Why Diversity Matters
Christianity Today has called world Christianity scholar Andrew Walls a “historian ahead of his time” and “the most important person you don’t know.” I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with this gentle Scottish man and my colleague Emmanuel Katongole during Walls’ recent visit and lecture at Duke.
Just nine pages long, Walls’ article The Ephesian Moment: At a Crossroads in Christian History is among the most compelling theological reading on why diversity matters.
Few ask “diversity towards what?” Usually there are two alternatives: diversity as an end in itself (and nobody seems to be against diversity these days), or culturally homogenous churches accepted as normal (“I have my tradition, you have yours, what’s wrong with that”).
For Walls, authentic diversity is about radical conversion, the terrain where Christ shapes us into maturity. There is much at stake in whether or not Christians embrace their true DNA. Over dinner, Walls quietly and slowly explained that Jews and Gentiles coming together for the first time in the church at Antioch (Acts 13) is where the term “Christian” was first used. No one had needed such a term when there were only Jew and Gentile. The two groups together constructed one community, not two communities. “This is the natural condition of Christianity,” he said. “Bi-cultural is the authentic nature of the church. For each is partial without the other.” The “test [of Christian authenticity] was the meal table,” said Walls. The test is a life of intimacy across a social divide, correcting and enlarging one another. The coming together of cultures into one body matters for being transformed into the “full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4).
“The most pressing issues in 21st century Christianity are ecumenical,” argued Walls in his lecture the next day. Yet he said this has little to do with Lutherans getting along with Methodists. It is about Christians in Africa, India, China, east and west, north and south expressing a common life of faith, living together to correct and enlarge one another.
If you get a chance to read The Ephesian Moment: At a Crossroads in Christian History, tell me what you think.
About the Author: Chris Rice is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He currently serves as co-director of the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation, and writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.
Last 5 posts on Reconcilers:
- Good Friday Meditation: Maturing Downward
- Listening for the “Next Song” in Our Lives
- Holy Daring
- Must-Read: “The Sacrifice of Africa”
- The Culture of Grace