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Review: Crossing the Divide by Owen Hylton

Owen Hylton is a newfrontiers church leader in London. He's black. He's a man. These are ways of speaking of him. In his book Crossing the Divide he challenges us to both pursue diversity in the church and on how to do that. It's a practical book driven by theology and I enjoyed reading it. I was provoked by reading it. The main focus of the book is racial (ethnic) diversity, but the applications are broad.

Hylton says there are three main ways of dealing with diversity.
1. Assimilation which hides the differences (he suggest this happens in France... no Algerian-French, just French). 
2. Pluralism which accentuates and celebrates the differences (he suggests this is the British way of multiculturalism)
3. Integration which seeks unity and diversity (more an American way...?).

Whether or not the analysis holds I do find great appeal in the "third way". In the church we hold to a common core of relationship, identity and belief which is strong, and we don't  need to pretend that our differences don't exist. Hylton suggests actually it's counter-productive to pretend we're not different - and given our God is a diverse community I agree. Church can be a place where people agree to agree on certain things, and agree to be different in others.

There are implications for my work with Christian Unions too. Some suggest pretending we have no differences by "leaving your secondary beliefs at the door". This looks unified but breeds frustration. Others say diversify and lets have 17 campus ministries like in the US or New Zealand, but unity is more important than that among the people of the Triune God, or we betray the love of the Father for his Son. Could we then pursue a robust unity in the gospel, but with a celebration of our differences... a unity with diversity?

Published by IVP books UK


  1. hey bish would you recommend this for cu leaders? (namely for a new leaders bookstall...)

    or is it derivative application for eg staff/relay/church leaders? Out of interest, what would be your reading list for CU leaders, or for that matter staff/relays thinking about (missional comm)unity in diversity?

  2. The applications are implications rather than obvious.

    But, I do think any thinking about diversity is helpful. I sat in Thabiti Anyabwile's session at the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference on "Bearing the Image" (mp3 link) and could easily enough see the implications for CU unity, international students etc.

    Of the new books we just got from IVP from 2009 I think it'd be in my top 5. And if you can draw lines from Total Church for CU then you can for this one too.

  3. (that said, I read it too late for our CU leaders weekend, for which we have


  4. Thanks Bish. Is that the one where he tries to give a biblical theology of race? Not heard of Builders & Fools. That looks helpful too. Have a good weekend!

  5. Yes to the audio. Thabiti argues that race isn't Biblical, we're all either in Adam or Christ - but ethnicity is valid.

    Builders & Fools is new to me too, a recommendation of our speaker, Adrian Reynolds.


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