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We were honored to include a book review of African American writer, Trillia Newbell’s first book titled, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. At UrbanFaith, we want to highlight and champion the work of African-American artists in the Christian community. However, we also want to give you the chance to know them. We are excited for the doors of opportunity we see opening for Trillia and are praying that God continues to use her as a voice of reconciliation and redemption in the church.
Natasha: You are a rising voice in evangelical leadership, writing and speaking for such organizations as The Gospel Coalition (TGC), the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), and The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) for the Southern Baptist Convention. How did you come to this place of ministry and what do you feel is your contribution to the relevant conversations of the church at this critical point in history?
Trillia: I went to the first TGC women’s conference in 2012 and met then editor, John Starke, who invited me to write for TGC. I then began working rather closely with Collin Hansen who helped guide me. From there, interactions began with other organizations like Desiring God and Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. I was invited to contribute single articles and have been writing for various organizations and publications ever since.
I was surprised to receive a note from Owen Strachan about his interest in me as lead editor for the women’s blog at CBMW, but I was happy to do it. I wanted to contribute to the conversation on womanhood and prayed I could bring varied voices together. As far as the ERLC, Phillip Bethancourt approached me about joining their team as the Consultant for Women’s Initiatives. Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC, and Dr. Bethancourt were assembling a team of Christians who had strong convictions but weren’t dogmatic about it…in other words, I think they were looking for gracious, loving, thoughtful believers who could write and speak to these topics.
I imagine that one thing I bring to the table is femininity, so to speak. Traditionally, these organizations haven’t had women in leadership and so to include women in some form is phenomenal. I’d also hope to bring a fresh perspective. I am female and I am also Black and therefore, I might be able to address issues and topics from an angle they may not have previously considered. I also love the gospel. This last point isn’t new to their organizations or unique to any of their writers, yet I hope and pray that with my contributions, I can share my heart and open doors for others to know and hear the Good News in everything I do.
So, how did I come to this place of ministry? I would say the Lord. God has given me opportunities to speak in areas I wouldn’t have asked for or imagined. I am truly grateful!
You recently published your first book, United, which we reviewed on the website. What inspired you to write this book and specifically what do you want your readers to come away understanding about diversity and racial reconciliation?
The book was inspired by a rather a simple story. I wrote my pastors an email sharing my thoughts on the topic and from there I wrote a blog post. The blog post garnered so much interest that I knew that a book on the topic would be helpful and prayerfully encouraging to the many men and women who seemed to resonate with what it’s like to be the only one or one of few black members of predominantly white churches. I hoped that by writing the book people would see that they are not alone. Through my personal story, I hoped to cast a vision for the beauty of diversity in the church.
I want readers to understand that racial reconciliation takes intentionality, work, grace, and love. I think so many people believe that we have “arrived” and no longer need to discuss racial issues. But I think reality dictates that this conclusion couldn’t be further from the present need for dialog. I hope readers recognize the necessity of having a robust theology of race and adoption—as in adoption into the family of God. A theological framework of reconciliation will enable us to truly fight racial prejudice and begin the long process of living as reconciled people of God. I pray readers of United would be eager to invite diversity into their own homes and churches. Mostly, I hope that we would know that the gospel transforms lives and this conversation. We can be united because of the gospel.
In your ministry experiences, you are often one of the only or very few racial ethnic minority or woman on the platform. How do those experiences impact you? What is it like being an African-American female in male-dominated ministerial spaces?
What a great question! I have been so welcomed that, at times, I do forget. Yet, I will say that I have never felt more “black” than since writing and publishing United. I’ve never had a season where I’ve concentrated so much energy on the topic of racial reconciliation. This has been a unique season and therefore I’ve felt more self-aware, more aware of my ethnicity, more aware of my perspective. I have been loved well by the leaders I serve with and for that, I am thankful. I have also encountered more ignorance and misunderstanding than ever before. This is not by the ministries or the leaders but through ministering. We still have a ways to go in understanding one another and learning to love biblically.
You spend a lot of time ministering to women. What is your message to today’s Christian woman?
My message to women would be to get in the Word of God, study theology, and serve as unto the Lord. I believe if we can do those things, we will be doing well.
Racial and women’s issues are not the only things that you think or care about? What other concerns, questions, or messages is God speaking to your heart these days?
“Racial and women’s issues are not the only things that you think or care about.” Amen to that. I care about a lot of things and I actually touched on some of them when answering the previous questions. I care about theology. I want to know about and study about God. I love to study the Word of God. I also have a desire to see people apply the Word. I’m slowly working on my M.A. at Southern Seminary in biblical counseling. I want to encourage people where they are and help provide a biblical understanding to their circumstance. I have a desire to love, serve, and care for people.
I’m also finishing up my second book called Fear and Faith. This book explores what women fear, the potential reasons for such fear, and how we can trust God in the midst of our fears.
What is your hope for the American church?
I hope the church would grow in unity and gospel-focus. As far as my book United, I dedicated it to my kids and one of the things I hope is when they become adults, they would think it strange that their mom needed to write a book about diversity. I hope that racial and ethnic diversity within relationships and worship in the American church becomes so broad and commonplace that it would seem silly to have a book dedicated to the topic.