In Whose Image: The Emergence, Development, and Challenge of African-American Evangelicalism

Abstract

The current era of American Christianity marks the transition from a Western, white-dominated U.S. Evangelicalism to an ethnically diverse demographic for evangelicalism. Despite this increasing diversity, U.S. Evangelicalism has demonstrated a stubborn inability to address the entrenched assumption of white supremacy. The 1970s witnessed the rise in prominence of Evangelicalism in the United States. At the same time, the era witnessed a burgeoning movement of African-American evangelicals, who often experienced marginalization from the larger movement. What factors prevented the integration between two seemingly theologically compatible movements? How do these factors impact the challenge of integration and reconciliation in the changing demographic reality of early twenty-first Evangelicalism?

The question is examined through the unpacking of the diseased theological imagination rooted in U.S. Evangelicalism. The theological categories of Creation, Anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, and Ecclesiology are discussed to determine specific deficiencies that lead to assumptions of white supremacy. The larger history of U.S. Evangelicalism and the larger story of the African-American church are explored to provide a context for the unique expression of African-American evangelicalism in the last third of the twentieth century. Through the use of primary sources — personal interviews, archival documents, writings by principals, and private collection documents — the specific history of African-American evangelicals in the 1960s and 1970s is described. The stories of the National Black Evangelical Association, Tom Skinner, John Perkins, and Circle Church provide historical snapshots that illuminate the relationship between the larger U.S. Evangelical movement and African-American evangelicals.

Various attempts at integration and shared leadership were made in the 1970s as African-American evangelicals engaged with white Evangelical institutions. However, the failure of these attempts point to the challenges to diversity for U.S. Evangelicalism and the failure of the Evangelical theological imagination. The diseased theological imagination of U.S. Evangelical Christianity prevented engagement with the needed challenge of African American evangelicalism, resulting in dysfunctional racial dynamics evident in twenty-first century Evangelical Christianity. The historical problem of situating African American evangelicals reveals the theological problem of white supremacy in U.S. Evangelicalism.

Description

Doctor of Theology

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Citation

Citation

Rah, Soong-Chan (2016). In Whose Image: The Emergence, Development, and Challenge of African-American Evangelicalism. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/12925.

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