The Status of Minority Scholars in Evangelical Institutions: A Relatively Unscientific Analysis

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As a minority in Biblical Studies, one encounters the common refrain that the worst thing that you can be in the academy is a white male. I have been told in many not so subtle ways that the main reason that I can expect employment is that I am an African-American male. Now leaving aside the question of whether or not it is possible for an African-American to get a job because they are qualified, I wanted to look into a simple question. What is the status of minority scholars in openly evangelical institutions?  Later, if I have time, I may look at the broader academy for the sake of comparison.

Rather than being exhaustive, I decided to choose, somewhat at random, nine major Evangelical seminaries. I then counted their minority New Testament and Old Testament faculty. One thing needs to be stated up front.  I assume no motive as it relates to the hiring processes at these institutions. If they lack minority scholars, there may be a variety of explanations. What will become clear below is that the rumor of a minority take-over in biblical studies is a myth that should be put away at once.

This research has a positive aim. I would hope that it would encourage my white male Christian friends to consider for a moment what it is like to be an African-American (or a woman or both) in this disciple who  hears time and time again that the minorities are taking all the jobs in a room filled to the brim with white male scholars. I would also encourage them to think about what it must be like for a minority student to rarely if ever to encounter a minority professor. It is possible that a diverse faculty united by a common faith will help prepare culturally aware clergy and laity who have been called to serve in an increasingly diverse America.

I end these introductory remarks with a brief anecdote that may get at my point. A few years ago, I asked my son and my daughter what they wanted to be when they grew up. My son replied that he wanted to be a pastor like his father. I asked him whether or not he wanted to be a doctor (that is my wife’s profession). He said, “No. Boys can’t be doctors.” At the time, we were living in Japan and the entire Pediatric department was female. Every doctor he met was a woman. Therefore, he concluded that women must be naturally gifted at doctoring. Seminarians are not four-year-olds. But our faculties do send messages. If white, black, and brown students never encounter black or brown scholars does it not send an implicit message about whose voice is valued in the church?

Institution White-Male Female Black Asian Hispanic
Wheaton graduate school 11 3 0 0 1
Fuller Theological Seminary 7 5 2 3 0
Talbot[1] 28 3 2 5 0
Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary 12 5 1 1 1
Asbury Theological Seminary 12 1 0 0 0
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School 16 2 1 2 0
Southern Theological Seminary 7 0 1 0 0
Dallas Theological Seminary 14 1 0 1 0
Covenant Theological Seminary 7 0 0 0 0
Totals 114 20 7 12 2
Percentages 74% 12% 5% 8% .01%

****I limited my research to full-time faculty teaching in the areas of Old Testament, New Testament, or Biblical Studies. If someone was female and black, I counted them in both categories. I did obviously did not add Black, Asian, and Hispanic males to the ‘white male’ category. Finally, especially as it relates to Hispanics, last names are not always the best guide. I apologize in advance if I mislabeled anyone. I also did not do too much recounting. My numbers might be slightly off. This is a blog after all.  Nonetheless, the trend is overwhelming and speaks for itself****

 

Addendum

I was asked to look at the most recent hires. Some of the websites are not very clear on the matter. I think the following is correct: of the twelve most recent hires, three have been minorities.

[1] I included everyone under the label “biblical and theological studies”

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One thought on “The Status of Minority Scholars in Evangelical Institutions: A Relatively Unscientific Analysis

  1. There are two African American Professors of Biblical Studies at Oral Roberts University. Dr. Trevor Grizzle is Professor of New Testament Studies, and Dr. William McDonald is Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies. Dr. Cheryl Iverson is a white female Professor of Old Testament Studies. In addition Dr. James Norwood is Associate Professor of Christian Counseling, and Dr. James Barber is Associate Professor of Practical Theology. Dr. Sandra Richardson is an African American woman and Associate Professor of Christian Counseling. Also, the Dean of the College of Theology and Mission is Indian. I did my undergraduate theological studies at Oral Roberts. Sadly people often think of ORU as lacking academic rigor, and so discount the school. (I am not insinuating that you did.) Instead, we might look to ORU as a model of diversity in many senses. My Faculty Advisor was an Episcopalian. My New Testament and Church History Professor was a Roman Catholic. My Homiletics Professor was a Presbyterian. My Hermeneutics Professor was a United Methodist. It also appears to have a fairly strong racial diversity.

    Of the 24 Faculty in the Department of Theology and Missions (which includes both Graduate and Undergraduate) five are African American, one is Indian, Three are women.

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