Faculty Stories

New Book Co-Edited by Reverend Dr. Andrew Wymer Examines the Impact of White Racialization in Homiletics

Rev. Dr. Andrew Wymer

Published on April 3, 2022, Unmasking White Preaching: Racial Hegemony, Resistance, and Possibilities in Homiletics is the result of a three-year long workgroup focused both on examining the impact of white racialization on the field of homiletics and centering racially-minoritized perspectives. The book was co-edited by Reverend Dr. Andrew Wymer, assistant professor of liturgical studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and Reverend Dr. Lis Valle-Ruiz, assistant professor of homiletics and worship and director of community worship life at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.

The first section of the book, titled “Racial Hegemony,” interrogates the white, colonial bias of Euro-American homiletical practice, pedagogy, and theory with particular attention to the intersection of preaching and racialization. The second section, “Resistance and Possibilities,” contributes diverse critical homiletical approaches emerging in conversation with racially-minoritized scholarship and racially subjugated knowledge and practice. Ultimately, Wymer and Valle-Ruiz hope this book will inform and inspire preachers and professors of preaching to encounter and engage with alternative, non-dominant homiletical pathways that seek a more just future for the church and the world.

Among those who contributed to the book are Garrett-Evangelical alums, faculty members, and Styberg Preaching Fellows in association with the Styberg Preaching Institute at Garrett-Evangelical. The 16 contributors include: Christopher M. Baker (G-ETS 2020); Gennifer Benjamin Brooks; Suzanne Wenonah Duchesne; HyeRan Kim-Cragg; Peace Pyunghwa Lee; Gerald C. Liu; Debra J. Mumford; Jerusha Matsen Neal; Andrew Thompson Scales; Leah D. Schade; David Stark; Sarah Travis; Lis Valle-Ruiz; Richard W. Voelz; Andrew Wymer (G-ETS 2016); and Chelsea Brooke Yarborough.

We recently sat down with Wymer to learn more about this project and the book.

Tell us about the book? And where did the inspiration for this book come from? 

Dr. Lis Valle-Ruiz and I spoke at a gathering in 2018, and we realized we were both equally disgruntled about the unaddressed expressions of whiteness in our guild and discipline. I shared with her a question that Dr. Gennifer Brooks, my mentor and senior colleague here at Garrett, had asked me: “Why leave the Academy? Why not stay and change it from within?” Taking that question seriously, we launched a three-year long workgroup focused both on examining the impact of white racialization on homiletics and centering racially-minoritized perspectives. This book emerged out of that work, and it is a shared expression of activism on the part of all who participated in it. The sixteen contributors are—each in our own unique way—trying to imagine a more just world and more just approaches to preaching.

The first section of the book regards racial hegemony, preaching, and racialization. Can you give us some insight or history you discovered while putting this book together regarding this correlation/intersection?

It is tempting for white folk like me to think that by addressing racism in homiletics that we are doing something new, but resistance to racism has long been an implicit and explicit feature of some racially minoritized preaching and homiletical scholarship. It is crucial that we tap into that history of resistance that exists within the work of some racially minoritized homiletics and to center the racially minoritized homileticians and scholars—both the living and those already in “the great cloud of witnesses”—who have long been in this struggle.

Given the history you’ve pointed out in section one, what are some of the alternative homiletical pathways that are found in this book and how are they taking shape in contemporary congregations? 

A strength of this book is that it offers such a diversity of perspectives, and several of the authors have long been about the struggle in their own practice, scholarship, and teaching. In that sense the book is at least partially descriptive of practices, scholarship, and teaching that is already taking shape in contemporary institutions. However, there is also a partially invitational dimension with a number of contributors offering us glimpses at preaching in ways that transgress racially dominant boundaries. Since we have such an array of authors, I suspect that most preachers, scholars of preaching, and teachers of preaching will find something new that presses at an unexamined area of their own personal practice and opens up possibilities. 

A number of contributors to this book, yourself included, have a connection to Garrett-Evangelical as alums or faculty members. How have your Garrett-Evangelical colleagues shaped your own approach and understanding of homiletics through the lens of race?

The connections to Garrett are so rich! As I previously observed, the inspiration for this book and the workgroup out of which it emerged can be traced back to a challenge from Dr. Gennifer Brooks. Dr. Brooks is one of the wise elders whose contributions Dr. Valle-Ruiz and I situated to frame this collection, and three of the contributors, Dr. David Stark, Dr. Chelsea Yarborough, and myself, served as postdoctoral fellows at Garrett under her guidance. This volume at least partially emerges out of the fertile ground Dr. Brooks and many other brilliant and persistent, racially-minoritized scholars at Garrett—such as Dr. Cheryl Anderson, Dr. Anne Joh, Dr. Larry Murphy, Dr. Stephen Ray, and many others—have long nurtured in ways that allow for and have spurred their colleagues, students, and alumni—such as contributor, Dr. Chris Baker, and myself who both graduated from the PhD program—to ask difficult questions and to pursue a more just future at Garrett and beyond.

Published by Rowan & Littlefield, Unmasking White Preaching, is available in hardback and ebook. To learn more, read reviews, and to purchase, go to https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781793653000/Unmasking-White-Preaching-Racial-Hegemony-Resistance-and-Possibilities-in-Homiletics