Theology in the African American Church

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We welcome Randy Rowland as a guest blogger for the fourth in a series of five posts. 

African American theology had  its earliest roots in an experience of pain and suffering. Mourning freedom and agonizing over loss of identity and opportunity were a huge part of the Southern A/M experience.

But, with civil rights and a more socially engaged A/M population in the North and the West, black theology has evolved into more of a need for empowerment and survival.

The need for empowerment is directly linked to a higher level of social engagement in the A/M church of the 21st Century.  Themes of restorative justice and mercy are pervasive.  This shift in theology is much more active than the seeking of solace and healing that were so inculcated into previous generations.

A/M theology today also must be quite conscious of generational tensions (see the Movie: The Butler).  New generations of Blacks must dialogue regularly with the voices of secularity, aethism, nihilism and other religions.

The theology of the new A/M church must also have a very solid ‘outreach and evangelism” component since African Americans are no longer “automatic” members of a worshipping community. Many have departed the church or become underchurched and need reevangelization.

One important note about a consistency in African American theology is the strong affinity with narrative.  African Americans are only a couple of generations removed from a more oral culture. Stories remain powerful.  The rational and categorized, or topical theology, of Western Europe is not necessarily an attractive or helpful way or learning, cataloging or practicing discipleship for most African Americans.  And, this narrative bias, has been a blessing to the European rooted churches of the white community as it learns to tell stories along with recording facts.

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