Speakers and Abstracts

Akintunde E. Akinade

Akintunde E. Akinade

Ambivalent Modalities: Mission, Race, and the African Factor

The subject of race remains a controversial one within the missionary enterprise. It evokes multiple feelings, responses, and sensibilities. The race factor in the story of mission in the African context can be defined as a tale of many paradigms and constellations. In the expansion of the Christian faith in Africa, imperious mandates were tempered by local factors and conditions. Pragmatic sensibilities ultimately trumped the propensities of missionary agents to be dismissive of contextual realities. Imperial hubris inevitably gave way to creative negotiations and interactions. This dynamic process resulted in the four models that I will discuss: rejectionist, accommodationist, revisionist, and adventurist paradigms for understanding the various ways Africans have responded to mission under the banner of race. This paper uses the missionary activities in various contexts in Africa, especially in the 19th century, to tease out these various responses and templates for understanding how the issue of race has shaped the ebb and flow of the Christian faith in Africa. In the 19th century, Africa was a center of religious renewal and revival. In the midst of uncertainty, upheaval, and warfare, African religious leaders and prophets played significant roles in reshaping and redefining the mission of the Christian faith within the African context. This paper will further grapple with how these modalities in the 19th century have been reshaped and reappropriated in contemporary times.

Akintunde E. Akinade is professor of theology at Georgetown University’s Edmund E. Walsh School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He has been published widely, with books he has authored or edited including Christian Responses to Islam in Nigeria: A Contextual Study of Ambivalent Encounters, the award-winning Agitated Mind of God: The Theology of Kosuke Koyama (with Dale T. Irvin), and Creativity and Change in Nigerian Christianity with (David O. Ogungbile). He serves on numerous editorial boards.

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier

Siempre Lo Mismo: Theology, Rhetoric and Broken Praxis

This paper looks at the professionalism of the church and theological education as expressions of racism and broken praxis, in particular through their roots in mission efforts in Latin America in the 19th century. Latinos’ participation in the structures of the church and theological education in light of colonialism, racism, and the present theological rhetoric of the church will be discussed and analyzed. I will speak of our struggle to love in the church and to go beyond fractured relationships and compromised faith to effective ministry from the perspective of Latino/a practical theology and praxis.

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier is academic dean and vice president of education at Esperanza College of Eastern University. She is a mentor to Latino/a scholars and leaders of the church and has written in the areas of multicultural education, practical theology, the spirituality of the scholar, and Evangélica theology. Her writings include the bilingual book Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families, which was a finalist in ForeWord Review’s 2011 Book of the Year awards.


Andrew T. Draper

The End of “Mission”: Christian Witness and the Decentering of Whiteness

In the modern world, Christian mission is tied into the continual reproduction of whiteness. This paper explores the vulnerability necessary for the white body to be joined with others so as to decenter its false claims to a universal subjectivity. Neither conservative “white innocence” nor progressive “white guilt” as ideological stances are viable toward such ends. Instead, for white folks, the appropriate vulnerability means repentance for complicity in systemic sin, choosing to locate their lives in places and structures in which they are necessarily guests, tangible submission to non-white ecclesial leadership, learning from cultural and theological resources not their own, and hearing and speaking the glory of God in unfamiliar cadences.

Andrew T. Draper is assistant professor of theology and director of the Honors Guild at Taylor University. He is author of A Theology of Race and Place: Liberation and Reconciliation in the Works of Jennings and Carter and has written numerous papers and reviews in the areas of theological anthropology, race, disability theology, and urban ministry. A community activist and sought-after speaker, Draper is founding senior pastor of Urban Light Community Church.

Willie Jennings

Willie Jennings

Can “White” People Be Saved: Reflections on the Relationship of Missions and Whiteness

Whiteness was born on the mission field. It grew as both a way of being seen and a way of seeing the world. Whiteness has been a way of structuring reality that drew and still draws its energy from Christianity. The challenge that Christianity faces in this new century is stripping itself of whiteness. The nature of Christian mission must now be imagined from the standpoint of the overturning of white subjectivity in all its modalities. Unfortunately, Christian theologians and ethicists have been slow to recognize or understand the problems of whiteness. This is due in large measure to its seductive energy as a constituting site of pleasure, power, and control. Whiteness feels good and its affective characteristics are often denied by intellectuals, Christian and non-Christian. This presentation will consider these matters and offer a way to uncouple Christian faith from whiteness by means of a theology of place, an uncoupling that is critical to Christian witness in the 21st century.

Willie James Jennings is associate professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale University Divinity School. He is the author of the celebrated text The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. Dr. Jennings has recently completed a commentary on the book of Acts and is working on a book on the doctrine of creation. Writing in the areas of liberation theologies, cultural identities, and anthropology, he has authored more than 40 scholarly essays and nearly two dozen reviews. He is an ordained Baptist minister.

