A reflection and invitation from Rev. Duke Kwon
If you want to make an impact on the church’s future, you need to invest in today’s emerging leaders. And if you believe the American church’s future is cross-cultural—and if you long for the Reformed church to be equipped for tomorrow’s cross-cultural challenges—then you need to invest in the very best resource available for the equipping of young, Reformed leaders of color, African Americans in particular. And that resource is LDR.
It was a joy and soul-stirring honor to participate in LDR Weekend. Among a host of rich experiences and lessons learned, I had the invaluable opportunity to speak with young black ministry leaders, both current and prospective, who are attracted to the richness of Reformed theology and its vision of the gospel but wary of the PCA, wondering if they’d ever “belong.” Or who are committed to the PCA but weary of the existential angst that comes with being a person of color in that family. Or who are women and black and therefore negotiate, day in and day out, not one but two axes of otherness. I spoke with more than a few who pointed to the moment when Michael Brown was killed — and when their pastors and congregations said…nothing — as a defining moment, a nearly unbearable moment of personal pain and ecclesiastical alienation. I spoke with some who feel called, with joy, to their current ministry context, but because it’s a majority culture context, are hungry for a place where they can experience some safety, some cultural affinity, and a deep, if temporary, dose of normalcy — a place like, well, LDR Weekend.
I’m reminded again how far too many young ministry leaders of color in the Reformed church, African Americans in particular, are forced to choose between theological fidelity and cultural identity — a false dichotomy imposed upon them by the limitations of our Tradition. I saw again just how much these gifted, committed, gospel-centered, curiously Reformed, Jesus-serving, young men and women are aching for a “home” that sharpens them theologically and affirms them ethnically. Both. I’m reminded again how rare that is. I’m reminded, therefore, how critical LDR Weekend, as an event and a ministry network, really is. There is nothing like it out there; that is no hyperbole. I’m reminded how our denomination, as well as other Reformed institutions, must pay attention or perish.
And so, I’m convinced that the mission of LDR — its commitment to equip, empower, and reinvigorate ministry leaders who desire to address the core concerns of communities of color in general and black communities in particular — must become the new Reformed norm. I’m convinced that the integration of the theological and existential perspective of black Reformed thinkers is not simply beneficial but critical to the future of American Presbyterianism. These brothers and sisters provide (so humbly and winsomely, I must add) much needed complementation and correction to currently existing blind spots, imbalances, and errors. And I’m convinced, more than ever, that our denomination must resolve to repent of its complicity with racial injustice during the Civil Rights era at our upcoming General Assembly. We must. And not simply for the sake of our black sisters and brothers, but for the sake of the rest of us. All of us. Because even when you’re offered gold refined by fire and salve for your eyes, it’s never a good thing to prove that you do not realize that you are naked, pitiful, poor, and blind.
Duke Kwon, Pastor of Grace Meridian Hill in Washington, DC. Duke was a prayer leader at LDR Weekend 2015 and is a contributor to RAAN.
Read his recent work on dismantling White normativity: https://www.raanetwork.org/denominational-diversity-cultural-normativity/