Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: Crossing the Divide by Owen Hylton

Owen Hylton is a newfrontiers church leader in London. He's black. He's a man. These are ways of speaking of him. In his book Crossing the Divide he challenges us to both pursue diversity in the church and on how to do that. It's a practical book driven by theology and I enjoyed reading it. I was provoked by reading it. The main focus of the book is racial (ethnic) diversity, but the applications are broad.

Hylton says there are three main ways of dealing with diversity.
1. Assimilation which hides the differences (he suggest this happens in France... no Algerian-French, just French). 
2. Pluralism which accentuates and celebrates the differences (he suggests this is the British way of multiculturalism)
3. Integration which seeks unity and diversity (more an American way...?).

Whether or not the analysis holds I do find great appeal in the "third way". In the church we hold to a common core of relationship, identity and belief which is strong, and we don't  need to pretend that our differences don't exist. Hylton suggests actually it's counter-productive to pretend we're not different - and given our God is a diverse community I agree. Church can be a place where people agree to agree on certain things, and agree to be different in others.

There are implications for my work with Christian Unions too. Some suggest pretending we have no differences by "leaving your secondary beliefs at the door". This looks unified but breeds frustration. Others say diversify and lets have 17 campus ministries like in the US or New Zealand, but unity is more important than that among the people of the Triune God, or we betray the love of the Father for his Son. Could we then pursue a robust unity in the gospel, but with a celebration of our differences... a unity with diversity?

Published by IVP books UK