An excerpt from “For Such a Time as This: A Report on the 2014 Consultation of African American Homileticans”

Posted Sep 30, 2014 | Academy of Preaching and Celebration


Frank A. ThomasWe are professional homileticians....
And we need to be clear to the preachers,
To the church, to the academy....
We look at and plan theology and methodology ...
We’re not just talking about another preaching conference.
No. We are trying to improve the art itself.

--William Bobby McClain
Conference participant


In spite of the richness and uniqueness of black preaching, there remains a dearth of analysis of the method and theory of the African-American preaching tradition, including sermons and materials of some of the most classic, as well as under-documented and undocumented, voices. Indeed, in many seminaries, if black preaching is not virtually ignored altogether, classes are often taught only on an adjunct basis or as distant electives. Perhaps a partial reason for this reality is that black historical culture is largely oral; much of what we have today in terms of the black experience in America is that which has been handed down orally. But an additional reason, and perhaps a more insidious one, is that black preaching has not been given a berth of respect in divinity schools and seminaries—black or white. Most divinity schools and seminaries in America have been content to follow a largely Eurocentric worldview, curriculum, and mindset. The purpose here is not to place blame, but instead to make the point that now is the time for African-American preaching to become an equal voice and dialogue partner in the preaching conversation and, as such, a homiletical discipline in its own right.

Black preaching was and is, then, an art form, and the fact that it is treated as more of an afterthought than a major area of study is what compelled the Consultation of African American Homileticians in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 29–30, 2014. Convened by Rev. Dr. Frank Thomas, the Nettie Sweeney and HughTh. Miller Professor of Preaching and director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration at Christian Theological Seminary, this report is a succinct summary of the proceedings.

Thomas is deeply convicted about the importance and peculiar place in history that black preaching has earned; his quest is to help preachers, scholars, divinity schools, seminaries, and whomever else will listen become aware that the time has come for serious study of black sermons and the method and theory of those who delivered them. It is time to place black preachers and their work among all the standard resources studied in seminary and divinity school, alongside systematic theologians, church and religious historians, biblical scholars, ethicists, and the like. Black preaching, in his words, must become a field, a discipline.

Thomas has been careful to explain that he is not interested in black preaching as sectarian or over in a corner by itself dogmatically proclaiming its self-analyzed superiority. He believes that black preaching can add a tremendous amount of insight and wisdom to the overall field of homiletics when it comes to the table as an equal partner in dialogue, discussion, research, study, and teaching. He believes that the study of black preaching as a discipline can revitalize Euro-American and other methods of preaching. He argues that the creation of African-American preaching as a discipline can ignite a preaching renaissance in America. Some saypreaching is dead, and he says, “Not in the black church.” Furthermore, he says, through the study of the genius of the African-American preaching tradition, preaching does not have to be dead in any tradition.

It is time.

A free downloadable ebook version of this report is available at (Note: You will need a minimum of Flash Player version 11 installed on your computer in order to properly view this report.)

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