Friday Five Interview: Trillia Newbell
Why should pastors embrace the goal of racial diversity in their congregations? We asked the author of a forthcoming book on race and the Church.

For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Trillia Newbell. Trillia Newbell is a freelance journalist and writer. She writes on faith and family for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, and serves as managing editor for Women of God Magazine. Trillia is a frequent contributor to publications such as Desiring God, True Woman, The Gospel Coaltion, and The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Newbell has two forthcoming books published by Moody Publishers.

Today we catch up with Trillia and discuss diversity in the Church, reformed theology, and how church leaders can best serve busy moms.


As an African American woman in a biracial marriage, you've written on the importance of diversity in the church. What are some initial steps pastors and church leaders can take in creating this kind of environment?

That's a great question and honestly one that I am still exploring. But I think that the pursuit of diversity—and all things really—begins with a heart change. In other words, we must see the benefit of diversity as it relates to God's Word. God says that we are all created in his image. James rebukes partiality. Jesus commanded us to go make disciples of all nations, and Revelation gives us a glimpse of the last day where all tongues and tribes will worship together. Though these are only a few references, it is clear that God values diversity. Do we?

From there, pastors and church leaders can begin by relating—whether through hospitality or guest speakers—to those unlike themselves. This will send a message to their congregations. People are watching to see what their leaders are doing, and though we can and should pursue others regardless of what our leadership does, the truth is we watch, learn, and emulate them. So if the pursuit of diversity is important to a leader or pastor, they need to actively pursue it themselves. They'll be amazed by the effect on their church environment.

I'm going to flesh this out in my upcoming book, tentatively titled United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (Moody, March 2014).

You're a part of the Reformed African American Network. Is reformed theology making a comeback in the black community?

Jemar Tisby, co-founder of RAAN, recently introduced me to the research of Eric Washington. He is researching the rich history of African Americans and Reformed Theology, specifically Calvinism. His findings date back to the 1700s, and it appears mainly in the Baptist faith. So the question of whether it's making a comeback is a good one. But I don't know that there is evidence of a widespread resurgence of Reformed thought within the Black church.

May 31, 2013

Displaying 1–9 of 9 comments

pastor v

June 11, 2013  10:36am

Sheerahkahn, Thank you for your insight. As for me, it's not so much that I didn't want to "go there." It's simply that I wanted to emphasize, not so much the merits of either interpretation themselves, but rather the fact that those who disagree with the complementarian position also read the Bible and take it, and God, seriously. As I said, no one simply reads. We all interpret; and interpretation implies background, including historical background. Historical background is *incredibly* important when interpreting, especially the epistles; yet often it is not taken into account. I think the historical background you shared with us is especially relevant, so thank you!

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June 10, 2013  11:09pm

"I can understand your reasoning and interpretation of 1 Tim 3ff. I would refer pastor v to the ESV Study Bible which gives 3 different possible views of "Husbands of one wife" and "wives"or "women" in the next verse. Good explanation in the footnotes." Well, since Nathan and Pastor V aren't going to go there I'll go there.... Complementarianism is a major misinterpretation of the bible, of Paul, and of Timothy, and is, in my opinion, a gross and negligent sin in the Church which has led to a corruption that should and must be expunged. Anyone familiar with Rabbinical methods of teaching and instruction does not have a problem with what Paul is telling Timothy...and yet...the Church...with all it's alleged learning from those white Citadels called seminaries still seem to fail to understand Jewish Culture and the Rabbi's. Paul took women as pupils to train them as Rabbis...which, if you read it in that light, he is telling Timothy, one of Pauls former pupils who he, Paul, trained as a Rabbi to pass on that training to others...whom, part of his students were women. And what is the first thing any good teacher does with their students...they don't allow them to teach the subject unless the Teacher is confident that the student can do it right. Therefore, before Paul allowed a woman or man to become a Rabbi, a teacher, they both had to show a complete and total understanding of the scriptures...which was the Torah, the Prophets, and the Histories, along with Psalms, and songs. I recommend everyone become familiar with the Rabbinical teaching will explain a lot of what is happening in the New testament.

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Dan from Georgia

June 06, 2013  9:10pm

Nathan, well said!!!

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June 06, 2013  7:35pm

people don't realize that when you make loaded statements about "taking God at his word" it serves to marginalize and shut down honest discussion about what actually matters. It's also implicitly bearing false witness because it indicates that the contrary position has NOT taken God at his word. But...Where we land on this stuff are not first-order issues. How we comport ourselves in the discussion, IMO, is way more important. That being said... The constant need to retread this issue, along with other issues of opinion and preference keep evangelicals in a kind of conversational cul-de-sac in some kind of hideous intellectual tract housing development when there are field white to harvest, and the mountain of God's Kingdom to pleasure in.

