Category: 2020



In this post, Logia is honoured to have our very own co-Director and Australian-born scholar, Hannah Craven, speak into the commonly discussed, but often misunderstood concept of Imposter Syndrome.

One of the things that we think a lot about here at Logia is how we can support women in Divinity to overcome some of the challenges and barriers that threaten to hold them back.  We can identify such challenges at the personal, the institutional and the societal levels, and Executive Director Christa McKirland has spoken about some of these at Logia events in the past.

One of the challenges that is often identified at the personal level is “Imposter Syndrome.”[1] Hugh Kearns describes Imposter Syndrome as “that nagging feeling you have, that somehow you don’t belong, you haven’t earned your success and that at any moment you will be uncovered.”[2]

“I’m in over my head”

“I was lucky this time”

“The next time will be harder”

“They’re going to find out I can’t do this”

It’s not just “low confidence” but is a certain kind of low confidence brought on by (ostensibly) objective success in the past and the expectation of continued success in the future. That is, it’s not the kind of low confidence one might feel when trying something new for the first time. It’s low confidence for tasks that you have been given based on evidence that you can do them (e.g. a job which you got because you were qualified for it).  The heart of imposter syndrome is negative attitudes (thoughts or feelings) toward our talents or success, despite evidence to the contrary, and anxiety about future success.

Imposter Syndrome (IS) is now a regular feature of the self-help and advice world – commonly acknowledged to be particularly a problem for women, minorities, academics and PhD students (Bingo!). Interestingly though, the concept’s popularity seems to have raced ahead of its rigour.  Clarity around what exactly Imposter Syndrome is (or should be), who has it (maybe everyone), what kind of problem it is (psychological, social, or systemic), and what we should do about it (though you can pay a coach to tell you) is still emerging, whilst a number of issues with its current and popular framing have been identified.

In this post I want to draw attention to some recent discussion of Imposter Syndrome in the field of philosophy, along with an insight gleaned from adjacent work in psychoanalysis. I am, perhaps understandably, particularly interested in the concept as a gendered phenomenon (including the question of whether, indeed, it is one), so will continue to turn to the implications of these discussions for women in academia.

Is it a syndrome?

Perhaps the first thing that is important to point out here is that even the name Imposter Syndrome – the term under which the concept has been popularised – can be unhelpful and misleading.  The patterns of thinking and set of feelings and/or behaviours associated with IS are not, in any technical sense, a “syndrome.” They have not been classified as such by any medical or psychological body, nor are they likely to be.  And in fact, when the concept emerged in the work of psychologists Clance and Imes in the late 1970’s, it was referred to as the Imposter Phenomenon.[3] Naming a phenomenon that they observed in a study of successful women, Clance and Imes were alert to the dangers of pathologising language. Pathologising an apparently highly prevalent experience (some suggest over 70% of people experience imposter syndrome!) is unhelpful for anyone, but perhaps particularly so if we tend to associate the ‘condition’ with women.  Slank writes:

“In an interview, Clance reports that from the outset she and Imes were concerned not to have IP be taken as another ‘defect’ in women or a pathologizing of women…  [this] is why they were deliberate in calling this experience a phenomenon rather than a syndrome since the latter can connote defect or disease.”[4]

In addition, thinking of imposter-type thoughts or feelings as a syndrome locates the problem squarely in the individual – there is something wrong with her. But as many before me have pointed out, “by focusing on the individual and their feelings, the structural inequalities and narrow social norms that produced the feelings in the first place [are] obscured. The label [becomes] a version of “blame the victim” talk.”[5]  Speaking specifically about academic life, Inger Mewburn (of The Thesis Whisperer) writes: “by calling this behaviour a ‘syndrome,’ we pathologise a rational reaction to being in a hierarchical, competitive place like a university, surrounded by high achievers.”[6]  As we shall see, the worries expressed by these writers are supported by the reflections of the philosophers we examine below.

Are women more prone to it?

The initial study by Clance and Imes suggested that the Imposter Phenomenon (IP) might be especially prevalent amongst women. They theorised that women were uniquely predisposed “since success for women is contraindicated by societal expectations and their own internalized self-evaluations.”[7] Subsequent studies, however, show mixed results.[8] Some report men experiencing IP at equal rates to women.[9]  But recent work by Lige, Peteet and Brown (2017) suggests that “working in a field which does not match the stereotype for your gender, race, social class, or other identity may be a significant factor.”[10]  This suggests that while there may not be any inherent tendency toward IP in women, if women are more likely than men to work under such conditions (and we have reason to believe they are, as are ethnic minorities), then, they may in fact be more likely to experience IS.  Put another way, so long as academia in general, and fields like philosophy and systematic theology in particular, remain dominated by men (not to mention seen by some as rightfully the preserve of men), then women in those fields will be more likely than men in those fields to experience IS.  As above, this observation alerts us to the external factors at play in IS.

Are imposter beliefs irrational?

Our brief discussion above already reveals something of what philosophers Katherine Hawley and Sarah K. Paul (University of St. Andrews) and Shanna Slank (University of Wisconsin) explore directly in recent articles. These writers address, in slightly different ways, the assumption inherent in popular understandings of IS that the thoughts and feelings of the one who suffers from IS are irrational and epistemically unjustified. As Kearns writes, they experience these feelings “despite objective evidence to the contrary.”[11] The one who suffers from IS, unlike a real imposter, in fact is qualified, has succeeded, has been recognised, and so on. On such a model, the only thing wrong here is the person’s judgements about themselves, and thus the solution is to change her thinking.

“Lean in.”

“Own your success.”

“Fake it until you make it.”[12]

Imposter beliefs are, by definition, false, but are they really irrational? Are sufferers from IS really less rational than their non IS counterparts?

Hawley and Paul argue that in many situations, an individual’s imposter thoughts or feelings are epistemically justified, even if factually mistaken.[13] The reason being that “hostile social environments can create epistemic obstacles to self-knowledge.”[14]  Formal markers alone are likely to be insufficient for most of us for confidence in our abilities and expectation of future success.  Ongoing and broader forms of positive feedback and recognition are important.  But here, we certainly do have evidence that such feedback is impacted by gender, race, and even physical appearance.  Hawley cites multiple examples:

  • Student evaluations of online teachers were more positive when the teachers were given a male name rather than a female name (MacNell, Driscoll and Hunt, 2015)
  • Enquiries to professors about potential doctoral study received more positive responses when apparently written by white men as opposed to men of minority background or women (Milkman, Akinola and Chugh, 2015)
  • Male biology students rated other males as more knowledgeable than females, even when in fact the female students were performing better on class assessments (Grunspan et al. 2016)

She concludes: “women and minorities face systematically less positive feedback on their performance, explicitly and implicitly, even when they achieve well in terms of formal markers such as grades. Such evidence provides a rebutting defeater for the evidence of capability which is provided by formal markers.”[15]

Additionally, if institutions have begun to make attempts to address systemic disadvantage, beneficiaries of such programs or policies will always be aware (and repeatedly made aware) of the “unfair boost” they have received.[16] Certainly, within the last twelve months I have personally heard two well-meaning Professors warn young white men that it’s impossible for them to get jobs these days (a claim which is certainly not borne out by the evidence), and warn women and minorities of the prospect of becoming a ‘token’ hire. So, despite the fact that men are three times more likely to end up a Professor than their female colleagues,[17] women are encouraged to believe that – in the unlikely event that they do get there – they get there just because they are women. Hawley concludes: “Such comments provide an undercutting defeater. For example, they can break the evidential link between being admitted to a prestigious graduate programme and being highly capable, by proposing an alternative explanation for the admissions decision.”[18]

Lastly, Hawley and Paul consider thoughts or feelings of the type “people like me don’t succeed here.” As a statement of fact, this may be perfectly accurate. And, if based on observations about structural factors rather than internalised sexism or racism, then it may be perfectly rational to suppose that the same factors will impact one’s own likelihood of success.  For example:

“A black student in an overwhelmingly white field might have an accurate view of her own high intelligence and capabilities, combined with a justified concern that these qualities will not be enough to ensure her continuing success.  A student who attended a struggling high school may be justified in worrying that this has not prepared her to flourish at university.”[19]

At this point we need not be able to diagnose exactly why this is true, to acknowledge that it is true. But here we have a situation where a person is justified in believing that they ‘don’t belong’ and are unlikely to succeed, despite their being as talented as those who will. Their talent will not be enough.[20]

Shanna Slank writes with similar aims to Hawley and Paul, setting out to demonstrate why, in certain situations, imposter feelings and beliefs might not be irrational.[21] She convincingly describes the ways that non-talent causes (sometimes luck, many times structural or environmental) play a huge role in most people’s successes.  It is true however, that we each have better access to the non-talent causes in our own lives than in those of others. This has the result that just as we over-attribute the success of others to their talent alone, so they do for us. And thus it is also rational to suspect that others over-estimate our talents.

Second, Slank notes the ways that a ‘culture of genius’ (as described by psychologists Carol Dweck and Mary Murphy, and often used to describe academic philosophy departments) incline us to see our own effort as evidence against our talent. Additionally, if the culture’s “entity theory” of intelligence results in a practice of hiding effort, “[t]his may lead to a situation where agents’ own efforts are highly salient to themselves, but where agents are blind to others’ efforts. And when effort counts as non-talent evidence, this means that one gets a particular kind of evidence against her talents that she rarely gets against others.”[22]

Personally, Slank’s first thesis appeals to my Australian-ness.  Australians don’t get Imposter Syndrome, because we’re all too busy with Tall Poppy Syndrome![23] We don’t sit around feeling bad about ourselves, instead we cut other people down.  (Or perhaps we cut other people down because we’re all feeling bad about ourselves…  oh dear.) In any case, for those of us for whom the road to success has been reasonably smooth, we would do well to consider the non-talent causes of our successes.  Our family background, wealth, schooling, opportunities, ethnicity, relationships and so on. This of course doesn’t have to mean that we’re not talented enough to be here. More likely, what it means is that plenty of people who are, will never even get close.  Many who are talented and capable will simply never get the opportunity to be recognised as such.  This of course, is part of what drives initiatives like Logia, and others, which seek to support individuals who don’t reside in systems full of non-talent causes of success.

Rational and Justified

So, in the work of philosophers Hawley & Paul, and Slank, we have seen reason to believe that individuals’ imposter attitudes or beliefs may not be irrational or epistemically unjustified, as the common model often assumes. Instead, at least in some circumstances, they appear to be a rational response to certain kinds of environments and cultures. Some of the cultural phenomena described above will affect everybody equally, others will particularly impact women and minorities. Thus certain individuals may be perfectly justified having a low level of confidence in their own talent (though that judgement may in fact be false), or in the prospect that their talent will lead to future success (and this judgement may be accurate), despite having succeeded so far.

The implications of this for how we treat those in our midst suffering from something like IS are significant. If the failure is an institutional rather than a personal one, coaching to improve our confidence or change our thinking simply won’t help.[24] Well, it might help the sufferer psychologically to some extent, but its effectiveness will necessarily be limited because it works at the level of symptoms not causes. Further, this way of dealing with the problem runs the risk of asking the individual to make up for the failures of the institution/system, thus assigning them a ‘double burden:’ those most negatively impacted by the problems also bear the responsibility for dealing with them. Meanwhile, others carry on unaffected. All of us have to manage in imperfect systems, of course. The point is that we must be careful that problem-solving at the individual level does not become a way of avoiding larger, more complex, and more difficult strategies.

