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  • Crossover Preaching: Intercultural-Improvisational Homiletics in Conversation with Gardner C. Taylor by Jared E. Alcántara
  • Paul Scott Wilson
Jared E. Alcántara. Crossover Preaching: Intercultural-Improvisational Homiletics in Conversation with Gardner C. Taylor. Downers Grove, il: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2015. Pp. 341. Paper, $50.00. isbn 0-8308-3908-9.

Jared E. Alcántara is somewhat daring in his Crossover Preaching, in that he risks employing the framework of intercultural ministry to study the preaching of Gardner C. Taylor (d. 2015). Either one of these topics would be worthy on its own. Alcántara develops his own “crossover” vision of intercultural preaching, predicting that the future of Christianity in the United States rests in “an intercultural church with an intercultural witness to an intercultural society” (27). Taylor himself never used the term crossover, but Alcántara finds in Taylor an excellent case study for his own understanding of it. In the end, readers may be left wondering what came first: was the crossover lens superimposed on Taylor, or did his own practice naturally lead there? Perhaps there is no clear answer and some truth in both, yet each focus is interesting on its own and is enriched in dialogue with the other.

This book is trying to reach several audiences, including preachers, but may be most suited to an academic audience. This is not surprising, since this is a revision of Alcántara’s PhD thesis at Princeton Seminary. Some of the stilted language of the academic seminar prevails, as in his definition: “By crossover homiletic I mean a homiletic that effectively deploys performative and metaphorical improvisation-as-intercultural-negotiation” (27–28). Crossing over becomes a rich metaphor in Alcántara’s hands for it implies an ability to negotiate racial, ethnic, and other differences in a congregation; a willingness to cross and transgress boundaries; a disposition to act (or perform) in overcoming difference; a sensitivity to migratory and diasporic concerns; and an openness to risk for the sake of possible change for the better.

By “performative improvisation” Alcántara means “the ability to do a new thing in a new way as guided by convention, intuition, and interaction” (95). He finds this, for instance, in Taylor’s use of rhetorical tropes in his preaching, of “free spaces” where he departs from what he prepared in order to connect better with his hearers, and of “attunement” or responsive interaction with elders in the Amen corner. Preachers will better understand what Taylor does by reading Alcántara, even if they are perhaps not guided to do it themselves.

Metaphorical improvisation has to do with how Taylor constructs his social situation and vision of blackness. Cultural and critical race theory are key here in problematizing what it means to be black. Taylor is neither an essentialist nor a reductionist; he claims his blackness yet refuses to be defined by it. Alcántara shows no lack of courage as a Latino in offering that Taylor’s improvisations on identity may be called “transgressive blackness [by which] is meant the rupturing of reifications of blackness as an ossified or static identity over which nothing can be placed” (142).

One chapter, “Putting Flesh to Bones,” is devoted to what preachers and teachers of preachers can do. If it falls short of being a homiletic, it does offer general suggestions for improvising (play, attune, collaborate, experiment [or pace]) and intercultural engagement (listen, engage, assess, and decentre [or lead], 238). A final chapter also offers practical elements of a “dispositional stance” toward crossover preaching (303–308).

Taylor’s preaching was both Christocentric and gospel oriented, as Alcántara makes clear (228–235). Still, it would have been good to pay more attention to Taylor’s theology and to examples from his actual sermons. It seems odd that in the listed features of the “crossover” metaphor, the most obvious one is missing—the cross over all things is barely mentioned here. What are the key teachings of the church that Taylor most frequently relies upon and how do these serve an intercultural agenda? It would have been [End Page 158] good to read an analysis of Taylor’s hermeneutical approach to Scripture, and how inter...


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