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pastor v

June 06, 2013  12:59pm

Pete, Thank you for the referral. I agree that the text does not require marriage as a qualification to be an "overseer." But the same hermeneutic that allows me that option also allows the possibility that being male is not necessarily a required qualification either. I have no desire to turn this into a debate on the role of women in ecclesiastical leadership. But I would like to say that when I step back from the details of this specific text and look at the overall context of Scripture as a whole, the fact that Paul happens to use masculine pronouns in this passage just isn't enough (in my mind, at least) to overrule the rest of the Scriptural witness of how God has used women in positions of leadership throughout redemptive history. Look, like I said, I have no problem with her interpretation of that passage, or with her position as a complementarian, other than simply that I disagree. It is a secondary issue that is not essential for salvation, and so if that is where her study and her conscience and her conviction has led her, I am no one to judge. But just be honest about what it is: an interpretation. The problem is that when someone asks how you came to hold a complementarian position, and you answer, "I read God's word," the clear implication is that those who disagree with the complementarian position have *not* read God's word, which is simply not true. When you answer, "I take God at his word," the clear implication is that those who disagree do *not* take God at his word. Again, that is simply not true. And no one simply reads God's Word. No one simply takes him at his word. *Everyone* interprets. Even those who are complementarian. So, again, I have no problem with her complementarian position. If she had simply summarized the Biblical evidence that lead her to that conclusion, I would not have commented. It's not a big deal to me, and it takes nothing away from the rest of her ministry. What *is* a big deal for me is that we respect each other and accept each other even when we disagree with each other on secondary issues; that we not treat those who disagree with us as "less faithful to God's word." I'm sure she meant no disrespect, but her language betrays an assumption that those who disagree with her position do not take the Bible as seriously. Like Nathan said in the first post, we keep using this issue to divide ourselves, and that is very disappointing indeed. Many of us who disagree with the complementarian position take the Bible just as seriously as those who agree. I wish those on that side would simply acknowledge that.

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June 05, 2013  4:21pm

Good post Trillia! Just what I have come to expect of you! I would refer "pastor v" to the explanation of the different interpretations in the footnotes of "husbands of one wife" and "wives" or "women" in the next verse. One accepted interpretation is yours.

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June 05, 2013  4:13pm

Great post Trillia Just what I always expect of you !! I can understand your reasoning and interpretation of 1 Tim 3ff. I would refer pastor v to the ESV Study Bible which gives 3 different possible views of "Husbands of one wife" and "wives"or "women" in the next verse. Good explanation in the footnotes.

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pastor v

June 04, 2013  2:24pm

Funny, I've read God's word too. I also take God at his word. And yet I've come to different conclusions. Yes, it is possible to do so! What I have never had any complementarian explain to me is, in the passage of 1 Timothy 3:1ff, how they can interpret the phrase "husband of one wife" *both* non-literally ("I don't believe Paul is saying you must be married") *and* literally ("he is limiting the qualification to men") at the *same time*! How is that hermeneutically possible?? If anyone who holds a complementarian position can explain this, I really would like to know. I don't condemn anyone who is a complementarian, by the way. Like Nathan said, it is a secondary, non-salvific issue. We all have the freedom to believe and to live according to our conscience and our conviction. But, at least be hermeneutically consistent! If you're going to limit leadership in the church to men because of 1 Timothy 3:ff, that same text under that same hermeneutic requires that leadership also be limited to those who are husbands (as well as fathers, cf. v.4-5). You can't have it both ways. Otherwise, the inconsistency breaks down the argument that you are simply "taking God at his word." No, you're not. You're interpreting God's word, just like everyone else. And your interpretation must be consistent if it is to be considered valid.

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May 31, 2013  12:20pm

well, isn't that lovely. let's sweep aside the hard realities and thinking done around gender roles, and the simple fact that godly people disagree on this point. Couldn't this interview have just for once avoided that issue? Couldn't we for once not stoke the fires of a secondary, non-salvific issue? If not, then can we put a moratorium on lamenting the "death of big tent evangelicalism"? Especially since you're contributing to the undercurrent of divisiveness. Her answer, while scratching a certain itch for a certain set of sub-cultural credibility markers for a certain community, actually cheapens the complementarian POV and simply sweeps aside cogent arguments to the contrary. How disappointing.

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