Stereotype Transgression

Lastly, an insight from a slightly unlikely source – Contemporary Psychoanalysis.[25] In her article “Show Me the Money” psychoanalyst Kachina Myers explores the challenging dynamics of therapist fee-setting. Citing several studies about the successes of women of colour, Myers notes the problem of conflicting cultural value systems, and interprets imposter feelings within this framework:

“[W]omen of color who achieve professional success and status frequently feel a great deal of guilt and anxiety about that success. Often these women experience themselves as “impostors”… so as to deny their own desire and the ambition that got them where they are. After all, if their success was only luck and they are “faking it,” then they do not have to reconcile the fact that they have internalized the dominant value system’s emphasis on external and independent achievement. Impostor feelings in successful white women also abound… for many women there is still a felt conflict between femininity and ambition, as if professional accomplishment were a masculine virtue. In this case, the anxiety of feeling like an impostor can be a defence against the shame of failing to achieve an ideal femininity.”[26]

This observation is perhaps more uncomfortable than those we have discussed so far because it returns us to the level of the individual. Myers suggests that, in some cases, imposter feelings become our solution to the cognitive dissonance of living outwith stereotypes. Feeling like an ‘imposter’ in our professional settings allows us to exist and succeed within those settings without transgressing the boundaries of ‘femininity’ too far. We might be succeeding but ‘we don’t fit the mould.’ Thus to be who they are and get what they want, women, in some sense, deny who they are and what they want, in order to remain acceptable to others. This cuts close to the bone.

This explanation goes further, I think, than Clance and Imes’ initial suggestion, something akin to stereotype threat. It is not just that women are inclined to think that they can’t or won’t succeed and so feel like imposters. Myers suggests that women’s knowledge that they can and could succeed provokes feelings of guilt or shame in their failure to be the proper sort of woman. In other words, it is not “I can’t do this” but “I shouldn’t want this.”

This claim requires interrogation of course, but if true, it provides an additional explanation as to why certain kinds of imposter attitudes might be more prevalent amongst women than amongst men. Or perhaps suggests that women and men might experience different kinds of imposter feelings, and for different reasons.  If imposter syndrome is displaced guilt over failure to meet stereotypes, it might arise for women and men in different ways – for missing a different mark, so to speak.

This threatens to locate the problem once again with the individual – in his or her deceitful coping mechanism. But this is to take a narrow view. Because of course, expectations and stereotypes about who we are, what we want, and what we can and should do, do not arise in a vacuum, but come to us from outside ourselves. Again, these are the province of families, cultures, and systems. And thus, while recognition of these psychological manoeuvres is important, it cannot eradicate imposter syndrome.  We must also dismantle and unpick feminine (and masculine) ideals which unfairly limit us all. The strength of these cultural influences is revealed by Myers’ analysis – the fear or shame of failure to be properly feminine is so strong that it will lead us to sabotage our own professional lives.

Going Forward

While areas of underlying uncertainty remain, the extent to which Imposter Syndrome has taken hold in the popular consciousness reveals its resonance. Certainly, the feelings, beliefs, and behaviours that the concept captures are felt by many students and early career professionals. And ultimately the problem with IS is not just the experience of negative feelings, but that it is destructive. It can be self-fulfilling.

The above reflections help us by shifting the focus of the ‘problem’ from the individual to the environment or culture. This is perhaps no less discouraging – at least initially – but it should lessen the accompanying feelings of shame, self-blame, guilt and anxiety. It also highlights the important work that organisations like Logia can do, in concert with institutions. This year at St. Andrews, given the limitations of life under COVID, we have scaled back our activities and focused on one-on-one and small group relational forms of support. Happily, it seems to me that while these kinds of activities attract little acclaim, they do much to address a number of the issues identified in the discussion above, not through problematising (‘helping’) the individual, but by removing the environmental barriers to women’s flourishing. We aim to provide a positive and encouraging environment (though not dishonest about difficulties and challenges) in which women can see, feel, and know that they do belong and can succeed: non-competitive relationships, collaboration, networking, constructive feedback mechanisms, role-modelling, problem-solving, etc. And so we come full circle: though it can be useful to identify issues at the personal, institutional and societal levels, in the case of Imposter Syndrome further interrogation suggests that the three are often closely intertwined.

[1] Here I use the Australian spelling (imposter) though have retained the variant (impostor) in quotations when it occurs.

[2] An Australian academic from Flinders University in Adelaide, Kearns is the author of The Imposter Syndrome: Why Successful People Often Feel Like Frauds, and writes at

[3] Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, “The Impostor Phenomenon in High-Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention,” Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 15(3) (1978): 241–7.

[4] Shanna Slank, “Rethinking the Imposter Phenomenon,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (2019):205-218, 208.

[5] Pat Thomson,


[7] Clance and Imes, 1978, 242.

[8] S. Kumar, and C. Jagacinski, “Imposters Have Goals Too: The Imposter Phenomenon and Its Relationship to Achievement Goal Theory,” Personality and Individual Differences 40 (2006): 147-157; Craddock et al., “Doctoral Students and the Imposter Phenomenon: Am I Smart Enough to Be Here?” Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice 48(4) (2011): 429-442; Badawy et al., “Are all Imposters Created Equal? Exploring Gender Differences in the Impostor Phenomenon-Performance Link,” Personality and Individual Differences 131 (2018): 156-163.

[9] See Norma Lawler, The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Persons and Jungian Personality Variables (Atlanta: Georgia State University, 1984); A. I. Flewelling, The Impostor Phenomenon in Individuals Succeeding in Selfperceived Atypical Professions: The effects of Mentoring and Longevity, (Unpublished master’s thesis, Atlanta: Georgia State University, 1985); J. Beard, Personality Correlates of the Imposter Phenomenon: An exploration of Gender Differences in Critical Needs (Unpublished masters’ thesis, Atlanta: Georgia State University, 1990); C. Cozzarelli and B. Major, “Exploring the validity of the impostor phenomenon,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology  9(4) (1990): 401–4.

[10] Quiera M. Lige, Bridgette J. Peteet, and Carrie M. Brown, “Racial Identity, Self-Esteem and the Impostor Phenomenon Among African American College Students,” Journal of Black Psychology 43(4) (2017): 345-357.


[12] Chapter 7 of Kearns’ book is entitled “Feelings are not facts,” which strangely reminds me of an old gospel tract….

[13] Katherine Hawley and Sarah K. Paul, “Impostor Syndrome,” Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume xciii (2019): 203-226.

[14] Hawley and Paul, 203.

[15] Hawley and Paul, 213.

[16] I can’t resist including Hawley’s comment here: “Perhaps this is the modern-day replacement for telling women that they have slept their way to the top or traded on their feminine charms; perhaps this is an addition rather than a replacement.” (213).

[17] Carmel Diezmann and Susan Grieshaber, Women Professors: Who Makes it and How? (Singapore: Springer, 2019), 3.

[18] Hawley and Paul, 213.

[19] Hawley and Paul, 216.

[20] This does of course raise the question as to whether this condition can properly be called imposter syndrome. The person in question may not rate their own abilities any lower than objective evidence allows, and yet they may feel (and may be right) that they are not ‘good enough.’ For discussion on this point, and the value of narrow vs broad definitions, see Hawley and Paul, p. 215 ff.

[21] Shanna Slank, “Rethinking the Imposter Phenomenon,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (2019): 205-218.

[22] Slank, 215.

[23] Please note that this claim has absolutely no evidentiary backing (it’s a joke!). Tall Poppy Syndrome (again, not technically a syndrome) describes a tendency (particularly associated with Australia and New Zealand) to discredit or disparage high achievers, to ‘cut them down’ to size. Positively, it might be seen to promote modesty and egalitarianism.

[24] Unless perhaps it promotes patterns of thought and behaviours specifically designed to cope with hostile environments, rather than focusing simply on raising an individual’s confidence, or lowering their anxiety.

[25] I am grateful to my sister, Naomi Schofield, for alerting me to this work.

[26] Kachina Myers, “Show Me The Money: (The “Problem of”) the Therapist’s Desire, Subjectivity and the Relationship to the Fee,” Contemporary Psychoanalysis 44(1): 118-140, 121.

Hannah is co-director of Logia St. Andrews, whilst working towards her PhD looking at feminist hermeneutics for women victims of violence.  Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Hannah trained at Ridley College and was ordained in the Anglican Diocese. Before moving to St. Andrews with her family for further study she worked in ministry roles in the Anglican church in Melbourne.

Photo by Jacqueline O’Gara on Unsplash



While we have just begun our series featuring women from the Southern Hemisphere, we want to include this special contribution from a contributor who has been working on this piece since our last series. Further, this post highlights underrepresented voices that need to be heard across the divinity disciplines, regardless of geography.



The Caribbean has rarely been considered a producer of knowledge, particularly as it regards to theology. Its theological elaborations have yet to receive the attention that other so-called contextual theologies have. However, this does not mean that theological reflection in word and praxis has been absent in the region. In fact, history bears witness to how the Caribbean continues to journey from theologies of imposition and imitation to theologies of indigenization, even though the process has been truncated by different factors.

A multilingual, geographically fragmented, and insular region, the Caribbean reality as we know it emerged from processes of imperial and colonial exploitation in its most brutal forms. These included the genocide of its native populations and the importation of African people through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the colonial matrix of competing European powers. So, to talk about the Caribbean and its people is to talk about the erasure, imposition, and re-making of identity in the context of colonialism in its old and new ways, which have lasted well into the 21st century. It is to talk about the social, cultural, political, psychological, religious and economic legacy left by both the colonial enterprise and the theologies of domination that baptized the latter as [g]od’s will. These are the realities that serve not just as a backdrop against which theological articulations are formed but as the very starting point of our theologizing.

This essay does not want to be presumptuous. We cannot condense the expansiveness and complexity of the Caribbean and its rich plurality in a blog post or even a book. The aim of this brief piece is to serve as a conversation-starter for those who might have never heard or are not familiar with Caribbean Christian theology, its priorities, sources, features, and voices.

Main Priorities of the Caribbean

In his essay “Caribbean Theology: The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” Adolfo Ham delineates five main Caribbean priorities. These are decolonization, identity, integration, development, and education.[1]

  • Decolonization

Colonialism and neo-colonialism –the “economic, social and political control by outside forces, yet often through the agency of inside privilege classes”[2]– is the common denominator in the Caribbean context. It is the determining factor that shapes all aspects of life and self at both collective and individual levels. In the region, decolonization requires more than mere political independence. For as Agustina Luvis Núñez argues, “Decolonization has to go as deep as colonization has. There needs to be a conversion of the heart, a reorientation of the mind, a re-evaluation of values, a deconstruction of oppressive structures, and a construction of proper structures.”[3]

  • Identity

The issue of identity is complex given its individual, national, and regional layers, and how these have been formed, deformed, and reformed in the context of imperial imposition and domination. The Caribbean identity was birthed from the extermination of its indigenous populations, the kidnapping and importation of enslaved Africans, the migration of other people groups, and the formation of colonial subjects and their consciousness “in the shadow of empire.”[4] Garnett Roper is worth citing at length here,

Along with being valued only for their imitative capability, people living in the shadow of empire are often invisible. Their existence is not sharp or clear-cut and they do not have a properly defined identity. They have no real human face or substance. They are therefore open to being stamped with the stereotypical economic and ethnic images chosen by imperial interests. Matters of geographical size, ethnic/demographic composition, economic prosperity, and strategic location are attributed to whole nations and people as their only significance […] They have no acknowledged identity, save that which is conveniently assigned to them; their importance or lack of importance is determined by their value in relation to imperial interests.[5]

Roper argues this has led the Caribbean people to a “perpetual identity crisis,” against which Caribbean theology raises its voice “in protest against, and in response to.”[6]

  • Integration

As Ham notes, the struggle for independence in the Caribbean was always envisioned by our ancestors in the framework of a united region which modeled fair inter-dependence.[7] This integration will honor the particularities of each nation’s identity while striving to cultivate a regional identity.

