I normally do not send out two newsletters in one month, but this is a special one I didn’t want to sit on.
In November 2021, I heard that Julie Roys with The Roys Report was holding a conference specifically on abuse in the church. Having left the culture of Acts 29 and their male-centric conferences, attending a conference was not on my list of longings.
However, seeing names like Lori Anne Thompson, Diane Langberg, Scot McKnight, and Wade Mullen on the speaker list, I decided to go. Their work and words have ministered to me throughout my own spiritual drought. So, I bought a ticket, crossed my fingers, and hoped I’d make friends there.
The speakers were wonderful, but, hands down, the best part was the people. I did make new friends, and I finally met many others with whom I had become friends throughout 2021. I gleaned information & wisdom from the speakers, but the attendees were the ones who made it worth it.
Kat Wilkins, Kristen McKnight, myself, Dr. Scot McKnight, and Colby Wilkins
Since coming home, I’ve been processing much of what I’ve heard, and so much of that is good. Tov.
A few of my favorite quotes:
Jesus, who knocks and waits, actually wants you. He longs for you. He not only created you, but his longing for you makes you his treasure—not his trash.
Dr. Diane Langberg
Leaders have followers.
Pastors have a flock.
Dr. Scot McKnight
If you are not going to get justice, you better become it.
That alone is a just outcome. You can become a just outcome.
Lori Anne Thompson
I have learned so much.
I do have one qualm.
The conference itself was focused on the restoration of those who have been hurt and cast out of churches—marginalized in one way or another from faith communities that were like home.
My concern is there are other populations who hold overflowing wisdom on what it is to be marginalized, misrepresented, and misunderstood by churches.
And I don’t think they were fully represented.
To give you context for my concern, I hope you will allow me to share more of my own story. Just a small piece.
I shared a slice of my story on Instagram in the caption of the post seen below. I shared this shortly after learning about the Buffalo shooting—an act of terrorism born within the heart of white supremacy. I wrote about how I have encountered white supremacy even as a half-white person.
I grew up in a small Texas town called Nederland. It is about 80 miles east of Houston near the Texas-Louisiana border. I was not raised within the American Evangelical church, but there were enough people around me drinking from that well that I would take the occasional sip by association.
I also grew up in the South as a biracial child. My mother immigrated from the Philippines in the 80s. When spending time with Filipino people you get a taste of their culture of origin. I’ve never been to the Philippines, but it’s my culture, too.
Imagine shopping in your usual neighborhood everyday or being in your average American high school all day long. Then, imagine coming home, opening the door to your house, and stepping into a different country—that was my childhood. Two different cultures.
As a child, I would happily receive a plate of both fried chicken nuggets AND chicken pancit, a Filipino noodle dish. If left to my own devices, the younger version of myself would be up to her elbows in halo-halo, a Filipino dessert. I would regularly enter my home to hear another language spoken by people to whom I was related but who I could not understand. Texas on the outside. Filipino on the inside.
If know me personally, this might be news to you, which is understandable because this is not something I share regularly.
I often have to erase or deny this side of my heritage to be able to fit in with the dominant culture around me. I have spent years erasing myself so that I would be accepted—so I would belong. White Evangelicalism is not known for its hospitality toward those with a different ethnic heritage. There was never space for my Filipino culture. And as a byproduct, I am still learning what it means to embrace my multicultural identity.
How do I embrace my “brown-ness” in a culture that is often more comfortable with my denial of it?
I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a white space and been asked about my experience growing up biracial. I’ve never been asked how difficult it is to navigate being mixed race, even as an adult. I’ve never been asked how hard it is to be mistaken as the nanny or babysitter of my own white-presenting children. (Yes, this really happens.)
With those who know me, my whiteness is often assumed. I speak the language. But white friends do not understand that I code-switch between cultural lines.
Hear me: this is not a condemnation of primarily white spaces—only an observation from my lived experience.
Code-switching comes with a cost. It is an impression management strategy. If you’re familiar with Wade Mullen’s work, impression management strategies are not new to you.
I am still in-process with navigating this reality and what it means for me. However, I find it interesting (if not harmful) that minority cultures are compelled to code-switch—employ an impression management strategy—to get through the door in white spaces, including white churches. On the other end, we are all learning that Christian leaders employ impression management strategies to win the public’s perception after abuse allegations come to light.
Many of us are not okay with the covering-up done in the latter.
Are we okay with what minorities feel compelled to cover up in the former?
Why are the gates in and out of the American Evangelical church guarded with impression management strategies?
If we want to be effective in changing the culture that abuses, dismisses, dehumanizes, and marginalizes in the church, we need to shine a light in some of the darkest areas of church history.
From what I gathered, though I’m willing to be wrong, most in attendance at Restore 2022 were white Evangelicals. If white Evangelicals are willing to diagnose and unveil the strategies used to kick people out of the church, are they equally willing to address the strategies often required to let people in?
I do not know the answers.
I do know I lived this.
I lived it going in, and I lived it coming out.
I share this slice of my story because I want you to hear me. I want you to hear from all facets of me and my multicultural personhood. I want you to hear me both as a white woman and as a woman of color.
I am simultaneously both, and, yet, not enough of either.
The Restore 2022 Conference did a beautiful job in opening a conversation that helps to restore the Church to all her beauty. But the conference only spoke to a small slice of the truth that has been kept hidden. There is far more harm to uncover.
If one, single church uses impression management tactics to hide allegations and kick people out, one, single church has a VERY big problem. However, if an entire Christian subculture requires marginalized people to use impression management strategies—code-switching—to gain acceptance and belonging, we have a Church problem.
I want there to be a day where I can show up with all of who I am. A day where leaders let BIPOC & post-Evangelical voices talk about the cost they have paid to gain admittance to a culture that continues to ostracize so many.
We need leaders of color to unveil more of the truth.
And when they do, are you willing to see it and accept it in humility?
With love 🖤 and fire 🔥 ,
My Notes from Restore 2022
I know so many of you wanted to attend and couldn’t, so I wanted to send along the notes I took. I have those available below. Lord knows, I was typing like wild, so I’m hoping they are readable. If you are familiar with the Table of Contents display in your PDF reader app, you should be able to see the notes outline, organized by day and session. You can also click on the Table of Contents page to jump-to where you want to go.
If you have an issue with downloading the notes, I will have them parked on my website at jenaiauman.com/resources.
I’ve been asked to regularly contribute to The Better Samaritan blog hosted on the Christianity Today Blog Forum. The Better Samaritan is a blog focused on a humble posture of continually seeking to do good, better, from everyday acts of kindness to navigating the most complex humanitarian challenges facing the church and society.
You can read my first article, “Will the Church Walk in the Way of the Great Physician?” on The Better Samaritan blog, published May 25, 2022.
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This is great! It would be fun to have a conversation on the marginalized groups by both faith and society. The self cultural crisis is a tough subject as it comes down to how the individual reconciles both faith and culture.
All of this is so good and true. Thanks Jenai.