Spiritual attentiveness is enhanced in interracial, transcultural, or intercultural settings. I push you to look at the different ways God is working in these types of settings. They become spaces where you can be attentive to new ways of doing ministry, because new encounters invite us to relativize our cultural framings and challenge us to recognize that other ways of looking at the church in mission might actually be more useful.
These encounters also force us to recognize our sins in a racialized and minoritized society. We in the North have not done a good job at serving in intercultural and interracial settings. Many of our churches and seminaries, even Fuller, talk well, declare well, study well, mean well. But sometimes we have been like the burro of the old Mexican song—one step forward, two steps back. We in the United States are not yet ready to confront the structural sins created by European-based cultures and colonialism—even within our churches, be they conservative or progressive, fundamentalist or liberal.
The current silent lament that you are witnessing at this service right now calls us to recognize that our seminary’s struggles in this area have created an environment that has become toxic for many, and that’s why we wear the mask. The path forward is fraught with pain and danger because it will mean profound repentance not unlike Zacchaeus, who demonstrated his repentance by letting go of power, money, and influence. You graduates will have to deal with issues of race and intercultural relations in the current toxic environment of our world. Go forward knowing that this path will not be easily created, but it is here where the Spirit of the Lord wants to speak to us in new ways.
Now I take a moment. Our colleagues are silently giving lament and testimony, and if you would like to join with them, you’re invited to also stand. The program will continue, but if you care about Fuller, if you care about this and want to give testimony to your caring, I invite you to stand.
+ Juan Martínez is Fuller’s Professor of Hispanic Studies and Pastoral Leadership. These words are taken from Dr. Martínez’s sermon at Fuller’s 2018 Baccalaureate service, where African American students and others stood, wearing masks, to silently protest the seminary’s failure to adequately address issues of inclusivity. His invitation to stand was met with an overwhelming response from faculty, administrators, staff, and graduates.