  • Development

Quality of life has been something elusive to the majority of our population in the Caribbean. A lot of the development that at some point or another has been pursued has failed to be sustainable at multiple levels, putting some of our nations into further economic vulnerability. This is what in Latin America has been called desarrollismo –socio-economic development proposals that do not attack the root problems and protect the interests of world powers.[8] For Kathy McAfee, the type of development needed in the Caribbean is one that “redefines growth; is ecologically, psychologically and socially sustainable; allows women to play a central role; rescues Caribbean culture and identity; and empowers the region’s poor majority.”[9] It is un desarrollo integral –a holistic development.

  • Education

Education is the last area identified by Ham as one of the main Caribbean priorities. He describes it as “one of the crisis areas.”[10] The present status of education in the Caribbean varies from nation to nation. For instance, in Puerto Rico, we have a crisis at the K-12 level, particularly due to the corrupt government and the stealing of funds supposed to support our public schools. Yet simultaneously, we are seeing the most academically trained generation of young professionals underemployed due to the socio-economic reality of the archipelago. So, it is common to see people who have earned master’s and doctoral degrees working in service positions, which do not require that kind of training. Ham notes that this priority is directly related to theological education, which from my perspective is in an incredibly critical state in the region due to various reasons, including lack of funds, the lack of fairly-paid opportunities for those theologically trained, and the ill administration of some seminaries.

To these priorities, Ashley Smith rightly adds family and gender relationships, which is of vital importance in a region where gender-based violence is pervasive and on the rise in a context of impunity.

It comes as no surprise that these priorities play a central role in any Christian theological elaboration that aspires to be considered “Caribbean.” For as Gutiérrez writes, “[Theology] deals with a faith that is inseparable from the concrete conditions in which [… people] live.”[11] To do theology in the region divorced from the realities that mark it and the history that formed it is sterile and infructuous. Furthermore, the goal of Christian theologizing is not simply the articulation of statements but transformational praxis rooted in the Gospel of the God of Life and his Kingdom – A kingdom that stands in stark contrast to the colonial anti-kingdoms that have shaped life in the Caribbean; a God that affirms the dignity and identities of the Caribbean people; and a Gospel that is good news for life in this life and not only for life after death. Decolonization, formation and reclamation of identity, integration, holistic development, and education are key elements for the flourishing of the nations that constitute this region. For Caribbean theology to dismiss these priorities is to dismiss the promise and possibility of human flourishing for its people.

The Sources of Caribbean Christian Theology

Emmette Weir identifies four main sources of Caribbean Christian theology. These are the biblical text, the history of the Caribbean people, the history of the Church in the Caribbean, and statements of conciliar and ecumenical bodies in the Caribbean.[12] I believe there is congruency between these and some elements of the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.” For instance, both give Scripture the preeminent place as source for theological reflection. Additionally, Caribbean theology maintains the tradition and experience elements in the form of contextual history and conciliar and ecumenical theological formulations by the Caribbean church. This history, although particular, is not disjoined from the catholic Church’s history. For Christian Caribbean theologians, the sources question is not a case of either/or but one of both/and, in which they have the opportunity of doing theology under the shadow of the catholic Church and in light of their context.

The Project of Caribbean Christian Theology

For Roper, Caribbean theology “has been wedded to the historical project” of the Caribbean, whose “concern [is] not just liberation from oppression, but a commitment to the survival of a people.”[13] He elaborates, “In this regard, Caribbean theology seeks to approximate the reign of God, the eschatological ideal of shalom, in the concrete situation of the Caribbean.”[14] Thus, the project of Caribbean Christian theology is transformation. That is, transformation of the structures that perpetuate the life-depriving and self-serving reigns of the anti-kingdoms of this world at personal, national, and regional levels. This transformation is made possible by a theologizing that lives out in word and praxis the shalom-seeking values of the Kingdom of God, and is rooted in a gospel that is good news not only for life after death but for life in this life.

What Is Caribbean Christian Theology?

Given the plurality and complexity of the region, is it even possible to answer this question? Who gets to define it? Furthermore, which definition of Caribbean are we adopting and why? Some, as Roper, understand Caribbean theology as exilic theology, while others, like Devon Dick, see it as emancipation theology. More questions emerge. Is Caribbean theology in the tradition of Latin American liberation theologies? The opinions diverge. What is the relationship between Caribbean theology and Black theologies produced by the African diaspora elsewhere? What do we make of countries like Puerto Rico, which sits at the intersection of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States? How does the Caribbean diaspora in the United States relate to the theological priorities of the region when they have formed their own contextual theologies that respond to very different experiences? I have more questions than answers and I totally lack the presumption of having answers to them. Furthermore, I believe there needs to be space for organic redefinition as new voices join the theological dialogue, our contexts change, and deeper understandings of our individual, national, and regional identities are articulated. I believe that it is there in that organic space of redefinition and taking of the word that the future of a more indigenous Caribbean Christian theology is found, and with it my earthly home transformed.

[1] Adolfo Ham, “Caribbean Theology: The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” in Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead, Howard Gregory, ed. (Canoe Press, 1995), 3-4.

[2] Lewin L. Williams, Caribbean Theology (Peter Lang, 1994), 3.

[3] Agustina Luvis Núñez, “Teología Caribeña – TB081,” TeoBytes, published on February 19, 2018,

[4] This phrase comes from Burchnell Taylor’s lecture “Stepping Out of the Shadow of Empire,” delivered at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, March 2004.

[5] Garnett Roper, “The Caribbean as the City of God,” in A Kairos Moment for Caribbean Theology: Ecumenical Voices in Dialogue, Garnett Roper and J. Richard Middleton, eds., (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 10.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Adolfo Ham, “The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” in Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead, Howard Gregory, ed., (Kingston, Jamaica: Canoe Press University of the West Indies, 1995), 3.

[8] See Gustavo Gutíerrez, “Liberación y desarrollo,” in Teología de la liberación, 18th ed., (Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Sígueme, 2009), 73-92.

[9] Kathy McAfee quoted by Ham, “The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” 4.

[10] Ham, The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” 4.

[11] Gustavo Gutíerrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation (Orbis Books; 15th Anniversary Edition, 1988), xxxiv.

[12] Emmette Weir quoted by Theresa Lowe-Ching, “Method in Caribbean Theology,” in Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead, Howard Gregory, ed., (Kingston, Jamaica: Canoe Press University of the West Indies, 1995), 25.

[13] Garnett Roper, “The Caribbean as the City of God,” 18.

[14] Ibid.



Rara vez el Caribe ha sido considerada una región productora de conocimiento, especialmente cuando se trata de teología. Sus elaboraciones teológicas aún no han recibido la atención que otras teologías, frecuentemente denominadas “contextuales”, han recibido. Sin embargo, esto no significa que la reflexión teológica en palabra y hecho ha estado ausente en la región. De hecho, la historia ha sido testigo de cómo el Caribe continúa su travesía de teologías de imposición e imitación a teologías de indigenización, incluso cuando el proceso ha sido truncado por diversos factores.

Una región multilingüe, geográficamente fragmentada e insular, la realidad caribeña como la conocemos emergió de procesos de explotación imperial y colonial en sus formas más brutales. Esto incluyó el genocidio de sus poblaciones indígenas y la importación de una significativa población africana a través del comercio transatlántico de esclavos por poderes coloniales. Así que, hablar del Caribe y su gente es hablar del robo, imposición, y reformulación de la identidad en el contexto del colonialismo en sus versiones antiguas y nuevas, las cuales han perdurado hasta bien entrado el siglo 21. Es hablar acerca del legado social, cultural, político, psicológico, religioso y económico dejado por la empresa colonial y las teologías de dominación que bautizaron a esta empresa como la voluntad de [d]ios. Estas son las realidades que sirven no solo como trasfondo ante el cual las articulaciones teológicas son formuladas sino como el punto de partida del quehacer teológico.

Este ensayo no busca ser presuntuoso. No es posible condensar lo expansivo y la complejidad del Caribe y su rica pluralidad en un blog post o incluso en un libro. La meta de esta breve pieza es servir como iniciador de diálogos para aquellas personas que quizás nunca han oído acerca o no se han familiarizado con la teología cristiana caribeña, sus prioridades, fuentes, características, y voces.

Prioridades en el Caribe

En su ensayo “Caribbean Theology: The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” Adolfo Ham enlista cinco prioridades principales en el Caribe. Estas son descolonización, identidad, integración, desarrollo, y educación.[1]

  • Descolonización

El colonialismo y neo-colonialismo –el “control económico, social, y político ejercido por fuerzas exteriores, operando frecuentemente a través de la agencia de clases internas privilegiadas” [2]– son el denominador común en el contexto caribeño. Son el factor determinante que le da forma a todos los aspectos de la vida y el ser tanto a nivel colectivo como individual. En la región, la descolonización requiere más mera independencia política. Como señala la Dra. Agustina Luvis Núñez, “La descolonización tiene que ir tan profundo como ha ido la colonización. Requiere una conversión del corazón, una reorientación de la mente, la re-evaluación de los valores, la deconstrucción de estructuras opresivas, y la construcción de estructuras apropiadas.” [3]

  • Identidad

La situación de la identidad es compleja debido a los aspectos individuales, nacionales y regionales, y cómo estos han sido formados, deformados, y reformados en el contexto de imposición y dominación imperial. La identidad caribeña nació de la exterminación de sus poblaciones nativas, el secuestro y la importación de personas africanas esclavizadas, la migración de otras poblaciones, y la formación de sujetos coloniales y sus conciencias “a la sombra del imperio.” [4] Vale la pena citar aquí en detalle a Garnett Roper,

Además de ser valorados solo por su capacidad de imitar, las personas que viven a la sombra del imperio suelen ser invisibles. Su existencia no es clara y no tienen una identidad propiamente definida. No tienen rostro humano real ni sustancia. Por lo tanto, están abiertos a ser estampados con las imágenes económicas y étnicas estereotipadas elegidas por los intereses imperiales. Las cuestiones de tamaño geográfico, composición étnica/demográfica, prosperidad económica y ubicación estratégica se atribuyen a naciones y pueblos enteres como su único significado […] No tienen una identidad reconocida, salvo las que les sea convenientemente asignada; su importancia o falta de importancia está determinada por su valor en relación con los intereses imperiales. [5]

Roper argumenta que esto ha llevado a la gente caribeña a una “crisis de identidad perpetua,” en contra de la cual se levanta la voz de la teología caribeña “en protesta y en respuesta.” [6]

  • Integración

Como indica Ham, la lucha por la independencia en el Caribe siempre fue pensada por nuestros ancestros en el contexto de una región integrada que modelara una inter-dependencia justa.[7] Esta integración honraría las particularidades de la identidad de cada nación mientras que a la misma vez cultivaría una identidad regional.

