Clearinghouse and Resource Center
The MultiCultural Programs Department Clearinghouse and Resource Center
features a collection of theological books, sermons, speeches, workshop
presentations, youth and adult sexuality curriculums.
The Clearinghouse and Resource Center serves as a resource to clergy,
seminarians, health and human service educators, parents and youth.
Resources are available for loan. For more information, contact
email@example.com or call 202-628-7700.
Book of the Month
Our Home Is Over Jordan: A Black Pastoral Theology
Homer U. Ashby, Jr.
Our Home Is Over Jordan by Homer U. Ashby, Jr. is dedicated simply, To Patsy, his wife. Therein lies a glimpse into what, I believe, Professor Ashby’s 2003 publication, subtitled A Black Pastoral Theology,seeks in defining home as “… where we develop sensitivities and sensibilities about being attached to others” (10). While home is a location for strong, loving, compassionate, supportive interpersonal relationships, “in the most positive sense,” Ashby also acknowledges that “beyond parents and the extended family, mentors and models are needed to provide a full and complete sense of who one is and where one is headed” (10).
This “home” of Ashby’s psychologist and pastoral theologian’s mind is therefore a residence made up of “love, care, nurture, support, and guidance” that encompasses, as well, “a sense of community” like that found in the Negro spiritual “Deep River” (10). In this deep connection with the spiritual not only do we find Ashby’s inspiration for the book’s title, but Ashby’s thesis is revealed in a few straightforward sentences as he writes:
The home in “Deep River” is a place of refuge, safety, and protection. It is a place of promise and expectation. Home across the Jordan is where full humanity is realized in the company of others. This kind of home stands as an alternative resistance to the hostile space of a surrounding racist society. It is the home needed by African Americans at this time in the journey (10)[italics mine for emphasis].
One hears strains of a 21st century prophet in Ashby’s sense of urgency that African Americans need to cross over Jordan into the promised land “before it is too late” and in his conviction that “the black church has a crucial role to play in the provision of a home where black people in America can have a sense of refuge, safety, and protection; where there is hope and promise instead of despair; where the prospects for survival are enhanced” (10).
As Ashby lays out his case for the black church as that which “solidifies” the relationship between God and African Americans he conjures a new heaven and earth in which through “its preaching, teaching, worship, fellowship, and prayer the black church is constantly reinforcing for its people that black people are God’s people and that they live in God’s story of ultimate justice and freedom” where “survival is guaranteed, and beyond mere survival that battles that they wage for freedom and dignity will result in full humanity” (11).
This small book (157 pages) packs power on every page and should be read by everyone whose desire it is to gain a better understanding of blacks in America and their spiritual resources. In chapter 1, entitled, “Conjuring the Promised Land,” the exodus story is shown to be a liberating motif for black Americans but of limited usefulness in explaining what African Americans are seeking after in terms of the promised land. Ashby asserts, “Joshua stands as a conjure for the transformation of a people from slavery to freedom, from wilderness wandering to the establishment of a home” and “to a new phase of peoplehood characterized by a strong cultural identity, a committed connectedness to one another, and a hopeful vision of the future” (34).
Chapter 2, “The Joshua Church,” raises the question whether the black church can help African Americans create a vision for the future that is true to God’s promise of inheritance. He writes: “With the weight of its moral and ethical calling, the rich resources of its tradition to do theology, and its significant historical role in the survival and liberation of blacks, the black church is uniquely qualified to lead a people out of the current wilderness of despair into the promised land of a fuller and more abundant life” (69).
In chapter 3, “Discerning Black Identity,” Ashby takes on the meaning and significance of black cultural identity, connectedness and vision as essentials for the survival and liberation of African Americans. It is the most ambitious of the five chapters in terms of its critical engagement with topics such as black essentialism, ontological blackness, critiques of black theology, black cultural politics of difference, realities of suffering, struggle and survival, and the promise of postmodernity, womanist ethics and black pastoral theology. Ashby outlines his approach to black pastoral theology as incorporating “both ontological blackness and the new black cultural politics of difference for the sake of identity formation required for successful claim of a home over Jordan” (101).
In chapter 4, “Connecting a Disconnected People,” Ashby concludes: “The task for African American people is to live out the qualities necessary for a connected life and in so doing claim the promised inheritance” (125). The question is whether African Americans can overcome disconnectedness to successfully claim their home in God’s provision and promised inheritance.
Chapter 5, “A Vision for the Future with Hope,” returns to the Negro spiritual “Deep River” as that “intangible” in which full humanity or cultural fulfillment are attained (127). Reparations are discussed as an example of where to begin “to construct a framework for a critical Joshua perspective that can be applied not only to the issue of reparations but to a variety of concerns that impact on African American life and culture” (140).
