Church in Color Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. In his Q&A, Montague shares what inspired him to write this book, why churches need a re-reading of Dr. King’s work, how he views mentorship, and his hope for the next generation of faithful leaders.

"> Get To Know Montague Williams | Forum for Theological Exploration The Ugly Truth About Church | Forum for Theological Exploration FTE Remembers Rev. Dr. James H. Cone | Forum for Theological Exploration Five Influential People You Meet in Grad School | Forum for Theological Exploration Learning to Breathe for a Marathon | Forum for Theological Exploration Lutheran Volunteer Corps, one of my mentors asked me why I had chosen a faith-based organization focusing on social justice, rather than a secular organization. This question caught me completely off guard—I had never considered that my passion for social justice could come from anything but my faith. So many of the Scripture passages that speak to me most deeply are those that call for an end to oppression and injustice, that call for us to care for those who are in need, for those who are rejected and for those who are forgotten. From Jesus to Martin Luther King, Jr. my models of social justice are strongly tied to faith.

"> Social Justice as an Extension of Faith | Forum for Theological Exploration Introducing the Leaders for Tomorrow’s Institutions | Forum for Theological Exploration “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations …” | Forum for Theological Exploration What is our next most faithful step? | Forum for Theological Exploration Survival in the Lily Fields: FTE Doctoral Fellowships | Forum for Theological Exploration Our Students Will Lead Us | Forum for Theological Exploration Pentecost: A Time for Change | Forum for Theological Exploration Can the Church Help End Violence & Injustice in Our Communities? Seven Themes We Heard in Chicago. | Forum for Theological Exploration “Go, set the world on fire!” But don’t burn it down. | Forum for Theological Exploration Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Culture, Queerness, and Faith | Forum for Theological Exploration Refreshed Through Discernement | Forum for Theological Exploration Set the Prisoners Free | Forum for Theological Exploration Sacred Work | Forum for Theological Exploration It Takes a Village | Forum for Theological Exploration The Hope of Now | Forum for Theological Exploration More Questions Than Answers | Forum for Theological Exploration Theological Education, Diversity, and a Transformative Future | Forum for Theological Exploration FTE’s Ministry Exploration and Mentoring Grant; The grant was such a tremendous blessing as it enabled me to develop relationships with women that have utilized their experience and/or understanding of grief in their respective ministries.

"> Affirmations of Calling | Forum for Theological Exploration Ferguson & Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community, Dr. Leah Gunning Francis discusses the significance of her work for faith communities and emerging Christian leaders.

"> Seven Questions with Leah Gunning Francis, Author of “Ferguson & Faith” | Forum for Theological Exploration A Reflection on My Ministry Exploration and Mentoring Grant Experience | Forum for Theological Exploration The Ministry of Surrender | Forum for Theological Exploration Racism: The Most Sinful of Legacies | Forum for Theological Exploration Active Faith is Urgent | Forum for Theological Exploration Vocation in Between the Aftermath of Violence and a Hoped-for Future | Forum for Theological Exploration To Follow a Call | Forum for Theological Exploration Where Two or Three Are Gathered | Forum for Theological Exploration Marking Vocational Transitions Faithfully | Forum for Theological Exploration Mission Year to attend FTE’s Discernment Retreat in Lake Arrowhead, California.

"> Our Becoming | Forum for Theological Exploration Falling Deeper Into My Calling | Forum for Theological Exploration Let the Streets Inspire You | Forum for Theological Exploration A Resolution for Religion | Forum for Theological Exploration The Church Knows Something | Forum for Theological Exploration Critical Feeling | Forum for Theological Exploration Teaching Theology after Ferguson | Forum for Theological Exploration Imagination Next | Forum for Theological Exploration If it was a Snake ... | Forum for Theological Exploration Campus Ministries that Stick | Forum for Theological Exploration How to Harness the Awkward Pause | Forum for Theological Exploration 2015 FTE Doctoral Fellowships. This is an appropriate moment to reflect briefly on why we do the work of supporting rising theological educators of color.

