Baptist World Alliance, BWA News Release

Callam calls for rethink on ethnicity

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Christian unity may require rethinking the use of the language of ethnicity, said Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam, at a lecture in Texas in the United States.

Callam, who delivered the annual T. B. Maston Lectures in Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s (HSU) Logsdon Theological Seminary in Abilene, Texas, in April, argued “that terms like ‘ethnic’ or ‘ethnicity’ are not as unproblematic as some may think.”

In his first lecture, titled, Ethnicity: Establishing Borders of Exclusion, Callam identified three principal understandings of ethnicity and suggested that terms such as “ethnic” and “ethnicity” may be understood as mythical concepts that play a major role in social differentiation, and may actually be used to promote negative stereotypes.

While the meaning of “ethnic churches” is not used in the same way by those who adopt it, it appears “that [the] designation is reserved for churches formed by immigrant people or for persons deemed to be minorities in their residential context,” Callam said. Callam asked that care be taken in the use of the language of ethnicity and offered suggestions on how this can be achieved.

In his second lecture, entitled Communion: Celebrating Inclusive Community, Callam posited that Holy Communion is a community meal that potentially can  overcome boundaries that Christians construct through the use of ethnic categories.

The meaning of the Holy Communion as a community-defining and solidarity-conferring meal, he said, “implies that Christians need to deconstruct their understanding of ethnicity in order to enable the acknowledgement of our common bond in Christ Jesus.” In this way, he continued, “the Lord’s Supper will be a celebration of grace, a banquet of love, and a festival of solidarity.

The T. B. Maston Lectures in Christian Ethics is an annual lecture series presented by Logsdon Seminary and The Logsdon School of Theology of HSU. The lectures seek to honor the legacy of Dr. T.B. Maston, longtime professor of Christian ethics and pioneering Baptist ethicist, known for his writing and teaching in the areas of biblical ethics, race relations, family life, church and state, and character formation.

© Baptist World Alliance
May 9, 2012

The Baptist World Alliance, founded in 1905, is a fellowship of 253 conventions and unions in 130 countries and territories comprising 51 million baptized believers in 176,000 churches. For more than 100 years, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief, and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights, and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development.