  • Desarrollo

La calidad de vida ha sido algo elusivo a la gran mayoría de la población en el Caribe. Mucho del desarrollo que en un momento u otro se ha buscado ha fracasado en ser sostenible a múltiples niveles, poniendo a algunas de nuestras naciones en una mayor vulnerabilidad económica. Esto es lo que en América Latina se ha llamado desarrollismo – propuestas de desarrollo socio-económico que no atacan la raíz de los problemas y protegen los intereses de potencias mundiales.[8] Para Katy McAfee, el tipo de desarrollo necesario en el Caribe es uno que “redefina crecimiento; es ecológicamente, psicológicamente y socialmente sustentable; permite que las mujeres jueguen un rol central; rescate la cultura e identidad caribeñas; y empodere a la gente pobre en la región.”[9] Es un desarrollo integral.

  • Educación

Educación es la última área identificada por Ham como una de las principales prioridades en el Caribe. Él describe la misma como “una de las áreas en crisis.”[10] El presente status de la educación en el Caribe varía de nación a nación. Por ejemplo, en Puerto Rico, tenemos una crisis al nivel de K-12, debido particularmente a la corrupción gubernamental y el robo de fondos destinados a apoyar a nuestro sistema de educación pública. Simultáneamente, estamos viendo a la generación de profesionales jóvenes más preparada académicamente estar subempleados debido a la realidad socio-económica del archipiélago. Es común ver personas con maestrías y doctorados trabajando en posiciones de servicio que no requieren este tipo de cualificación. Ham destaca que esta prioridad está directamente relacionada a la educación teológica, la cual desde mi perspectiva se encuentra en un estado crítico en la región debido a varias razones, incluyendo la falta de fondos, la falta de oportunidades justamente remuneradas para aquellas personas entrenadas teológicamente, y la pobre administración de algunos seminarios.

A estas prioridades, Ashley Smith apropiadamente añade la de relaciones familiares y de género. Esto es de vital importancia en una región donde la violencia de género permea el día a día y va en aumento en un contexto de impunidad.

No debe sorprendernos que estas prioridades jueguen un rol central en cualquier elaboración teológica cristiana que aspire a ser considerada “caribeña.” Como escribe Gutíerrez, “La teología busca ser un leguaje sobre Dios. Se trata de una fe inseparable de las condiciones concretas en que vive la gran mayoría…”[11] En esta región, hacer teología divorciada de las realidades que la han marcado y la historia que la ha formado es estéril e infructuoso. Más aún, la meta de quehacer teológico cristiano no es simplemente articular ideas, sino que es la praxis (práctica) transformadora cimentada en el Evangelio del Dios de la vida y su reino – Un reino que contrasta fuertemente en oposición con los anti-reinos coloniales que han dado forma la vida en el Caribe; un Dios que afirma la dignidad y las identidades del pueblo caribeño; y un Evangelio que es buena noticia para la vida en esta vida y no solo para la vida después de la muerte. La descolonización, la formación y recuperación de la identidad, la integración, el desarrollo integral, y la educación son elementos clave para el florecimiento de las naciones que constituyen el Caribe. Que la teología caribeña descarte o ignore estas prioridades es descartar la promesa y la posibilidad del florecimiento humano para nuestra gente.

Las fuentes de la teología cristiana caribeña

Emmette Weir identifica cuatro fuentes primarias para la teología cristiana caribeña. Estas son el texto bíblico, la historia de la gente caribeña, la historia de la iglesia en el Caribe, y las declaraciones de cuerpos conciliares y ecuménicos en el Caribe.[12] Yo creo que hay congruencia entre estos y algunos elementos del llamado “Cuadrilátero wesleyano.” Por ejemplo, en ambos marcos la Escritura es la fuente más importante para la reflexión teológica. Asimismo, la teología caribeña mantiene los elementos de la tradición y la experiencia en la forma de la historia regional y las formulaciones conciliares y ecuménicas de la iglesia caribeña. Esta historia, aunque particular, no está desconectada de la historia de la iglesia universal. Para los teólogos y teólogas caribeños, la pregunta acerca de las fuentes para la reflexión teológica no es un caso de uno u otro sino de ambos. De esta manera tienen la oportunidad de hacer teología a la sombra de la iglesia universal y a la luz de su contexto.

El proyecto de la teología cristiana caribeña

Para Roper, la teología caribeña “se ha dado en matrimonio al proyecto histórico” del Caribe, cuya “preocupación no es solo la liberación de la opresión, sino un compromiso a la supervivencia de la gente.”[13] Él añade, “En este sentido, la teología caribeña busca aproximar al reino de Dios, el ideal escatológico de shalom, a la situación concreta del Caribe.”[14] Entonces, el proyecto de la teología cristiana caribeña es la transformación. Esto es, la transformación de las estructuras a nivel personal, nacional y regional que son perpetuadas por los reinos de este mundo que privan la vida y solo sirven para servirse a sí mismos. Esta transformación es posible por un quehacer teológico que en palabra y obra vive los valores del reino de Dios, y que está cimentado en un evangelio que es buenas nuevas para esta vida.

¿Qué es la teología cristiana caribeña?

Dada la pluralidad y complejidad de la región, ¿es posible contestar esta pregunta? ¿Quién tiene el poder de definirla? Más aún, ¿cuál definición del Caribe adoptamos y por qué? Algunos, como Roper, entienden la teología caribeña como teología del exilio, mientras otros, como Devon Dick, la ven como teología emancipatoria. Más preguntas surgen. ¿Está la teología caribeña en la misma tradición que las teologías de liberación latinoamericanas? Las opiniones divergen. ¿Cuál es la relación entre la teología caribeña y las teologías negras producidas por la diáspora africana en otras latitudes? ¿Qué hacemos con países como Puerto Rico, el cual se encuentra en la intersección del Caribe, América Latina, y los Estados Unidos? ¿Cómo la diáspora caribeña en los Estados Unidos se relaciona con las prioridades teológicas de la región cuando ellos y ellas han formulado sus propias teologías contextuales que responden a experiencias muy diferentes? Tengo más preguntas que respuestas. Y tampoco tengo la presunción de tener las respuestas a todas estas preguntas. Además, creo que se necesita un espacio orgánico para la redefinición de muchos de los aspectos mencionado, particularmente cuando tenemos nuevas voces uniéndose al diálogo, el cambio dinámico de nuestros contextos, y la articulación de entendimientos más profundos acerca de nuestras identidades individuales, nacionales, y regionales. Creo que es allí, en ese espacio orgánico de redefinición y del tomar la Palabra, que el futuro de una teología cristiana caribeña más propia se encuentra –y en ese futuro, mi hogar terrenal transformado.

[1] Adolfo Ham, “Caribbean Theology: The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” in Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead, Howard Gregory, ed. (Canoe Press, 1995), 3-4.

[2] Lewin L. Williams, Caribbean Theology (Peter Lang, 1994), 3.

[3] Agustina Luvis Núñez, “Teología Caribeña – TB081,” TeoBytes, published on February 19, 2018,

[4] This phrase comes from Burchnell Taylor’s lecture “Stepping Out of the Shadow of Empire,” delivered at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, March 2004.

[5] Garnett Roper, “The Caribbean as the City of God,” in A Kairos Moment for Caribbean Theology: Ecumenical Voices in Dialogue, Garnett Roper and J. Richard Middleton, eds., (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 10.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Adolfo Ham, “The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” in Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead, Howard Gregory, ed., (Kingston, Jamaica: Canoe Press University of the West Indies, 1995), 3.

[8] See Gustavo Gutíerrez, “Liberación y desarrollo,” in Teología de la liberación, 18th ed., (Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Sígueme, 2009), 73-92.

[9] Kathy McAfee quoted by Ham, “The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” 4.

[10] Ham, The Challenge of the Twenty-First Century,” 4.

[11] Gustavo Gutiérrez, Teología de la liberación: Perspectivas, 18va ed., (Salamanca, España: Ediciones Sígueme, 2009), 38-39.

[12] Emmette Weir quoted by Theresa Lowe-Ching, “Method in Caribbean Theology,” in Caribbean Theology: Preparing for the Challenges Ahead, Howard Gregory, ed., (Kingston, Jamaica: Canoe Press University of the West Indies, 1995), 25.

[13] Garnett Roper, “The Caribbean as the City of God,” 18.

[14] Ibid.

Juliany González Nieves is an Afro-Caribbean Puerto Rican evangélica woman born and raised on the island. She holds a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, and a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her main area of interest is Caribbean and Latin American theologies at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and gender across geographical and linguistic lines. Juliany is also founder-editor of The Mosaic Bulletin and is actively involved with The Paul G. Hiebert Center for World Christianity and Global Theology. You can visit her website Glocal Theology.

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash


Jill Firth

Logia will focus our next blog series on hearing from women in the divinity disciplines in the Southern Hemisphere. Our contributors will speak about their own research, as well as some of their stories for why they are researching and writing in those areas. In light of this, these posts will often include reflective components, especially about religious experience. We believe that these inclusions enrich the research process and writing. We are honoured to kick off this series with one of our newest Logia Advisory Board members, from Australia, Dr. Jill Firth.

I was born in Melbourne and have lived in Sydney and Perth, and in rural Western Australia, before spending a year in a remote community on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory, and a decade in Hong Kong serving the church there. I have been a university student, pastor’s wife, pastoral worker, missionary, spiritual director, Anglican priest, and academic.

Some years ago when I was living in Hong Kong, I was invited to speak at a large conference with international speakers, and I remember walking along a road, thinking about how I could be more like those visiting speakers, and God seemed to say to me, “use your own well.” Rather than seeking to imitate others, I understood him to be encouraging me to draw on my own personality, experiences, and skills. A decade or so later, after a time of burnout, when I wondered if I would ever again engage in productive ministry, I was encouraged when I sensed God saying, “I have more for you to do.” This led to an MDiv, ordination and ministry as an Anglican priest, and training as a spiritual director, until another turn in the road led me into a PhD and a faculty appointment. In my discernment process, God seemed to be asking me to carry on with involvement in a number of different areas, which I felt at the time was unrealistic and unworkable. I have found sustaining these aspects to be challenging and complex, but I now see the fruit in the rich blend of academic, spiritual, and leadership strands that have come together in my current work.

My PhD was on suffering in the Psalms, and interests in trauma and moral injury have influenced my recent writing and teaching on Jeremiah and Psalms. Current and forthcoming chapters in edited books include “The Suffering Servant in Book V of the Psalter,” “Spirituality from the Depths,” “Is the God of the Book of Jeremiah Bad for Women?,” and a chapter on terror, shame, and retribution in Jeremiah. I am revising my dissertation for publication. My happiest hours are spent teaching Hebrew, along with exegetical classes in Psalms and Jeremiah.

