Church in Color
Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr.
246 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2020
Congregational leaders are often unsure how to attend to the complexities of racism and racial division in the United States. One common response is to acknowledge that racism is wrong and then avoid the topic as much as possible. This is especially the case in youth and young adult ministries, as pastors and other youth workers attempt to foster a sense of community and identity that transcends race. While this method may seem helpful on the surface, it ultimately undermines the goal of offering young people authentically Christian mentoring, understanding, and pastoral care. There is a dire need for a practical theological framework that welcomes young people’s experiences and questions regarding race into the work of theology and vocational discernment.
In this groundbreaking ethnographic and theological account, Montague R. Williams unearths and examines the realities of race in multiracial and multiethnic youth ministries in the United States. Church in Color invites readers to consider stories of young people in three distinct congregations and witness their longing for a Christian discipleship that grapples with rather than avoids race. Williams further analyzes how young people communicate this longing and why it is difficult for congregational leaders to recognize and respond to it. Finally, placing these findings in dialogue with an in-depth and nuanced engagement of Martin Luther King Jr.’s theological aesthetics, Williams guides congregations to embrace a discipleship that recognizes, remembers, and wrestles with the realities of race, racism, and racial identity.
Church in Color demonstrates the importance of including the questions and experiences of young people from diverse backgrounds in the work of theological construction. It also models how to bring various fields, such as congregational studies, youth ministry, race theory, pop culture, and Kingian theology, together within a broader practical theological conversation. Most significantly, Church in Color charts a path forward for the future of intergenerational Christian communities in a racialized world.
1 Racial Color-Blindness and Confusion in Youth Ministry
Beachland Community Church
2 Mistaking Racial Color-Blindness for a Christian Virtue
The Lingering Effects of Post-Racialism
3 Post-Racialism in a Black Multiethnic Congregation
Cityland Community Church
4 Breaking Free from Post-Racial Youth Ministry
Southland Community Church
5 Resisting Post-Racialism Takes Work
Reflections on the "Habitus" and Aesthetics of "Race-ism"
6 Aesthetic Resistance in the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr.
Envisioning the Beloved Community
7 Embracing Church in Color
Practices for Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Williams positions youth ministry as a starting place for dismantling dominant narratives of racism and colorblindness in the Church. In these pages, I hear a call for leaders who work with young people toward postures and practices that re-center wonder. I hear a call for congregations to let the scales of false racial innocence fall from their eyes. Grounded in the journey of three congregations and brimming with fresh theological insight, readers will catch a vision and strategy for the kind of disruptive work that allows young people to bring their whole, embodied selves to the Beloved Community of God’s people and together pursue change.~Abigail Visco Rusert, Director of the Institute for Youth Ministry, Princeton Theological Seminary
Dr. Williams’ work should be commended. He creates a type of groundwork that could ‘trailblaze’ a new area of study that is direly needed. The dearth of youth and young adult Person-of-Color-centered material is a travesty and one that needs correcting as we move towards an ethnic-minority-filled future in the Americas. Williams’ work can serve as a type of guideline for those wanting to enter into the complex and sometimes ‘messy’ field of ministry connected to real-time work in race and ethnicity.~Daniel White Hodge, Professor of Intercultural Communication, North Park University
Drawing on Martin Luther King, Jr. as a theological source, Montague R. Williams reminds us that the Church has much to lose if it fails to create the ‘space’ in which young people can reconcile their Christian discipleship with a serious engagement with the realities of ‘race, racism, and racial identity.’ Williams ultimately has in mind a fresh and more vital ecclesial vision that is tailored to the unique and complex challenges facing what some cultural theorists call ‘the post-millennials,’ the most racially and ethnically diverse generation of young people in American and world history. This book is a clarion call to action.~Lewis V. Baldwin, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University and author of The Voice of Conscience: The Church in the Mind of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Montague R. Williams has produced a rich and passionate project in Church in Color. He offers a fresh voice addressing some of the most important issues we face in the church today. Williams’ greatest accomplishment is showing how youth ministry can make an impact in theological reflection, and how theological reflection can make an impact on our imaginations of race. This is a book I’ll be assigning for classroom use.~Andrew Root, Professor of Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary and author of The End of Youth Ministry and The Congregation in a Secular Age