As I begin this series looking at Calvin Rock’s seminal article “Black SDA Preaching: Balanced or betwixt and between?” I notice that the article begins with 3 important questions for consideration. These questions reach the heart of Black Preaching within an Adventist context.
- Is it possible to do genuine Black preaching when we are separated from the Black churches? In other words, must one be in a historically Black denomination to engage in true Black preaching? Related is the question of whether an “Anglo hermeneutic” has taken over our preaching which would be a detriment to Black preaching itself?
- How has the separation of Black Adventists from the historic Black denominations affected our preaching? Has it given us an “Anglo-emphasis?”
- Are we Black preachers with an Adventist doctrine or Adventist preachers with a Black emphasis? Or are we a hybrid “too theologically Anglicized for authentic Black preaching and too authentically ethnic to fit the Adventist prototype?”
Why Care about the Black Tradition?
A deeper question also emerges as I look at these questions. That question is should we even care or worry about an African American approach to preaching? Is it valuable in its own right or is it a relic of the past with no relevance for today?
Those are complicated questions. But in the end, Black preaching is valuable because of its emphasis on 3 important things that can enrich all preaching. The first of these is its “practicality.” Great Black preaching is not simply about teaching doctrine, but finding practical ways to make that doctrine relevant to daily living. The second important characteristic of Great black preaching is it is “communal.” Great Black preaching seeks to build a community of people who can make it through the difficulties of life. The emphasis is on community. The final is it is from the vantage point of the “least of these.” Black preaching looks at the Bible and the preaching moment as a means of celebrating the perspective of the least of these. This is a valuable hermeneutic in that a good portion of the Bible’s witness comes from the perspective of the least of these. Please see this link for an article I wrote on the Black Preaching Tradition.
Black Adventist or Adventist who happens to be Black?
So yes I think that the Black preaching tradition is important, even to Adventists. But this goes back to the question of whether we are Black Adventist preachers or Adventist preachers who happen to be Black. I don’t like the dichotomy between these two descriptions. But I will begin to answer this question this way. I refused to separate the two. I must preach as an African American who has engaged in the benefits and liabilities of being a part of the community. But I am Adventist. Both have demands on me as a preacher. I must look for what God is doing for the underdog when I look at the text. My African American perspective forces me to do that. But I also must look for the “Great controversy” theme and the connection to the consummation of all things at the Second Advent, because I am Adventist.
Unify the Two?
I must seek to “celebrate the good news” and attempt to have the people “experience the word” because so many in my African American tradition have done that, but I also must preach reform and the responsibilities of the Gospel because I am Adventist. In short, I must do both, and hopefully reflection on this article will help me retain this “dual-consciousness.”
Please stay around for our reflections on this important document.