TEDS Hosts Historic HANA Consultation

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Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was recently privileged to host a groundbreaking series of conversations between Hispanic and Asian North American pastors and theologians. Officially dubbed the HANA Consultation, the three-day gathering brought together sixty men and women on our Deerfield campus for dialogue centered on the themes of identity and calling. Under these broad headings, participants discussed issues such as racialization, immigration, intergenerational relationships, lament, and other cultural-theological topics that tend to uniquely characterize Hispanic and Asian North American church contexts.

This consultation represents an unprecedented level of collaboration and constructive pastoral-theological engagement between two of the most rapidly growing groups of evangelicals in North America. It was sponsored by the Henry Center and organized by Dr. Peter Cha (Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, TEDS), Juan Martínez (Fuller Theological Seminary), Dr. Linda Cannell (former Dean of North Park Seminary), and Armida Belmonte Stephens (PhD Candidate, Systematic Theology).

In a subsequent interview, Dr. Cha explained the title “consultation” by contrasting it with a conference: “At a conference, we come to listen to experts read their papers, and then we ask questions. But Hispanic- and Asian-Americans are extremely diverse…a few speakers could not capture all of it.” Their solution was to invite one Hispanic- and one Asian-American participant to present ten-minute summaries of pre-distributed papers at each large group session. The other attendees were seated in discussion table groups, and afterwards there followed an hour of constructive dialogue at each table focused on the two presentations. These larger sessions were complimented by more specific tracks such as “Nurturing the Next Generation,” “Public and Local Witness,” and “Migration and Global Mission.” (For summaries of all HANA Consultation sessions, see Jennifer Aycock’s detailed blog coverage.)

One important takeaway from this consultation, according to Dr. Cha, is the way in which HANA church communities find it easier to seamlessly interweave the preaching and living-out of the gospel with social justice concerns. Majority-white North American evangelicals have often bifurcated the two, as Carl Henry famously criticized in The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in 1947; while much has changed since that book’s first edition, much work remains to be done within Henry’s target demographic. Dr. Cha noted that churches that focus on only “spiritual” concerns can be viable in a sense for predominantly white communities, “for whom public institutions, such as the police, public education, and the justice system typically function quite well. But this is not the case for blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities. For minority pastors, just doing your job means needing to become involved with these realities.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2043 there will be no single majority racial group in the United States. Furthermore, “Hispanic and Asian North American churches are overwhelmingly evangelical,” noted Dr. Cha, and the currents of thought running through HANA churches give us a picture of what that 2040 reality will look like for North American evangelicals.

The HANA Consultation is slated to happen again at Fuller Seminary in two years, providing an ongoing opportunity for key leaders in these communities to dialogue with and support one another. This consultation also provides an opportunity for majority-white North American evangelical communities—which remain very racially segregated—to listen, in humility and openness, to the concerns of evangelicals whose presences in the United States continue to increase and become more influential.

Look for a book to be published in 2014, edited by Peter Cha and Juan Martínez, containing essays from the 2013 HANA Consultation sessions.

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School offers two degree programs that provide intentional engagement with issues such as social justice, urbanization, and racial segregation in the church: the Master of Divinity focus on Compassion & Justice and the MA in Urban Ministry.

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