by Jermar Tisbdy
The Reformed African American Network is intended to bring Reformed theological resources to the African-American community. If you're African American and become Reformed, at some point you're going to ask yourself, "Is there anyone else out there like me?" The answer is yes — RAAN seeks to form an online community by which we can feed and sharpen each other, and provide a place to discuss and engage pressing issues.
It's a multiethnic vision, so we certainly don't want just African Americans. We want people of any race or ethnicity to get a glimpse into the thinking and the different voices among Reformed African Americans.
We want to create engagement because engagement denotes interaction — it's not just importing or exporting a package. There's much that African Americans can learn from Reformed theology, but there's also a lot that the historic Reformed faith can learn from African - American Christians.
For example, African Americans need a rootedness in historic Christianity. We tend to think of Christianity going only as far back as when missionaries shared the gospel with African slaves. But there's 1,700 years of Christianity leading up to those times. The African-American church oftentimes misses the richness of the Reformers and the apostolic tradition. By engaging with Reformed theology, African Americans get a better sense of being part of the universal church.
On the other side, I think the historic Reformed faith can learn from the African-American community in the context of our coming out of the shackles of slavery. African Americans have an entire racial, ethnic experience of slavery, and the only way we can explain that experience without going into despair or fatalism is through a sense of divine providence and God's sovereignty that still reverberates today. The way we articulate this will be different from any other people who haven't had that experience.
In other words, the African-American and historic Reformed traditions are both getting at the same ideas — God's providence and sovereignty — but we're coming at it from different perspectives that enrich everyone.
The RAAN Facebook page can be found by searching for Reformed African American Network (RAAN).
The article appeared in Ministry & Leradership