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I Love You California!

As of today, California no longer has a “white majority.” Latin@s have been the fastest growing segment of the population for a while now and it is estimated that by 2030 “there will be 7.2 million Latinos under the age of 25 compared to 3.8 million whites,” which means that there isn’t going to be a white majority in California any time in the foreseeable future. Currently, whites are wealthier, but that will change over time as well. Once Latinos are the majority, and as a community Latin@s obtain a greater share of the State’s assets, there will be major changes.

I graduated from a seminary in California (Western Seminary, San Jose Campus). While seminaries present themselves as representing a particular doctrinal perspective their identity is only partially shaped by the propositions listed in their Statement of Faith (or a similar document). Seminaries (and divinity schools) thrive, survive, or disappear depending on income. Currently, most of the people with the financial resources needed to attract the attention of seminary administration are white people. This means that (consciously or unconsciously) seminaries usually elect a white President, white deans, mostly white faculty, especially when it comes to teaching biblical literature and/or systematic theology courses. According to Anthony Bradley, among evangelical institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), only Regent University (Dr. Carlos Campos) and Fresno Pacific University (Dr. Pete Menjaris)  have non-white presidents (both Latino). [1]

While there are many factors preventing Blacks, Latin@s, and other groups from enrolling in evangelical institutions of higher learning one of the major factors remains the lack of familiar faces in the administration and faculty. [2] This tells me something that many evangelical seminaries in California may not want to hear, but which remains true: if the culture of your institution is attractive and accommodating to white students only, or even mostly–where a Black or Latin@ student has to spend three to four years wondering why no one with his/her cultural background is employed at your institution (other than the occasional adjunct position for “specialty classes”)– then there is a strong chance that your institution could struggle to survive in the upcoming decades.

I’m not interested in debating whether an institution ought to diversify (I think this should be a goal for an institution that wants to be effective). Instead, I am saying institutions in places like California need to diversify. If your administration, faculty, and student body are monochromatic and monocultural, catering to what has been the majority culture, then the very approach that helped secure the most funding and student enrollment may be the very thing that has the equal and opposite result in the near future.

Let me recommend Aliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (P&R Publishing, 2013), edited by Anthony B. Bradley, to board members, presidents, administration, and faculty members of institutions in places like California. This book contains eight insightful essays from Asian, Black, and Latino scholars on topics like this one. If you want to govern an institution that represents its local community well then there is a lot to learn from these essays. I know I have been challenged by them. As an evangelical whose home is California it is from the bottom of my heart that advocate for more awareness regarding dynamics of race and ethnicity as they relate to institutional growth and planning.

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[1] Bradley, Anthony B. (2013-05-06). Aliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (Kindle Locations 237-246). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[2] See Harold Dean Trulear, “Blacks and Latinos in Theological Education as Professors and Administrators” from the aforementioned volume edited by Anthony B. Bradley.

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