Involvement in international conferences at Tyndale House in Cambridge and the annual conferences for SBL (Society of Biblical Literature), IBR (Institute for Biblical Research), and ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) in the USA have led to contacts with other women academics, and I have especially enjoyed the IBR women’s breakfast which is a great source of networking. The ETS women’s gathering has also led to rich contacts, and I work alongside Carmen Imes and Christa McKirland in a Facebook page which connects ETS women. I have greatly benefited from fellowship in the NAIITS (formerly North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies) program in Australia, which welcomes Indigenous and non-Indigenous people into a greater appreciation of Indigenous thinking and culture.

In 2016, collaboration in research on women in theological academia coincided with plans to develop an Australian conference, Evangelical Women in Academia. We have presented three annual conferences at Ridley, with international and local speakers. Ridley also offers writing groups for women, both online and on campus (except during Covid), and a women’s preaching network, and we seek to encourage women in Australian academia in as many ways as we can. We look forward to the publication of our edited book of 18 chapters from Australian women scholars in the evangelical tradition, entitled Grounded in the Body, in Time and Place, in Scripture, which will be available early in 2021. The chapters include embodiment, land, community, Biblical studies, applied theology, and a short history of pioneering women lecturers and students in theological education in Australia (1883–2003). Our next conference (August 67, 2021) will be on the theme of Persuasion, featuring keynote talks from Lucy Peppiatt and Justine Toh.

An invitation to contribute to the forthcoming Bible in God’s World commentary series has encouraged me to reflect more deeply on the justice aspects of the book of Jeremiah. My commentary is due in 2025. This commitment, along with my reading on racism and indigenous matters, has strengthened my involvement with Common Grace, an Australian Christian network committed to Jesus and justice, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice, creation and climate care, asylum seekers and refugees, and domestic and family violence.

Logia has an international vision, and I am honoured to have been appointed to the Advisory Board. Logia’s vision and achievements are a valuable gift to the academy and the church, including the database of women scholars, and publishing and mentoring programs for women research students. I look forward to seeing new projects in Australia and around the Southern Hemisphere.

Jill Firth is a lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament at Ridley College in Melbourne, and a Board Member of Logia.

Photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash



In my experience as a wife, mother, academic, and leader, a number of interrelated battles confront me. One such battle ground is restlessness.

I catch myself almost running from within and sometimes physically too. Even when my body is at home, my mind roams the earth. I feel this internal sense of urgency at home, work place and even during private times set aside for spiritual communion. It is a continual push to keep moving, quickly get done with whatever I am working on and move on to the next task. My kids stop me, at times and tell me that I only pretend to listen to them. ‘But I have so much on my plate’, I tell myself, and justify the need to keep moving. This nonstop running makes me too tired many times. When I put my head down to sleep at night, thoughts of unfinished projects keep me half awake and yet I get immobilized at times.

Perhaps, you too struggle with a restlessness which disguises itself as the call for efficiency. Maybe you too have ‘several pots on fire’ and try to stir them all at once. Maybe you are losing the ability for a healthy slowing down in order to enjoy what is in your life. I spent my formative years in the rural parts of Ethiopia, and one of my fond memories comes from the pure delight of chewing on sugarcane stalks. Extracting the juice, however, requires chewing on the stalks long enough. Similarly, running from one task to the other can limit the meaningful enjoyment I ‘extract’ from the work I am entrusted with. It affects my ability to laugh at small things; in these moments, I like to pause and enjoy the relationships that have been given to me.

It seems that COVID-19 has slowed most people down, at least physically. In many respects, I was given what I would call a ‘forced Sabbath’. I had to slow down.  While I was working on making time for it, the physical fellowship with my Christian community was suddenly gone.  It was such a difficult realization that visiting people or being visited by our loved ones is no more a matter of choice! We always thought it was up to us to make time for such things, but now, we cannot! The warm physical embrace is no more! What strange times!

I imagine many of us are being forced to take a ‘physical Sabbath.’ But lately I’ve caught myself thinking: is my mind at rest? Am I mindful of what goes in and out of my mind? My mind is looking for a reboot, time to reflect, evaluate the path I took, allow myself to lament the losses, make things right with others. In general, I want to use this time to ‘reboot’ as much as I can so that I won’t repeat the same mistakes. What will I do differently post COVID-19? Or am I thinking that I cannot wait for it to end so that I may go back to my old routines? It’s difficult to be intentional about making time to listen to my deepest needs and desires. As a wife, mother, academic, and leader, it’s also difficult to intentionally engage in meaningful conversations at home.

As a theologian, I am often reminded of the biblical call to “stillness” (Psalm 46:10) and of ‘chewing on sugarcane stalks’ during these uncertain times, which have limited me. As I confront the many interrelated battles ahead of me, I hope myself and others can find more time to enjoy some stillness in body, mind and soul.


 የ”እንረፍ” ጥሪ፣ በሰብለወንጌል ዳንኤል 

እንደ ሚስት፣ እናት፣ መምህርት፣ መሪ፣ ወዘተ ከሚገጥሙኝ ፈተናዎች መካከል ዕርፍ ማለት ያለመቻል አንዱ ነው፡፡ ሕይወቴ በጥድፊያ ከመሞላቱ የተነሳ አካሌ ቁጭ ብሎ አእምሮዬ ምድርን ሲዞር፣ በውስጤ፣ አንዳንዴ ደግሞ በእግሬም ሮጥ ሮጥ ስል እራሴን አገኘዋለሁ፡፡ በቤቴ፣ በሥራ ገበታዬ፣ ለመንፈሳዊ ጥሞና በቀጠርኩት ጊዜ ጭምር ውስጤ ብድግ እንዳለ ሆኖ ይሰማኝና ትግል እገጥማለሁ፡፡ የማያቋርጥ ጥድፍያ፣ አንዱን በፍጥነት ከውኖ ወደሌላው ለማለፍ ችኩል የማለት ነገር ያይልብኛል፡፡ ልጆቼ “ኧረ እማሚ፣ እንደው ታስመስያለሽ እንጂ አታዳምጪንም” በማለት ሲኮንኑኝ “ታዲያ ምን ላድርግ፣ ብዙ ሥራ ስላለብኝ ነው እንጂ ወድጄ አይደል” በማለት ራሴን ለማጽናናት እሞክራለሁ፡፡ ይህ የውስጥ ሩጫ በጣም አድካሚ ነው፡፡ ጋደም ስል በጅምር ላይ ያሉ ሥራዎቼ ድቅን ይሉብኝና አእምሮዬ ጨርሶ እንዳይተኛ ይፈታተኑታል፤ የሥራ መደራረብና በቂ ዕረፍት ማጣት ጫና ያሳደሩበት አእምሮዬ ደግሞ ንቁ አልሆን እያለ ይታገለኛል፡፡ 

ዕረፍት የለሹ ሩጫ በ”ኮከብ ሠራተኛ” ባህርይ ተመስሎ እየፈተናችሁ፣ እናንተም እንደ እኔ “ብዙ ድስት ጥዳችሁ” ሁሉንም ባንዴ ለማማሰል እየማሰናችሁ ይሆን? ምናልባትም ዝግ ብሎ በመኖር እጃችሁ ላይ ያሉትን መልካም ነገሮች የማጣጣም አቅማችሁ ተገድቦ ይሆን ይሆናል፡፡ ከማልረሳቸው የአገር ቤት ትዝታዎቼ መካከል ሸንኮራ መብላት ይገኝበታል፡፡ መቼም ሸንኮራ በጥርስ ወጋ ወጋ ተደርጎ አይተፋም፡፡ አፍ የሚሞላው ጣፋጭ ፈሳሽ የሚወጣው ሸንኮራው በደንብ ሲታኘክ እንደሆነው ሁሉ ከአንዱ ነገር ወደ አንዱ መሮጥ ከሌሎች ጋር ባለኝ አብሮነት ደስ የመሰኘትንና ዘና የማለትን ትርጉም ሊያጠፋብኝ እንደሚችል መገንዘብ፣ ቆም ብዬም ከሥራዬና ከሌሎች ጋር ካለኝ ኅብረት የሚገኘውን ርካታ ማጣጣም እንዳለብኝ ይሰማኛል፡፡ 

ለነገሩ ኮቪድ-19 የብዙ ሰዎችን ሩጫ ገታ ሳያደርግ አልቀረም፡፡ እንደልብ ከቦታ ቦታ የመንቀሳቀስ ነጻነታችን ተገድቦ በግድ “የሰንበት ዕረፍት” የተሰጠን ይመስላል፡፡ “ብቻ ሥራዬን ልጨርስ እንጂ ከአማኙ ማሕበረሰብ ጋር ሕብረት ለማድረግ በቂ ጊዜ እመድባለሁ” እያልኩ ጊዜ እስኪመቻችልኝ ስጠብቅ ጭራሽ በአካል ኅብረት የማይቻልበት ዘመን መጣ፡፡ ሰዎችን መጠየቅና እንግዶችን መቀበል በኛ ምርጫና ጊዜ ላይ መወሰኑ ተገድቧል፡፡ ተቃቅፎ ሞቅ ያለ ሰላምታ መለዋወጥ አሁን ላይ የለም፤ ምንኛ ከባድ ጊዜ ነው! 

 እኔ ግን የተወሰዱብኝን/ያጣኋቸውን ነገሮች አስቤ ለመቆዘም እና አካሄዴን ለመመርመር ይህንን ጊዜ ብጠቀምበት መልካም መስሎ ይታየኛል፡፡ ያለፈውን ሕይወቴንና የመጣሁበትን መንገድ ለመፈተሽ፣ ዞር ብዬ መንገዴ ለመመርመር ጊዜ ብወስድ ያለፈውን ስህተቴን ነገ ከመድገም እድናለሁና፡፡ የኮቪድ-19 ሥርጭት ሲገታና ነጻ እንቅስቃሴ ማድረግ ሲቻል ምን አዲስ ነገር ይታይብኝ ይሆን? ብሎ ራስን መጠየቅ ያሻል፤ ምን አይነት ለውጦች ላደርግ ወስኛለሁ? ወይስ ገደቡ ተነስቶ እንደ ዱሮዬ ለመኖር ቀን እየቆጠርኩኝ ነው? ራሴን ስመለከት እንደ ሚስት፣ እንደ እናት፣ እንደ መምህርትና መሪ የነፍስን ጩኸት ለማዳመጥና ከቤት እስከ አደባባይ ባሉ ግንኙነቶች ትርጉም ያለው ኅብረት እንዲዳብር መትጋት ቀላል እንዳልሆነ እገነዘባለሁ፡፡ ሆኖም፣ ነገር ከሰው ሁሉ እጅ የወጣ በሚመስልበት በዚህ ወቅት መዝ 45፡10 ላይ ያለውን የ “ዕረፉ” ጥሪ በማሰብ በሥጋና፣ በአእምሮና በነፍስ ማረፍ እንደሚበዛልን ተስፋ አደርጋለሁ፡፡ 

Seblewengel Daniel serves as the Academic Dean and faculty of Practical Theology at Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology. She is married and lives in Addis Ababa with her husband and their three children.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash




It is difficult to write about shalom

When the blood of our Black brothers and sisters cries out from the ground for justice;

When mothers have lost their sons and daughters to the violence of white supremacy;

When our countries, islands, and barrios have become man-made disaster zones;

And the only response we get is those in power throwing us paper towels.

