Tom Skinner's challenge to white evangelical missions and evangelism projects
I grew up Southern Baptist and was once married to a SBC minister. My stomach turns when I think of how we “helped” people on our short term medical mission trips. Coerced and manipulated is more like it. And came back full of ourselves over all our good deeds. I am not sure much has changed- I went on another trip last year with a medical colleague. While I am in a completely different place spiritually (not SBC!) it was still heartbreaking to see the same colonial racist dehumanization happening in 2022. I will not be going back unless I can just do medicine- no evangelizing/preaching.
I want to name some of the paternalistic messages in fundraising by evangelical relief and development NGO's that appeal to and reinforce white savior/white innocence subconscious bias. I do feel for these NGO's because of the reality that they depend on funds from white Americans. Two of the worst offenders are Samaritan's Purse and Feed my Starving Children. World Vision on the other hand is schizophrenic. They have excellent education programs to help their audience learn about issues in the Global South. However, their mass appeals still have the "you have power as an individual with your money to forever change the life of a child in Africa/Asia/Latin America". One example of an agency with positive and respectful and educational messaging about the agency of the local people they work with is the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Fuller has been a positive influence on American missions, in the 50 years since that Urbana. Fuller has been at the forefront of contextualization and consciousness of cross-cultural relationships. I went to Urbana 2008 and there were keynote speakers from the Global South and an emphasis on worship led by a mix of African, Latin, White and Asian music. A lot different from the Urbana 84 I also attended. There is still much to be repaired but I can certainly celebrate the progress. Missionaries and pastors I know who came out of Fuller have shown excellent sensitivity and respect for local people's culture and the power dynamics across ethnic groups. So, we need to appreciate Fuller while recognizing that a large segment of the evangelical missions movement, especially the short-term trips "industry" continues to be misguided. Also I need to share my horror while sitting in a clinic waiting room in West Africa a few years ago and what was on the TV but a white American prosperity gospel preacher. They have done a huge amount of harm.
Michelle Higgin's Urbana 2018 address echoed this! Have you written on it?
I love waking up to messages like this. Will watch for your notes on the Conference as well as Soon-Chan Rah's.
I read Tom Skinner’s autobiography _Black and Free_ when I was in college at Michigan State. I’m not sure how it got into my collection, but I found it fascinating and would love to learn more. I attended University Reformed Church, at that time under the leadership of Tom Stark. I got the sense that God values different cultures and we as Christians are to celebrate one another.
On the other hand, the abandonment of inner cities by white self-protectors is a nagging open wound of evangelicalism. This was also true during my college years, including a year of Christian service with Mission Year in Philadelphia.
There’s so much pain to process/ parse through.
Thank you, Dr. Tisby, for bringing realities out into the open and for your example of African American Christian leadership.