According to the Markan gospel, from the onset of His Galilean mission, Jesus proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the [reign] of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15 NRSV). The imminent extension of God’s love, redemption, salvation, forgiveness, mercy, and justice to a bewildered humanity was and is indeed good news. In the Pardon in response to the Confession of The United Methodist “Service of Word and Table I,” we pronounce, “Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God's love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven!”
Humans do not have to suffer with the deleterious effects of guilt, shame, and estrangement that result from sin-sickness. We declare the mystery of faith, “Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.” God loves you (John 3:16). Jesus is with you (Matthew 28:20). The Holy Spirit dwells in you (Romans 8:9). That news transcends culture, ethnicity, and race. That news is eternal. That news is ubiquitous. That news is good!
The quintessential task of the Church is to vivify and share this good news. This task is not to be relegated to a committee or outsourced to a particular order. This task is to be fulfilled by all who believe in the good news. Notwithstanding, some (such as the American Society of Missiology (ASM)) particularly focus on and represent this task. I celebrate this brilliant collection of minds who offers theoretical frameworks to help the Church more fruitfully fulfill this task.
While I celebrate this brilliance, not one Black person is an ASM officer, on the ASM Board of Directors, on the ASM Board of Publications, a Missiology Editor, on an ASM Editorial Committee, or on any form of leadership listed on the “Key People” page (https://www.asmweb.org/key-people). While this claim would certainly benefit from more scholarly research, I surmise that ASM leadership is ethnically representative of the discipline of Missiology.
To what can we attribute the absence of Black thinkers and leaders in conventional missiological conversations? Is the good news that Jesus embodied and proclaimed not good enough for Black persons to proclaim? Are Black persons perspectives not relevant to the conversation? Perhaps, Black persons are not significantly represented in faith traditions (denominations), including The United Methodist Church, typically associated with the dominant voices of missiology and mission work. According to a 2014 Pew Research Report, Black persons represented less than 1% of The United Methodist population. Black persons cannot be a part of the missionary population if they are not part of the general population.
If the low representation within faith traditions can be overcome, how can Black persons be included in the mission work of the Church? Of The United Methodist Church? How can an institution, who has been racialized as superior, contextualize this good news for Black people, who have been racialized as inferior? Methodism has a history of being able to present the good news to Black persons in a way that it was received and celebrated. Vance P. Ross observes, “Black People gladly joined Methodism because Methodism, in divine obedience, avowed the humanity of Black people.” However, relatively early in the conception, Methodism quickly devolved from this ability.
United Methodism shares this relative inability to appropriate the good news for Black persons with the universal Church. Missiology to “urban” (e.g., softened way of describing undesirable Black spaces) communities has often seemed like toxic charity and/or colonization. Black communities, along with the world community, has recently been overwhelmed with news that has been not so good. Along with pandemic-related news, powerful institutions have been weaponized to discipline Black bodies, poverty and pain endemic to “urban” communities have been criminalized, and access to dignity has been monetized to the detriment of Black persons who cannot afford it. In the midst of all of this, the loudest voices for the Church have sanctified these travesties and voices of lament from the Church have been strangely silent.
What about the Black persons who already believe in the good news? What is, or can be, their role(s)? And how can the Church, The United Methodist Church, contribute to fruitfulness in these roles? Maybe, there is an opportunity to explore a different theoretical framework for missiology, which may be used to transcend other cultural, racial, and/or ethnic spaces.
Perhaps, the good news has not been sufficiently interpreted and appropriated for Black persons and Black communities. The Church would do well to provide opportunity and support to help Black thinkers and leaders lead in presenting and representing a counternarrative to the loud travesty-sanctifying voices and the strangely silent voices of lament. This counternarrative could interpret and appropriate the good news for the disregarded “urban” mission field. The residents of this mission field may receive anew, or new, the good news as it has been contained in and expressed through our liturgies, our litanies, our social principles, and the work of our general agencies.
The Church can find ways to promote these thinkers and leaders as public theologians, as they vivify and share the good news. The Church should include these brilliant minds among the other the brilliant minds who provide theoretical frameworks for all those who believe in the good news to embody and proclaim. God’s love, redemption, salvation, forgiveness, mercy, and justice are indeed imminent in “urban” areas, as they are all the world. God disrupts the sin-sickness of weaponization, criminalization, and monetization, which do not have to be suffered by those who wield them or by those receive them. That news certainly transcends culture, ethnicity, and race. That news is eternal. That news is ubiquitous. That news is indeed good enough to be shared by all to all!
1. Thomas Anderson Langford III, gen. ed., The United Methodist Book of Worship. (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 35.
 Ibid., 38.
 Pew Research Center. "How Racially Diverse are U.S. Religious Groups,” July 27, 2015. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/27/the-most-and-least-racially-diverse-u-s-religious-groups/ft_15-07-23_religiondiversityindex-1/.
 Vance P. Ross, “I’m Black. I’m Methodist. I’m Challenging (To What End)?” in I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m Methodist, ed. Rudy Rasmus (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2020), 141.