"> Why We Do This | Forum for Theological Exploration In Praise of Small Spaces | Forum for Theological Exploration Culture Shock | Forum for Theological Exploration Can We Keep Our Promises? | Forum for Theological Exploration An Opportunity to Re-Engage not Remake the Church | Forum for Theological Exploration Conducting My Beautiful, Cacophonous Clone Choir | Forum for Theological Exploration An Open Reflection to My Younger Self | Forum for Theological Exploration Compensation for Being | Forum for Theological Exploration Transitioning-into-Ministry (TiM) Participants Gathering. The first year I thought it was a fluke. The second year I was looking for it. This year, I was expecting it. What was is “it”? The power of a room.

"> The Power of a Room | Forum for Theological Exploration Celebrating a Birthday or Celebrating the Birth of an Idea | Forum for Theological Exploration Is the Institutional Church Worth Saving? | Forum for Theological Exploration In Search of Community | Forum for Theological Exploration Live the Questions | Forum for Theological Exploration Ask a Millennial Why They Stay | Forum for Theological Exploration Afterlife Chat at Midnight | Forum for Theological Exploration What a Vocational Calling to Ministry Means to Me | Forum for Theological Exploration When Lions Have Historians | Forum for Theological Exploration Darśan: Seeing the Divine Image in India before spending a semester together in India.

She has the monumental task of training 13 Americans to see differently while in India…

"> Sacred Optometry: Opening my Eyes in India | Forum for Theological Exploration Faith and Leadership, Nathan Kirkpatrick has been talking for years about over-investing in young people and the importance of giving the youngest generation a shot at not only Christian formation but also Christian ministry. But what does “over-investing” look like?

"> A New Year’s Resolution for Ministry | Forum for Theological Exploration Freedom to Flunk | Forum for Theological Exploration A Musical Ministry | Forum for Theological Exploration 2011 Leaders in the Academy Conference. After all, in the pursuit for excellence in scholarship in our fields of theological education, we are on a quest. This quest encompasses, as Dr. Emilie M. Townes proclaimed in celebration of the great legacy of Dr. Sharon Watson Fluker, great oeuvres along the way.

"> Colonizer or Co-learner? | Forum for Theological Exploration Academy of Preachers.

I am two days into a five-day camp, and my mind has been kneaded and sculpted so much in these short hours that I feel my brain must resemble a beloved can of Play-dough. The kneading is a result of love and affection, and it is with the endless possibility of my new intellectual “toys” that I have begun to discover something I can hardly believe I didn’t notice before.

There is no escaping tension.

"> The Tension of God’s Dance Floor | Forum for Theological Exploration Academy of Young Preachers, and the FTE staff did a great job of creating a space where learning and development could take place both as preachers and as the people who have been called to preach.

"> We are Not Walking Alone | Forum for Theological Exploration Volunteers Exploring Vocation. While it a was a short retreat, the time was spent doing some serious reflection and discussion on what vocation means and how to discern vocation.

Before the conference, I simply associated the word vocation with a career path. I expected to attend this conference and learn about different ministerial and social justice vocations. Instead, we discussed vocation in a way that I never considered. Vocation is more than just a career; it’s your lifestyle. Throughout the weekend, the definition of vocation revolved around this central theme: where your greatest desire and the world’s great need meet.

"> Vocation Exploration in Seattle | Forum for Theological Exploration McCormick Theological Seminary, and the first Asian American president of a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary. I was able to attend, along with other FTE staff, at the tail end of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

First, a moment of full disclosure: I am an alumna of McCormick. I was part of Frank’s ordination commission. We have worked together when I was in Chicago. Now I know Dr. Yamada as one of many important partners in the work FTE does with leaders in theological education.

This inauguration? It was cool..

