. However, we don't celebrate diversity for the sake of diversity alone. We celebrate and honor difference because we are grounded in a greater Unity--which is made possible by Jesus Christ alone.