It is difficult to write about wholeness,

When the already mutilated bodies of our Caribbean and Latin American women and girls

Are shattered by the worshipers of Mammon;

When our forests are burnt down to the ground

By those who benefit from fire and implement their policies and economics of extraction,

Turning to ashes the house Creator provided.

It is difficult to write about completeness

When everything that should be held together

Seems to be torn.

And yet, it is there, in the midst of the life-depriving anti-kingdoms of this world

that He who is before all things;

He who made peace through his blood shed on the lynching tree;

He, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,

Calls us

To leave the comfortable distance of the balcony to follow him on the troubled roads of our countries.

Because in his broken body, he carried the brokenness of this fallen world,

And in his resurrection, he inaugurated the reign of shalom.

In Him, we are now the fellowship of the living,

A company of spec-actors

Rehearsing the drama of God, the Liberator.

We are those who have been threatened with resurrection.

A note from the author:

In the poem/prayer, I give nods to theologians who should be recognized: James H. Cone, and his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree; Samuel Escobar, and his book chapter “Doing Theology on Christ’s Road,” in Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective: Exploring the Contextual Nature of Theology and Mission, edited by Jeffrey P. Greenman and Gene L. Green; Jules A. Martínez Olivieri, and his book A Visible Witness: Christology, Liberation and Participation; and Julia Esquivel, and her poem “They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection.”


Es difícil escribir acerca de paz

Cuando la sangre de nuestras hermanas y hermanos Afro-estadounidenses clama desde la tierra por justicia;

Cuando madres han perdido a sus hijos e hijas a manos de la violenta supremacía blanca;

Cuando nuestros países, islas, y barrios se han vuelto zonas de desastre creadas por el hombre,

Y la única respuesta que obtenemos es aquellos en el poder arrojándonos toallas de papel.

Es difícil escribir sobre la integridad

Cuando los cuerpos ya mutilados de nuestras mujeres y niñas caribeñas y latinoamericanas

Son destrozados por aquellos que adoran a Mamón;

Cuando nuestros bosques son quemados, convirtiendo la casa que nos dio el Creador en cenizas,

Por aquellos que se benefician del fuego y sus políticas de extracción.

Es difícil escribir sobre lo completo

Cuando todo lo que debería mantenerse unido

Parece estar roto.

Y, sin embargo, es allí, en medio de los anti-reinos que privan la vida en este mundo

Que el que es antes de todas las cosas;

El que hizo las paces con su sangre derramada en el madero;

Él, la imagen del Dios invisible, el primogénito de toda la creación,

Nos llama

A abandonar la cómoda distancia del balcón para seguirle en los caminos tortuosos de nuestros países.

Porque en su cuerpo roto llevó el quebrantamiento de este mundo caído,

Y en su resurrección inauguró el reinado de paz.

En Él ahora somos la comunidad de vida,

Una compañía de espec-actores

Ensayando el drama de Dios, el Libertador.

Somos aquellos que caminamos amenazados de resurrección.

Nota de la autora:

En este poema/oración le guiño el ojo a teólogos que deben ser reconocidos: Samuel Escobar, y su capítulo “Doing Theology on Christ’s Road,” en Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective: Exploring the Contextual Nature of Theology and Mission, editado por Jeffrey P. Greenman y Gene L. Green; Jules A. Martínez Olivieri, y su libro Un Testimonio Visible: Cristología, liberación y participación; y Julia Esquivel, y su poema “Nos han amenazado de Resurrección.”

Juliany González Nieves is an Afro-Caribbean Puerto Rican evangélica woman born and raised on the island. She holds a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, and a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her main area of interest is Caribbean and Latin American theologies at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and gender across geographical and linguistic lines. Juliany is also founder-editor of The Mosaic Bulletin and is actively involved with The Paul G. Hiebert Center for World Christianity and Global Theology. You can visit her website Glocal Theology.

Photo by christian buehner on Unsplash



Christa McKirland, Logia’s Centre Director, launched this series with a blog post in September 2019 in which she mentioned, ‘to be a woman and to be a woman of colour meant that you already had “two strikes” against you. Growing up in the American South, those strikes were readily apparent.’ I did not grow up in the American South. In fact, quite the opposite: I am ethnically Chinese and grew up in Hong Kong, where the population has always been almost entirely Chinese. Not only that, my research is also about how Hong Kong Chinese Christians understand civic action in their context. When Christa invited me to contribute to Logia’s Women of Colour blog series, I had some difficulties visualising what that meant, because, for most of my life, I lived in places where I did not have the daily struggles of being a woman of colour…or did I? Since I am speaking as a woman of colour from a non-Western country, one of the experiences I can contribute is how the conversation among theologians in Hong Kong is directed by Western thinkers. Even though Western theologians might not speak directly to Hong Kong, their works are often cited as authoritative and superimposed onto the local contexts by Hong Kong theologians. Hong Kong theologians have internalised Western narratives, which they use to frame the way they conceptualise faith and theology in their local contexts. I find that, in any context, it is important to have a diversity of voices to make the scholarly conversation more robust, but this robustness is more apparent when including those who had to go through the process of establishing their identity and authority within a society where they are not considered to be the arbiters of their own knowledge.

I research how Christians conceptualise civic engagement in light of Hong Kong’s resistance movements, Occupy Central and the Umbrella Movement. I aim to provide a framework for thinking about the intersection of religious identity and political practice in non-democratic political orders, such as Hong Kong. I investigate the topic as an insider–I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and started to spend my time in their Christian community as an adolescent. As Natalie Wigg-Stevenson in Ethnographic Theology describes her research methods, ‘By studying my own people, I sought out the forms of theological knowledge that are inherent within and produced by practices of belonging. […] Rather than reflect on Christian community or on Christian practice, I sought to do theological reflection in Christian community as Christian practice.’ Currently, Western theologians, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth, are privileged in our Hong Kong community, setting the tone for our scholarly debate. But my voice and voices of other women of colour engaged in this scholarly conversation need to be heard, because we provide a unique and necessary perspective that theologians from the West are not able to imagine.

My research is important to me because I was born and raised in Hong Kong during the British/Chinese handoff negotiations for Hong Kong. I was living and working in Hong Kong during the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement, so as a Hong Kong Christian, I have a vested interest in reconciling what it means to be an ethnically Chinese person from Hong Kong with Christian convictions. Nonetheless, this topic is also broadly relevant to non-Hong Kongers. Our current historical moment marks the rise of China and India as global powers and the decentralisation of European power, leading to a new, more authoritarian, world order. These changes raise questions about the supposed ‘universal’ ideals taken for granted in Western theology and philosophy regarding citizenship, engagement, politics, and religion. In a world where the majority of the population belongs to some form of religion, there is a need to explore how the interlinkages between faith and national consciousness frame current debates over citizenship and rights. Religious engagement with the world must be considered alongside authoritarian versions of power, not just democratic ones, otherwise we will be left ill-equipped to understand current political events. It is my experience—and my identity as a woman of colour—that brings a unique set of competencies and contributions to this discussion. My perspective is not as a foreigner, investigating the ‘exotic orient’, but as part of the community, sharing in the struggle of attempting to reconcile the current political climate with the writings of dead white men whose theology is thought to define us. While there is a place for research conducted by outsiders, I, along with a group of women of colour, can deliver a different voice with which to challenge the existing conventions and enhance our deliberations.

One challenge, then, is being labelled as a ‘woman of colour’ by the academic world despite being the same ethnicity as my research participants, and all of the people in my home context. Living as part of an ethnic majority, my race is not something I think about frequently, even though it is my sense of belonging in the Hong Kong Christian community, which I believe undergirds my research and allows me to add my voice to Hong Kong’s theological debates. Since I am seen as a woman of colour, am I expected to conform to certain expectations or stereotypes? Am I expected to be obedient, meek, or submissive? Am I being disadvantaged or considered ‘difficult’ or ‘argumentative’ if I do not conform to others’ unspoken expectations? These unspoken expectations are what I constantly battle with, without explicitly being named as an issue that derives from being perceived as a woman of colour.

On the other hand, back at the University of St. Andrews, I often bring a different perspective to discussions here in the Divinity School. Being a different voice is a challenge: I always second-guess myself, and while imposter syndrome is common among PhD students, my sense of insecurity derives from being different. I question whether I am ‘right’ to think my thoughts, since nobody else seem to be asking similar questions. But it is precisely my difference that contributes diversity to the existing conversations.

It is important to encourage women of colour to study in this field, not only to contribute to the diversity of voices, but for us women of colour to stop being seen as marginalised or deviant. We can achieve this in three ways: first, it is important to consciously relate to subversive or marginalised theologies such as indecent theology, queer theology, feminist theology, liberation theology, Sino-Christian theology, etc. so that the marginalised are brought to the centre of our existing conversations. Second, we can feature scholars who are also women of colour as visible role models. I have both mentored and been mentored by women of colour, and benefitted from the conversations in both accounts. Everyone, not just women of colour, should be able to give and receive guidance with those who are different from them, an experience that would broaden perspectives and amplify the voices of those who are currently considered to be marginalised. Finally, it is also important to have visible communities for women of colour, be it local or virtual. The blog on Asian American Women on Leadership and the Facebook group for Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry are good starting points. It is important to embrace the different voices that women of colour bring. Like others with different visible identifiers that lead to marginalisation, women of colour struggle to grasp our identity in society, and it is the fruits of these struggles that create diversity in scholarly conversations.

Ann Gillian Chu is a PhD (Divinity) Candidate with the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics in the University of St. Andrews. Her research investigates Christian perspectives of civic action under non-democratic governments based on church discussions in post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong. You can find out more about Gillian’s research on her research website, and her Facebook/Twitter handle is @agillianchu.

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Perhaps like so many academics, especially women of color, I often feel like a misfit, like someone whose story always seems a little out of joint with the stories of others around her. In the case of biblical studies, writ large, I feel that my narrative is unusual. On the one hand, I do not come from a conservative religious home that I have rebelled against; my immediate family are all quite progressive theologically and some are not religious. On the other hand, I never experienced my profession as a “calling,” though I suspect women of color who experience this profession as a calling have been fortified by that conviction. It likely helps them endure the many challenges of academic life, including the ways that we so often feel like impostors rather than misfits.

I became a professor of Latina/o/x studies and religion at a small liberal arts college in New England because of a series of happy accidents, a rolling accumulation of pushes and pulls, of moments of support. I cannot recount all of them in a short blog, so I will focus on some key moments in my academic career. Through a string of unusual events, including undergraduate mentoring from Elizabeth Castelli, I found myself a master’s student at Union Theological Seminary in New York. While there, I took Hebrew and Greek (and then Aramaic) for fun because I liked learning languages.

I was also fortunate with my professors of ancient languages. All of my Hebrew professors were women, and Wyn Wright was a Black woman and a profound and supportive mentor who also taught me Aramaic. Inside and outside of class time, she would share the wonders she found in the study of ancient Semitic languages and linguistics. My teaching assistant for Greek was David A. Sánchez, a Chicano doctoral student from East Los Angeles, California, who had re-opened Union’s Latina/o Caucus and who had supported me from the start of my master’s program. He helped me to think through the ways that one can be both passionate about the ancient world and a robust interpreter of and from the present. Both of these mentors were scholars of color who passed away when they were far too young.

