I fully understand that the job market in Christian higher education is depressing. It is not my intention to discuss those matters here. Nor is it my intention to advocate for a dramatic change in hiring practices. I want to discuss one reason why there are so few African Americans or other minorities teaching in the following disciplines: New Testament, Old Testament, Church History, and Systematic theology. To limit the discussion to these disciplines does not make a statement about the value of other fields. These disciplines are common in most seminaries and Theology departments. In addition, I can speak with a more familiarity about the experiences of African Americans in Christian higher education than I can about other groups.
Now for a quick experiment, choose six broadly Evangelical colleges or seminaries. Now go to their theology departments and examine them. How many African Americans did you find? Here we face a theological conundrum. Either African Americans are intellectually incapable of doing these jobs or there are other reasons for this lack of diversity. This is not an attempt to lambast Christian higher education. It is point out that I have integrated many a New Testament event.
So why is this the case? Many in the field know that a big decision one makes when applying for a PhD is the UK versus USA question. Put simply, the UK programs are shorter, but more expensive. The American programs might be better funded, but longer. I would estimate that somewhere between 50-60% of Christian colleges and seminaries hires graduates from UK programs. Those programs are largely composed of Caucasians from the US and Canada. If 50-60% of applicants are from the UK programs, and virtually none of those graduates will be African American, this will inevitably mean that there will be gap in hiring.
Being in the United Kingdom is not easy for anyone. Most work long hours for a long time only to face a daunting job market. However, the British PhD does have a history and a certain cache in Evangelicalism. John Stott, C.S. Lewis, and J.I. Packer, just to name a few, were all Brits. Many prominent Evangelical pastors and theologians have also been trained abroad. Furthermore, culturally the United Kingdom carries a certain mystique for that is hard to quantify.
For many African Americans a UK PhD would involve yet another leap into the unknown. It would also mean becoming an even more extreme minority. In addition, there is no comparable history of British influence on African American Christianity. Nor does going to the UK carry the same cultural resonances that it does for many in Evangelicalism. For those who believe that diversity in Christian higher education is important, complaining about hiring practices is insufficient. Changing Christian higher education will mean acknowledging and addressing the root causes behind the disparity.