"> Letting Loose Leadership | Forum for Theological Exploration Finding A Barefoot Way | Forum for Theological Exploration Fran Davis-Harris spoke with FTE Alumnus the Rev. Dr. Forbes (‘61) about his life and work. He shared his thoughts on being the first African American pastor of The Riverside Church. Read on to learn his major influences and how the purchase of three tangerines helped connect him with FTE as a student.

"> 10 Questions with The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes (‘61) | Forum for Theological Exploration 2012 FTE Leaders in the Academy Conference

As a first year FTE fellow, I have found myself reflecting deeply on the theme of this year’s conference “Building Community at the Crossroads.” In both a literal and figurative sense, the image of crossroads points to notions of choice and reflect a point in time in which persons are moved to choose a path in which to continue on their journey. Yet, as a burgeoning, young, Christian theologian, I am struck by the theological richness of the symbol. For crossroads can, and perhaps must, be conceived as crossroads, reflective of a question which faces all FTE fellows as we exercise our human agency on this journey toward becoming religious and theological scholars. The question we must ask is, “what type of scholar will I become?”

"> Choosing a CROSSroad | Forum for Theological Exploration 2012 FTE Leaders in the Academy Conference allowed me to consider how I define my vocation as an African American scholar. Vincent Harding’s article, “IBW and the Vocation of the Black Scholar” brought forth some questions and concerns that I have about the place of the black scholar in the academy. Harding argues that the calling of the black scholar is to fully incorporate the black experience into his/her research. The work of a black scholar should serve as an effective tool that strengthens and empowers the voices and experiences of African Americans. Harding’s article was written in 1974, where social and political issues differed from our current situations in 2012. However, I have reflected on how his claims are being applied in today’s academic setting.

"> Navigating Through Vocational Pressures in the Academy | Forum for Theological Exploration FTE Leaders in Ministry Conference in Nashville. It has been quite the colorful rainbow of experiences complete with all the related emotions. My fellows have taught me so much. Not just about themselves and their own faiths. But also about myself. And my faith. We closed out our “round table” group discussions tonight. In my own group, one of the gentlemen did the closing prayer. I am so grateful that when we have prayed here during this conference, we all seem to do it in the same language. We all seem to use the universal language of…

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Get To Know Montague Williams

By: Angela Giles
January 28, 2021

Meet Montague Williams, associate professor of church, culture, and society at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California. He is also the author of Church in Color Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. In his Q&A, Montague shares what inspired him to write this book, why churches need a re-reading of Dr. King’s work, how he views mentorship, and his hope for the next generation of faithful leaders.

How did you discover FTE, and what’s your experience been like since joining this community?

My first in-depth encounter with FTE came after meeting Dori Baker at an event on religious education. After an evening of conversation, she suggested I participate in FTE’s former VocationCARE program, which was designed to support and resource leaders who focus on helping young people discern vocation. I was serving in a student development position at the time and was preparing to shift to a teaching position I had recently accepted. Whether chatting in a student development office, teaching in a classroom, preaching in a chapel, or providing guidance on a pilgrimage, my own sense of vocation involves helping others discern vocation. Needless to say, I was very thankful for the invitation.

I was intrigued by the way VocationCARE brought together practices and meditations that allowed participants to dig deep into one’s own sense of wonder and reach wide to honor insight from various cultures and traditions. I have been happy to remain a part of the FTE community by serving as a vocational discernment coach, facilitating workshops, and rooting for emerging leaders preparing for all kinds of creative leadership.

Overall FTE, has allowed me to feel free and to feel like there’s a place in the world of theology for me. It’s also been a hopeful vision of what’s to come in theological scholarship and ministerial leadership. The future looks really exciting and, through the FTE community, we get to embrace it now.

As someone who journeys alongside young adults, what has being a mentor taught you and how do you view mentorship?

