Rev. Sekou rocking out on NPR
Over at Patheos, Kieth Giles has compiled a list of who, in his estimation, qualify as the leaders of Progressive Christianity. The list includes a number of very prominent figures in the movement. At the same time, a number of commenters in the list, including me, noted with some dismay that many of the entrants were white, straight, cis, male, and in some cases, dead.
Now, in fairness to Keith, he was upfront in noting the subjectivity of the list, and he made his criteria clear: "How often do these people get quoted, shared, name-dropped or referenced in Progressive Christian posts, books, interviews or on social media?" And this is a pretty good standard for establishing leadership in the movement. So, without trying to deny the validity of Keith's list, I thought it might be worthwhile to expand the list to include a few additional names that Kieth overlooked, with an emphasis on picking folks who are non-white, non-hetero, and/or insofar as possible, non-dead.
I will qualify this the same way Kieth did: My list is to some degree subjective. And I'm not sure that I have better metrics than Kieth has in order to determine what makes a person a "leader" as a progressive Christian. But in the interests of expanding the circle of discourse, these are some names worth including:
Cornel West: Cornel West's form of radical and pragmatic Christian activism has inspired progressive faith for decades now. For many of us, Race Matters was a watershed text in discussing American racism. But his earlier work, from Prophesy Deliverance to Prophetic Thought in Postmodern Times laid the intellectual foundation for a politically radical and yet loving approach to Christian faith that continues to yield fruit. I go back time and time again to his reminder that "justice is what love looks like in public."
Robin Henderson-Espinoza: A self-described "trans-queer activist scholar" and "politicized theologian," Robin Henderson-Espinoza challenges the colonialized Christianity that is so much a part of dominant American culture and stands up for those marginalized by that cultural hegemony.
Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou: Rev. Sekou has been organizing and working as an activist in progressive Christianity for many years. He's a pastor, a writer, and a musician who brings a Pentecostalist energy to progressive faith.
William Barber: A founder and leader of the Moral Mondays movement, William Barber has been a prominent voice in Progressive Christian activism for the past decade, and an important voice for justice and progressive Christian action.
Miguel de la Torre: In fairness, I'm not sure Miguel de la Torre would necessarily identify as Christian at this point. However, his work on Latin American theology and ethics has been deeply influential across the progressive Christian landscape.
To be clear, these are only some of the leaders that came to me with a few moments of thought and research. There are many others that I could name, given a bit more time and thought, and there are many other beyond these that represent a wide array of Christian communities. But in the interests of widening the circle, these were the ones that I thought it important to mention up front. I probably could have gone on at length about each of these names as well. But I've provided links in case you want to learn more about each of them.
However, all of this has given me reason to think about the deeper question of just want progressive Christianity is in the first place, never mind what it means for someone to be a "leader" in it. Is it a movement? A set of institutions? A vibe? I want to return to this question in my next post and think about some basic touchstones of progressive Christian faith, and a bit of my own history with it as well.