Listening to voices on the margins

/ 12 July 2010

I was reading the prodigal kiwi blog today — a blog I enjoy — and came upon this post, which admires a quote from Barry Taylor:

“…We need men and women who have previously been on the margins to come forth and lead us. In focusing so exclusively on our cognitive capacities, we have lost our imaginations. We need mystics. We need poets. We need prophets. We need apostles. We need artists. We need a church drawn out of the margins, drawn from the places and filled with people and shaped with competencies formerly thought to be of little account. In fact, perhaps it is from such 'marginal' communities as these that influence will begin to spread outward into communities that have been domesticated in a modern world and thus rendered docile. We need a wild vine grafted into the branch. We need alternate takes on reality. We need a different kind of leader - one who can create environments to nurture and release the imagination of God's people."

I have to admit to being a little bit irked, because there have been "voices on the margins" for centuries, and certainly in the last couple of decades these voices have been very powerful. But since most of these voices are of women, people of color, colonized peoples, GLBT people, and so on, no one has been listening much to them. Certainly not very many of the white guy emerging/missional church folk (and ok, I get that that is becoming more the stereotype than the norm of the emerging church). Still, reading a plea for people on the margins to come forth and lead, makes me wonder if people who are "used" to leading, that is, people who carry a lot of privilege and inhabit more the center than the margins, are even capable of hearing marginal voices?

Which thought, in turn, reminds me of this video: </param></param></param></embed>

As I wrote previously, one important take away from that video is that

it was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader… the best way to make a movement if you really care is to courageously follow and show others how to follow… have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in!

So, perhaps, given that there are so very many voices from the margins already, what we need are courageous followers. I think that the movements seeking to transform the church could learn a lot from those who are already speaking from the margins. Two books I'd recommend in particular (both of which respond to prodigal kiwi's concerns about academic preparation of theological leaders) are Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza's Democratizing Biblical Studies, and Letty Russell's Just Hospitality.

I applaud prodigal kiwi's appreciation of Barry Taylor's call for voices from the margins -- now if only more people would actually LISTEN to those voices!