Although I never could’ve gotten into a doctoral program in biblical studies without a love for languages, a love for languages never would’ve been enough. Many of the questions that dominate biblical studies—questions about ancient provenance, original texts, philology, and authorial intent—could be interesting to me, but they did not compel me.

I pursued doctoral study because of the work of Vincent L. Wimbush who taught me to fundamentally re-examine scriptures as phenomena in our world and within my own communities. In his courses and speaking with him during his office hours, he transformed my understanding of how community gets made, contested, and re-imagined through stories, texts, and the practices that surround them. I continue to be a student of biblical studies on these more expansive terms, thinking about biblical texts in relationship to communal structures and in relationship to other texts and stories of social power.

That work and training also made me into a different sort of biblical scholar, an interdisciplinary student working between multiple fields and feeling always like a misfit in any one of them. And yet, this experience of multiple belonging and unbelonging—an academic mirror of my own sense of ethnic identity as a Costa Rican and United Statesan—was often a source of pain even if I could not have been an academic any other way. Again, I was lucky. I was able to secure a tenure-track position with a joint appointment in Latina/o/x studies and religion. I had wonderful support from colleagues in both units, colleagues like Denise Buell, Mérida Rúa, and Carmen Whalen, who gave of their time to help me navigate the strange structures of the liberal arts in rural New England. I also had wonderful colleagues in faculty, staff, and administrative roles throughout Williams as well as some key students who pushed me well and some key students who thrived in my courses and helped me to keep teaching.

Because I needed many different colleagues and mentors to support and push me along the way, I don’t think there is any one-size-fits-all plan to draw in a more diverse set of scholars. As Fernando F. Segovia argues, criticism in critical times requires expansive and collaborative efforts across disciplines, approaches, cultures, and geographies.[1] We have to be asking different questions, taking different approaches, representing distinct points of view to help make us all better scholars and to help produce scholarship that speaks to more people.

No one approach or emphasis should stand in as authoritative for what the field should look like; people can be trained to be rigorous scholars without expecting them to act like clones. To diversify our field, we have to diversify the options for study within it, diversify the methods and expectations, open up topics and approaches that previous generations of scholars ignored or discounted. Instead of misfits, senior scholars can become infiltrators working to build a more just and diverse academy and world.[2]

No one mentor is enough either. Academic misfits need multiple people from different spaces of belonging and unbelonging to help us navigate diverse structures and realities. And those of us who are now senior scholars have to provide more flexible and equitable mentoring, and it should not just be the people of color who take this on and often get made sick by the sickness of the system we live under. Everyone can mentor for a diverse world so long as we approach others with the humility of an individual misfit, trying to open up more options for more people who we don’t expect will always look or sound like us.

[1] Fernando F. Segovia, “Criticism in Critical Times: Reflections on Vision and Task,”  Journal of Biblical Literature 134, no. 1 (2015): 6-29.

[2] Lena Palacios, “The Underrepresentation of Latinx Faculty and the Future of Higher Education,” Latinx Talk, September 19, 2018,

Jacqueline M. Hidalgo is associate professor of Latina/o Studies and Religion, as well as chair of the Religion department, at Williams College in Massachusetts. Her professional service includes committee work for the American Academy of Religion, the Hispanic Theological Initiative, and the Society of Biblical Literature, and she is the vice president (2020-2021) for the New England/Eastern Canada region of the Society of Biblical Literature. A past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS), she is the author of Revelation in Aztlán: Scriptures, Utopias, and the Chicano Movement (2016) as well as co-editor, with Efraín Agosto, Latinxs, the Bible, and Migration (2018). She has written “Latina/o/x Studies and Biblical Studies” in Brill Research Perspectives in Biblical Interpretation 3.4 (2020) in addition to numerous essays that examine the intersections of scriptures, gender, sexuality, race, and Latina/o/x communities. 

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If you told me two years ago that I would be boarding a plane with my husband and a one-year-old baby daughter so that I could pursue further theological studies in Scotland, I would have laughed in your face. Our move this past August was unexpected for many reasons, including what we thought would be life as new parents. However, it was particularly unusual because of what ministry had been for me for the twelve years prior. I trained and continue to train churches, seminaries, and ministries in the US on how to connect ethnicity and Christian faith together for fruitful evangelism, discipleship, and reconciliation. I wasn’t exactly headed for a place more diverse than the classrooms and congregations that were my metropolitan neighborhood and teaching contexts; if anything, they would be less.

Many a friend has raised an eyebrow at the institution of my choice, a bastion of Western thinking. Throughout many communities, theology and the evangelical church are being criticized as being laden with the trappings of Western colonialism, bias, and white supremacy. There is much truth here. Critique and truth-speaking are important; societal and theological reform are impossible with such prophetic insight. Where would we be without the powerful critique and words given to us by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr.?

I came to Scotland in search of the theologian J. B. Torrance and his descendants because Torrancian theology had been critical for me in articulating a framework and vision for understanding ethnicity and theological personhood on this side of the eschaton and beyond. From J.B. and his brother T. F. Torrance, I understood God’s essential character as covenantal love that is unwaveringly committed to his creatures and reconciliation, which in turn helped me teach an understanding of ethnicity as a quality of all human creatures, as affirmed in Pentecost and Revelation, and thus as present in the eschaton.

New Testament scholar Erin Heim uses the metaphor of adoption to talk about the continuity of particularity in persons who are in Christ:

“Adoption metaphors communicate that the embodied particularity of persons (e.g., gender, race, class, historical location) are not incidental to the telos of humanity, since “adoption” implies a continuity of personal identity and yet a change in familial relation and status. Thus, these particularities are carried through to the final restoration where they are dignified and sanctified.”[1]

However, in case we mistakenly interpret such to mean that problematic ascriptions of hierarchy will remain in the eschaton, Heim vigorously asserts:

“To be sure, Paul is emphatic that the sinful hierarchies built upon gender, class, race, and so forth have no place within the body of Christ. Rather, Paul’s vision of adoption communicates that the diversity that exists among human persons is taken up into the divine life and sanctified through participation in Christ, the firstborn Son, as brothers and sisters of a diverse family.”[2]

So, then, to answer my black American friend who asks the theological question of “will I be black in heaven?” I would answer, yes! For all the beauty that God intended for your ethnicity in form and culture, in individual unique expression as well as corporate connections, yes! But for all the negative experiences and oppression that blackness entailed in this world, that kind of status hierarchy will not exist; supremacy over another and oppression of the other will be done away with fully in the eschaton. I am Korean American, and I will retain that heritage and story in the eschaton, where it will be sanctified and bear no trappings of being identified as an exoticized inferior other or a mythical model minority trope used to criticize and demean other ethnic groups.

But what of now, in the “here but not yet”, on this side of the eschaton? Heim argues that “theosis is a relentlessly embodied concept” yielding “historically particular and embodied expressions of the imago Christi.”[3] Though I have not encountered Heim’s work until recently, my work as a teacher and trainer has been in convincing ministries in America (which often default to functional colorblindness) to see themselves as ethnically embodied particulars— to not see ethnicity as accidental but as an intentionally created particularity, a vehicle for witness and indeed theosis.[4] I’ve seen some amazing, promising signs of change in places where I have gotten to train denominational leaders and seminarians; I have also seen heartbreakingly painful places of relationships and structures damaged by racial bias, unrepentance, and resistance to sacrificial change. I’m on my knees in prayers of tearful gratitude or tearful intercession.

In doing this work, I have reflected on the particularity of my being a Korean American woman. I remember speaking at a large conference this past summer and being warmly greeted by several Asian Americans who had never seen an Asian man or woman speak as the invited preacher in their majority white organization. But often, when I first speak, I see and feel the hesitation in the room. Am I a friend or a foe, an ally or someone who will make them cringe?  Will I elevate whiteness or promote the cause of communities of color? I am aware of these expectations thrust upon me by anxious and tense gazes when I first open my mouth to speak (really, if you want to make evangelical Christians anxious, tell them you are going to talk about race, ethnicity, and faith, and you can see the tense shoulders and body language from the moment you approach the podium).

I’m not black, and I’m not white. I’m not someone whose ancestral story and ties to the motherland were stolen by force (like those descended from black American slavery or the native American women and men who suffered cultural and physical genocide), nor am I a part of a people who have unconsciously or willingly disassociated from their heritage in order to be “American” as many white Americans have. Negatively, I have not had the choice of disassociating myself from my heritage because of the racial realities of being Asian in a majority white country like America (though the pressure to buy into stereotypes and erasure in a black-white binary is ever present), but also positively, disassociating myself from my ethnic heritage has not been something that I’ve seriously considered. As a child, I grew up with stories and strong ancestral ties to Korea, the country of my ethnic ancestors, to a four-star general grandfather who fought for his country’s freedom from the colonizing legacy of Japan. I am someone who was given the gift of history and appreciation of the culture and beauty in my ethnicity. My particularity is distinct from that of a Chinese descendent or a Japanese American.  Racial flattening of personhood is not an option for me, though I am well aware of the racial realities that affect people who do and don’t look like me, and I spent a good deal of time exhorting Christian ministries to care about racial injustice and oppression. There is often a good deal of ethnic division and difference within racial clusters (for example, Japanese versus Korean versus Malaysian, or Nigerian versus Haitian versus black American), which if denied make for difficult attempts at relationship building or addressing policy issues.

What this means is that I enter into American spaces being aware of something more than a black-white binary conversation that flattens personhood and ethnic particularity into race. Racial hierarchy will not exist in the eschaton; so if I identify myself by the status categories embedded in racial identities such as the majority/minority, oppressor/oppressed, powerful/disenfranchised, the problem is that in the eschaton the identity that I have chosen for myself as central will not exist. But my ethnic heritage, my ethnic story will continue, with all of its beauty and scars, and in the eschaton I will be able to behold the scars of my story and the story of my people without the memory of those wounds causing me pain. The same goes for those who are descended from oppressed persons; the same goes for those who are descended from the powerful. It is not that the stories will be forgotten; it is that the stories will not serve as foundations for continued enmity, strife, division, and stratification.[5]

I can choose to identify with then the false label of “other” because of how I don’t fit black-white paradigms, or I can use the ways I don’t fit into such particularity-reducing accounts as a mediating gift, an asset to bridge-building in the gaps that exist in both practical and academic theology. In facilitating trainings and conversations, I have found that ethnicity— my ethnically embodied particular story as an Asian, Korean American woman— is a gift, a way to lovingly confront the learner about his or her presuppositions about faith and reconciliation, or ethnicity and new creation. The ways I have been taught to honor the other, to hold space at the table for each guest, is a gift. My ethnic story allows me to have greater capacity for empathy and awareness of the other. My particularity in its embodied distinctness (my ethnicity, my gender, my personality) has been a gift that allows for me to speak and challenge across ethnic and racial lines. If all believers are to follow a cruciform life in the particularity of our lives, mine has been bridge-building between people groups who have little common language, relationship, or shared history and memory. It has not been easy, nor has it been without its share of bumps, bruises, and mistakes, but it has been worthwhile.

