Monday, August 2, 2021

Recommended Reading: Black-ish Missiology

It is not often that this site recommends academic articles, especially ones that are behind paywalls. However, those interested in missiology are strongly encouraged to read Dwight A Radcliff Jr.'s article "Black-ish Missiology: A Critique of Mission Studies and Appeal for Inclusion in the United States Context," if they have not already done so. The article appeared in last June's issue of Mission Studies.

In a strong indictment of the field of missiology, Radcliff, who is himself Black, explores the ways in which African American Black scholars and Black thinking are marginalized within US missiology, leaving a field that is black-ish: "something that purports to be Black (African American), but upon close inspection may not be authentic to, or representative of, the culture."

Radcliff identifies two driving forces behind the marginalization of African Americans within missiology. The first is an "internal structuring and epistemology" that pays little attention to African American concerns and has little room for African American intellectual methodologies.

The second is the failure of the discipline to engage with a large catalogue of scholarly writings by Black scholars that could be considered within missiology, given their focus, but are not. I discussed this second reason in my UM & Global piece "Why Are There So Few Black Missiologists?" and I am grateful to receive confirmation of what was for me a hypothesis, and grateful to have Radcliff's analysis as a Black man that is able to see things that I as a White man cannot.

Radcliff does not think missiology as a field is irredeemably marked by racism, nor do I. Radcliff gives three helpful guide points for developing an authentically Black missiology. The work of constructing such a missiology must be done by Black African Americans. But those from the dominant White culture in the United States, such as me, and those from other backgrounds may profitably ask themselves how they may support such an effort, both in structural ways through positions and funding and through the habits of scholarship, by listening, reading, and engaging with Black missiology, incorporating it into the larger discipline by taking it seriously and seeing it as an important contribution to the collective knowledge of all missiologists, regardless of racial background.

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