Our Home Is Over Jordan is worth the read for the faith it conjures in the black church to play a pivotal role in the future of African Americans in four distinct ways: (1) equipping for survival and liberation, (2) adopting all our children, (3)gathering to remember and to give thanks, and (4) continually envisioning the future (143).
Breaking the Silence - The Impact of HIV/AIDS on African American Women and the Silence of the Church, by Dr. Marvel McCain Parker
As the Black church struggles with how to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, African American women now make up the largest percentage of new HIV/AIDS cases in America. This statistic is startling. What is going on in the African American community? What are the risk factors that explain this rise in the disease among Black women? Find the answers in this book.
This book is a startling revelation into the devastating effect that HIV/AIDS has had on African American women and reveals some of the key risk factors that African American women face. A layman’s reference book, with a glossary that gives the definition of often used terms in reference to this disease, it is small and easy-to-read and will become a teaching tool for many. It describes the effect of HIV/AIDS on the body, risk factors, fact from fiction, methods of transmission, and several theories of the origin of the disease. This book speaks out about the failure of the church to respond to this epidemic that has victims in the pews on Sunday morning.
The author is a graduate of Northeastern University and Harvard University Divinity School Summer Leadership Institute. He holds a Master's of Divinity and a Doctorate of Divinity and is founder and CEO of AIDS Awareness Advocacy Inc.
Sexuality and The Black Church … A Womanist Perspective, by Kelly Brown Douglas
It has been just over a decade since the publication of Sexuality and The Black Church by Kelly Brown Douglas, a former BCI Advisory member. This is considered
the first groundbreaking book for the Black Church on sexuality and is used
widely in academic (seminary) circles. Breaking the silence on a subject reluctantly discussed, if ever, in Black church circles, negatively for the most part—if at all , especially “from the pulpit,” Douglas’s academic, yet sensitive, insider treatment, of the theology of black sexuality pulled back the curtains revealing a topic long ignored and/or covered up by shame and cultural taboos associated with black sexuality. According to Douglas, for too long, the Black church has uncritically adopted/adapted dominant culture’s definitions, norms and values of whiteness, maleness and heterosexuality in the formation of norms and values for black sexuality. In her own words, Douglas, who at the time was an Episcopal priest and associate professor of theology at Howard University Divinity School, hoped “to provoke the kind of sustained analysis, discourse, attitudes, and behavior that will move all Black women and men closer to enjoying the fullness and uniqueness of their humanity” (1999:8).
Sexuality and The Black Church examines arguments, attitudes and patterns of avoidance by the Black church and community that have that have contributed to failures to respond in constructive ways to devastatingly challenging social realities facing African Americans in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, such as; HIV and AIDS, teen pregnancy, homophobia, intolerance of sexual diversity, dysfunctional male/female relationships, reconfiguration of family, etc. It is a good read and a must read for all for whom the subject of Black Sexuality is a matter of faith. Perhaps, it is in that regard that Douglas makes the greatest contribution.
Douglas’s theology seeks to re-member the connection of (black) bodies and spirit by honoring the web of creation that is God’s intention for all humanity. In so doing, Douglas’s Sexuality and The Black Church is a clarion call to the Black church and the black community to re-member the faith traditions of African peoples that have served communities of resistance in their quest to re-member (reestablish) the connection between black women and men and their sexual relationships that were intentionally destroyed to serve white racism and white privilege since “new world” of America began.
strong, fierce - Undivided Rights captures the evolving and largely
unknown activist history of women of color organizing for reproductive
justice-on their own behalf. Undivided Rights presents a fresh and
textured understanding of the reproductive rights movement by placing
the experiences, priorities, and activism of women of color in the
foreground. Using historical research, original organizational case
studies, and personal interviews, the authors illuminate how women
of color have led the fight to control their own bodies and reproductive
destinies. Undivided Rights shows how women of color--starting within
their own Latina, African American, Native American, and Asian American
communities-have resisted coercion of their reproductive abilities.
Projected against the backdrop of the mainstream pro-choice movement
and radical right agendas, these dynamic case studies feature the
groundbreaking work being done by health and reproductive rights
organizations led by women-of-color.
The book details how and why these women have defined and implemented
expansive reproductive health agendas that reject legalistic remedies
and seek instead to address the wider needs of their communities.
It stresses the urgency for innovative strategies that push beyond
the traditional base and goals of the mainstream pro-choice movement-strategies
that are broadly inclusive while being
specific, strategies that speak to all women by speaking to each
woman. While the authors raise tough questions about inclusion,
identity politics, and the future of women's organizing, they also
offer a way out of the limiting focus on "choice."
Undivided Rights articulates a holistic vision for reproductive
freedom. It refuses to allow our human rights to be divvied up and
parceled out into isolated boxes that people are then forced to
pick and choose among.
View past books of the month.
The views in this and other Clearinghouse selections are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the member groups of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.