My journey has sent me across the country, to many different denominational contexts, often intersecting with university settings. Though I see churches growing in their desire to engage in reconciliation and multiethnicity, I see pressing gaps on the ground between our theology of justice and our eschatology amidst increasing division, nationalism, and confusion.    I am a minister and also an academic, and I am coming to accept that this is likely not going to change. So I should steward this best I can. My education at MIT many years ago taught me that the best scientists are not those who are stuck in theory; they are practitioners who are connected to their field of study. My field is driving my theological questions.

I’m in Scotland, at St. Andrews, because I believe that we need all of the gifts of the Body, all of the gifts of the whole Church, in order to thrive beyond Western-exclusive conceptions of thriving— but that includes Western theology that honors personhood, particularity, and the relentlessly covenantal God of scripture. While the Latin American theologian Justo Gonzalez, African missiologist Lamin Sanneh, and countless other writers and mentors of color helped shape my faith and convictions, it was also theologians such as J. B. and T. F. Torrance that helped form the theological underpinnings that have been essential for me in training the Church—and it is a deeper theology of reconciliation, a corporate, embodied, eschatologically oriented view that I am after.

Reconciliation is not particularity-obliterating. It refuses to envision a future without the particular, embodied persons that the Lord calls his own. And reconciliation, theology that fuels and powers Christian communal theosis, needs the gifts of the whole Body—Asian, black, Latino, native, white—Scottish, African, Korean, German, Mexican. There is no better way to get beyond our societal and cultural blinders, idols, and presuppositions than by relying on the gifts, perspectives, and stories of the diverse, particular body of the church to be able to see the context into which theology must speak truth. And as the church becomes more globally connected and as theology thus engages globally interconnected issues and challenges, we need the gifts of the entire body to help the church have the critical perspectives and insights necessary to for a healthy and flourishing Body.

Though our culture and times are rightly critical of the legacy of whiteness and colonization, it is only through interaction across the global body that one will be identify what was good, retrievable, and amplifiable in that Western history and heritage. For white and European theologians to bless the global Church, for Asian, Latin, African, and Middle Eastern theologians to bless the global Church, it is only in such interaction that we can scrutinize the foundations of our particular biases and also realize the gifts and necessary resources that we each bring. John Samuel Mbiti, a Kenyan Christian philosopher and Anglican priest, offered these powerfully piercing words in 1976:

Theologians from the new (or younger) churches [of the Global South] have made their pilgrimages to the theological learning centers of the older churches [of the Global North]. We had no alternative. We have eaten theology with you; we have drunk theology with you; we have dreamed theology with you… We know you theologically. The question is: Do you know us, theologically? Would you like to know us, theologically?[6]

I am often one of few people of color, often the only woman of color, in my classrooms.  I can shirk back and say, I don’t fit. Or I can say, my particularity is a gift, that my ethnic-specific, woman self is critical to addressing gaps in theory and practice, and that I believe that the Church and theological conversations benefit when I bring the fullness of who I am— my Korean, American, woman self— and do the best theology I can.

[1] Erin Heim, “In Him and Through Him from the Foundation of the World,” in Christ and the Created Order: Perspectives from Theology, Philosophy, and Science, edAndrew B. Torrance, Thomas H. McCall (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2018), 130. Heim also writes on page 148, “If being “in Christ” does not extinguish personal identity, then the restored humanity of believers maintains their personhood and historical particularity. Indeed, we can conclude that the adoption metaphors assume the continuity of personal identity while highlighting a change in status and relation in regard to familial belonging. This construal of a Christocentric anthropology has several important implications regarding the relationship between Pauline adoption and creaturely existence, which can only be briefly sketched here. Perhaps most significantly, ethnicity, gender, social location, and other aspects of embodied identity are not peripheral to a Christocentric anthropology because they are not discarded in Christ.”

[2] Heim, 148. Heim ends her article by stating the need for communal cruciform living informed by telling and hearing the stories of the other, so that our relationships are informed by real knowing of the other in their distinctness instead of reducing the other to labels and concepts.

[3] Heim, 148.

[4] Theosis: the process of becoming like God through union with Him.

[5] I have often found it puzzling that Christians seem so intent on forgetting the past when the central point of worship around the Christian God is around His scars, the marks of the Son’s crucifixion and resurrection.

[6] John Mbiti, “Theological Impotence and the Universality of the Church,” in Mission Trends No. 3: Third World Theologies, ed. Gerald H. Anderson and Thomas F. Stransky (New York: Paulist Press; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 16-17.

Sarah Shin is the author of Beyond Colorblind (IVP Press) and the former Associate National Director of Evangelism for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (USA) where she served for twelve years. She has a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Master of Arts in Theology from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton. Sarah is currently a Masters student at the Logos Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology at the University of St. Andrews.

Photo by Sarah Shin

Contempt of Presence

By Sheila Caldwell

I was excited to be working as a new director in an inaugural role at a predominantly white university in the South. The community I worked in was the headquarters for the Klu Klux Klan and the galvanizer for the Trail of Tears.  It was the second week of the fall semester and I was tasked with persuading students and potential donors on the importance of investing in a college education. After the event concluded, a white male professor from the Business Department introduced himself to me with a compliment on my presentation and a lunch invite with him, and other colleagues. I declined the invitation due to a prior commitment. We continued to engage each other with small talk. After learning more about his work, I returned his compliment and stated that a business degree has the same vague brilliance as the United States Constitution: relevant, versatile, and timeless.  His eyebrows raised and he asked me where I heard that comment. I told him the alignment was my idea.

He laughed nervously and said, it was not my idea. He repeated his question. I looked him in the eye and responded the same. The third time he asked with indignation. What professor did you hear that from? I processed his question as “What white male professor informed my words?”  I was creative and smart, I retorted.

Our exchange was an example of a microaggression. Harvard Psychiatrist Charles M. Pierce coined the term in 1970. Microaggression is defined as intentional and unintentional daily insults, slights, and dismissals directed towards marginalized groups. As a diversity officer in a Christian Liberal Arts school, I make an effort to appropriately substitute secular terms with biblical language to provide a Christian perspective on bias, racism and sexism. I believe that using the scriptures to inform biased behaviors is more effective at changing hearts and minds for Christ followers. The biblical term for microaggression is contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving of scorn.

My interactions with the business professor was full of contempt. As a black woman working in the academy, he did not consider me worthy to have high or independent ideas. I walked away from the conversation baffled by a white male professor who I had interacted with for less than ten minutes. Within that brief period of time, he complimented my work, invited me to lunch, and determined the limits of my cognitive abilities and creativity. As a new employee, I pondered how he treated his female students and students from racialized communities.

The situation I just described happened a few years ago with a former employer. However, working in diverse institutions provides abundant opportunities for contempt. Earlier this week, I was in a leadership meeting with my peers. I provided an update on my current projects, including an invitation to present at a diversity conference. The conversation went as follows:

Me: I am presenting on race and integration at Harvard.

Colleague: Did you say Harvard?

Me: Yes. Harvard.

Colleague: Harvard University?

Me: Yes.

Colleague: The one in Boston.

Me: Yes. Boston, Massachusetts.

My white female colleague does not have difficulty hearing or understanding geography. However, she did struggle with her imagination to believe that I would be a presenter at Harvard University. Unlike the white male professor, she has endured her own line of questioning regarding her intellect and abilities for occupying a female body. However, in this instance, it was the black female body and mind that was subject to scrutiny because of her own biases and stereotypes.

I like to caution white women who are fully aware when they are victims of sexism to make every effort to avoid being agents of racism.  Although I have earned a leadership certificate from Harvard and I serve in a leadership role at my institution, my acumen and accomplishments were met with contempt. My white female colleague gave me, along with my white male peers, the impression that she did not think I was deserving to present at Harvard. My other team members would not have been burdened with a similar inquiry. Instead of a deficit-based perspective, my male colleagues would have likely received affirmation and praise, as they have in the past.

There are members in our society who are rarely confronted with questions that disrupt their psychological state. It is worthwhile to consider why poor, disabled, and racialized ethnic groups bear the daily burden of defending their humanity as equal image bearers in Christ. Majority members would do well to analyze the motivation behind words and behaviors that discount and devalue others who do not share their race or class status.

On any given Tuesday or Friday, I have been a victim or witness to the following contemptuous questions:  Why are you in this meeting? Who do you know at this organization? How did you get this job? Is that your real hair? How long did it take to do your hair? I am not bothered by curiosity. I am troubled by individuals who feel entitled to remind you that they view you as an object of contempt who does not belong in certain spaces. Contempt of presence is a form of disrespectful behaviors and/or words toward a group of people prompted by association with a stigmatized group.

When stigmatized groups are treated with contempt by members of a majority group, it creates a hostile environment and persistent stress. Sound evidence suggests that contempt in the form of microaggressions have a detrimental impact on the health of marginalized groups. Negative effects include traumatic stress, depression, anger, isolation, and lower life expectancy.

Christians are encouraged to be givers of life through the gospel. At the heart of contempt lies a lack of love and consideration. Hebrews 10:24 instructs believers to consider how to spur each other on towards love and good deeds. The operative word “consider” demands contemplation, examination, and thoughtfulness. Christians should consider the best way to invite someone into a conversation or relationship. For example, direct questions such as, “Where are you from? What are you mixed with?” are not the most effective questions to spur someone on because both objectify a person, and suggest a lack of belonging. Prior to posing a question to a marginalized person, one should consider, “Why do I think this person is positioned to answer this question?” Hasty and harmful judgements are in opposition to the teachings of Christ. I am hopeful that the word of God can be the source of inspiration that motivates all followers to honor, value, and respect each other.


Carter, R. T., Mazzula, S., Victoria, R., Vazquez, R., Hall, S., Smith, S., Sant-Barket, S., Forsyth, J., Bazelais, K., & Williams, B. (2013). Initial development of the Race-Based Traumatic Stress Symptom Scale: Assessing the emotional impact of racism. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(1), 1–9.

O’Keefe, V.M., Wingate, L.R., Cole, A.B., Hollingsworth, D.W. and Tucker, R.P. (2015), Seemingly harmless racial communications are not so harmless: Racial microaggressions lead to suicidal ideation by way of depression symptoms. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 45: 567-576. doi:10.1111/sltb.12150

Torino, G. (2017). How racism and microaggressions lead to worse health. Center for Health Journalism.  Retrieved from

Dr. Sheila Caldwell currently serves as the inaugural Chief Intercultural Engagement Officer for Wheaton College. She collaborated across the college to create the first Christ-Centered Diversity Commitment Statement. Her leadership roles include driving excellence and effective classroom practices by professionally developing new faculty, deans, and department chairs. Furthermore, she ensures all search committees are aware of unconscious bias and high-impact inclusive hiring strategies. Her aim is to fortify work and classroom spaces to ensure all members feel love, respected, and valued. Most recently, her leadership roles included Advisor to the President on Diversity, Director for Complete College Georgia, and Principal Investigator for an Upward Bound grant at the University of North Georgia. During her tenure, she secured over $1.3 million dollars in educational grants, facilitated the creation of UNG’s first Diversity Leadership Statement, and implemented Diversity Champion Awards for team members who demonstrated strong commitment to an inclusive environment. She is a diversity and student success champion with two decades of experience in higher education. Caldwell earned a Doctorate in Education from the University of Georgia. She completed Harvard Kennedy School Strategies for Building and Leading Diverse Organizations Executive Education program. Her professional affiliations include memberships with National Association for Diversity Officers in Higher Education, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and Complete College America.

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