Ask an indigenous theologian...

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

We struggled a bit with exactly how to identify our guest today—“ask a Cherokee?” “ask a multiculturalist?” “ask a radical Cherokee Jesusee guy?”  That’s because Rev. Dr. Randy S. Woodley  is many things: a teacher, a writer, a missiologist, an activist, a poet, an historian, a former pastor, a Cherokee, a Christian, and a missionary.

Randy grew up in the multiracial Willow Run district of Ypsilanti, Michigan during the turbulent 1960s. He is the youngest child from a working class family with deep southern roots. A legal descendent of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Randy has been active in service among America’s indigenous communities since 1984. Currently, he serves as Distinguished Associate Professor of Faith and Culture and Director of Intercultural and Indigenous Studies at George Fox Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

Randy and his wife Edith (E. Shoshone/Choctaw) lead a local Native American gathering at their home in Newberg, Oregon under the auspices of Eagle’s Wings Ministry. They have four children and a small, semi-sustainable farm. The Woodleys have developed a uniquely holistic model of service among Native Americans called “Ministry in a Good Way” out of which grew in 2004, a 50 acre sustainable farm and Christian community called Eloheh Village for Indigenous Leadership and Ministry Development. At Eloheh, the Woodleys taught sustainability, eco-justice, microeconomics, leadership and mission. In 2008 they gave up their farm and were forced to disband the community due to continued violence and political pressure from local White Supremacists.

Randy became a nationally known figure when he pastored the Eagle Valley Church (EVC) in Carson City, Nevada. EVC served as one of only a few authentic culturally indigenous churches and it became a model for Native Americans in the US and Canada. For over two decades, he has been considered an early innovator in the Native American cultural contextual movement.  Randy’s ministry has always preached a gospel concerned with both personal reconciliation and societal justice. He has battled systemic racism in both local communities and institutions, suffering the loss of a home, a career and threats against his life and family.

Randy has authored many articles and contributed chapters to several books, including theDictionary of Scripture and Ethics, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, The Justice Project, The Global Dictionary of Theology, and his first monograph, Living in Color: Embracing God's Passion for Ethnic Diversity. His new book, just released this summer from Eerdmans Press, is Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous VisionHe is a founding board member of NAIITS, the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies and is active in ongoing concerns of emerging faith expressions, diversity, eco-justice, reconciliation, ecumenism, inter-faith dialogue, mission and indigenous peoples.  His blog posts can be found on Ethnic Space and FaithEmergent Village Voice and God’s Politics (Sojourners). And if, like me, you plan to be at Wild Goose West in a few weeks, you’ll get to say hello to Randy in person, as he’ll be presenting there!

You know the drill: If you have a question for Randy, leave it in the comment section. At the end of the day, I’ll pick the top seven or eight questions and send them to him. We'll post Randy’s responses next week.  Be sure to take advantage of the “like” feature so that we can get a sense of what questions are of most interest to readers.

(You can check out every installment of our interview series—which includes “Ask an atheist,” “Ask a nun,” “Ask a pacifist,” “Ask a Calvinist,” “Ask a Muslim,” “Ask a gay Christian,” “Ask a Pentecostal” “Ask an environmentalist,” “Ask a funeral director,” and  many more—here.)

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