Daniel Jeyaraj

Daniel Jeyaraj

Christian Debates on Race, Theology, and Mission in India

This paper explores how the early Jesuit and Lutheran missionaries approached the problems associated with race or caste identities from the 16th to 19th centuries—especially the Parava Conversion to Roman Catholicism of Portuguese persuasion in the 16th century, and Karl Graul's debates with the English missionaries in the mid-19th century. Secondly, the paper critiques how Indian Christians in the 20th century tried to solve the problems of theology and mission that became identity markers for various tribes or caste or language groups. The final section analyzes existing tensions between theology and mission on the one hand and how they are translated in missionary fields in certain North Indian settings, while making some proposals for thinking about Christian theology and mission for the 21st century.

Daniel Jeyaraj is professor of world Christianity and director of the Andrew F. Walls Centre for the Study of African and Asian Christianity at Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, United Kingdom. He has been broadly published in English, German, and Tamil, and has taught courses on world Christianity, Reformations, ecumenical movements, and world religions at major theological colleges and universities in India, Germany, and the United States.

Angel Santiago Vendrell

Angel Santiago-Vendrell

Constructing Race in Puerto Rico: The Colonial Legacy of Christianity and Empires, 1508-1910

Puerto Rico was occupied by the United States as part of the Spanish American War in 1898. The military occupation was followed by a religious occupation by Protestant missionaries. For Protestant missionaries the awkwardness of Puerto Ricans was a direct result of the inadequacies of Roman Catholicism in reaching the masses of society through education, economics, and morality. One more layer of the occupation of Puerto Rico by the United States was the racialized notion that Protestant missionaries had already ingrained in their own consciousness related to blackness. The notion of blackness in the colonial context between Puerto Rico and the United States was centered in Darwinian imaginary and the ideology of manifest destiny that saw whiteness as destined to dominate all other races. This racialized understanding of otherness was challenged in Puerto Rico by the composition of Puerto Ricans as a mixed racial society. However, such hybridity of races sometimes works as a superficial deterrent that masks internal racial tensions in Puerto Rican society. Many Latino/a theologians who work to reconcile the racial inconsistencies of this community use the term mestizaje, but this term erases the real tensions based on racial complexities that are still prevalent 100 years after those first missionaries arrived in Puerto Rico. This presentation addresses the theological constructions of North American Protestants that justified the occupation of Puerto Rico by the United States in 1898, the missionary constructions of blacks as an inferior group of people, and missionary constructions that advance the cause of racial equality and reconciliation, and draws some theological and missiological conclusions for the present time.

Angel Santiago-Vendrell is E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary’s Dunnam School of Urban Ministries, Orlando, Florida. He is the author of Contextual Theology and Revolutionary Transformation in Latin America: The Missiology of M. Richard Shaull and has been published in numerous academic journals. He has served in pastoral roles with the United Methodist Church and is founder of LUPUMF, an after-school program for underprivileged children.

Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Indigenizing Salvation

The history of missionization to Indigenous peoples in the United States has been simultaneously the history of Indigenous genocide. This is because the goal of the missionization of Indigenous peoples was not their salvation. This talk will examine how Western Christianization has only regarded humans as suitable for salvation, and has defined Native peoples outside the category of the human. That is why Native peoples’ conversion to Christianity has never protected them from violence. I will explore how this theological abandonment of Native peoples fundamentally structures US law today as well as the contemporary treatment of Native peoples. I will further explore alternative possibilities for reconstructing the “human” and thus challenging the logic of disposability within Western Christianity.

Andrea Smith is director of graduate studies in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Riverside. She is a board member of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies. Her publications include Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances and Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, and she has edited or co-edited several other works.

Jonathan Tran

Jonathan Tran

“The Spirit of God Was Hovering Over the Waters”: Pressing Past Racialization in the De-Colonial Missionary Context

One can distinguish between a pernicious version of post-racialism and a serious aspirant version that unfolds within and beyond the regnant black-white binary. What if the conditions for the possibility of the former turned out to be those under which de-colonial Christian missionary endeavors now operate? One might then take a principal problem plaguing missionary efforts (i.e., racist optics) and place it within the Asian American experience (e.g., immigration, suffering, etc.) in order to force Christians to reimagine race relations. Such an aspiration, couched in terms of desire, would not be thought of as an ideal moral future as much as an attempt on the part of some to eke out a tenable existence amidst the catastrophes of race.

Jonathan Tran is associate professor of theology and ethics in the Religion Department at Baylor University, where he also serves as faculty steward of the Honors Residential College. His research engages matters related to theological and political ethics, linguistic philosophy, and race and identity theory. Dr. Tran’s books include The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory: Time and Eternity in the Far Country and Foucault and Theology, and he has been published widely in academic journals.

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