I’ve found that being a mentor takes a lot of commitment because half of the work of mentoring, especially mentoring young people from marginalized and minoritized groups, is combating voices that say “you can’t do this” or “who you are doesn’t exactly fit.” For me, half the work is constantly pointing out amazing things about the work, creativity, voice, and insight of the person I am mentoring and showing them how much it’s needed in the field or in places they want to go.

It is easy to think the goal of mentoring is to make replicas of yourself, but it’s not. Being a mentor means helping people be themselves and see who God is calling them to be. If you focus the work on making personal replicas, then you’re only going to mentor people like you. I think of how such practices have fostered inequity in leadership for so long and stomped over the kind of creativity needed to see organizations become liberative spaces. Along these lines, only mentoring people like yourself prevents you from learning in the process. My best mentors are ones who I am now friends with and who have slowly welcomed me in as someone who also teaches them.

In September you published Church in Color: Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. What inspired you to write this book, and why was it important for you to connect your findings back to Dr. King’s work?

The book is a revised version of my dissertation, and it seeks to highlight the narratives, experiences, and questions of young people in multiracial and multiethnic congregations. Before going into PhD work, I was a youth pastor serving ministries in Chicago and Kansas City. Both youth groups were diverse in different ways, but there were questions around race, identity, and vocation in both settings that were difficult to answer. The vast majority of youth ministry resources assumed that white megachurches were the norm or should be the norm, so they were obviously not helpful for the contexts where I lived and served.

When I conducted research for this book, I looked at three congregations in three different cities with distinct multiracial and multiethnic demographics. One thing that emerged in the research is that each congregation had their own way of attempting a racially colorblind mode of discipleship. What made this strange is that the research was done after the death of Trayvon Martin and during the beginning of unrest in Ferguson. While I thought I might run into some traces of racial colorblindness, I did not expect it to be such a driving force in all three congregations. Interestingly, in all of these congregations, there was a nod to King’s one-liners or King’s accomplishments as a motivation for their frameworks. Other nationwide research showed King was a common source for congregations to sanctify racial colorblindness.

King was one of the theologians I focused on in my doctoral coursework and exams. So after trying a variety of different routes, I realized that what was most needed here was a re-reading of King to help rethink the work of youth ministry in a way that engaged the experiences and questions young people raised. I use published and archived documents to display how King’s take on eschatology, Christology, pneumatology, and praxis come together to call for an aesthetic resistance to racial colorblindness and other manifestations of racism.

There are a lot of ways of getting at the realities of race in youth ministry and church life. Church in Color addresses the way some congregations have come to believe that young people need the physical and social walls of a church to foster places of racial innocence and colorblindness. What I show is that such discipleship actually abandons the way of Jesus and asks young people to leave their bodies at the church door and receive a deflated form of discipleship. That is not faithful to the Gospel, and it is not a testimony of the Beloved Community. Of course, my goal is not to just show the problems but to promote transformation. I take time in the book to outline ways congregations can implement needed changes for the sake of young people.

What is your hope or vision for the next generation of faithful leaders?

My hope is that faithful leaders in congregations and other contexts find encouragement to bring their whole stories to their work of discernment. It’s when we allow ourselves to dig deep into our stories with the love and grace of God that we can emerge as leaders the world needs.

My hope for emerging leaders in theological education is that they find the calling and freedom to turn to the lives of people whose stories and voices have been neglected in the academy. Part of our vocation as scholars can involve making room for neglected stories and voices to shape theological questions and directions. I think the pressures of dissertation work, tenure, and promotion amidst the culture of the academy can lead scholars to believe this is not possible. But we really can do theology for the sake of the people we care about. You don’t have to abandon yourself or your communities to be a theologian. In a world where reality seems up for grabs, what we need are theological scholars who engage what’s happening in real life. In the end, the questions we find there are the more difficult ones, and our work to answer them will have a longer-lasting impact in shaping the world for which we long.

Tags...: Inspired Leaders, Thinking Out Loud, Shaping the Future


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