How We Can Be More Inclusive of African American Christians
First, let me say that I am white and I acknowledge that I’m not the expert on all of this. I haven’t had the same life experiences as people of colour.
Perhaps I’m not even the one who should be saying these things. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to share. Racism is wrong. Always. And we in Brethren assemblies have been very quiet about it for a very long time.
Our silence speaks volumes to others, and it is deafening. We can preach on passages such as Galatians 3:28, but are we really living it out? In light of this dilemma, here are six things we can and should do to change that.
1. Admit that we have often failed and neglected our black brothers and sisters (especially here at home)
We’ve ignored them. We’ve let them down. And, while we probably say we aren’t racist, we have allowed forms of racism to exist in our lives and fellowships for a long time.
We may not think certain things are racist, but if our black brother or sister feels it is, then we need to change (see Romans 14 for this principle).
2. Admit our failures and faults
We should also ask for forgiveness. We need God to forgive us, as well as our brothers and sisters. This will look different for everyone, yet it should be done in the right context and with the goal of genuine reconciliation. It needs to be done.
3. Pray with and for them.
It should be a no brainer that we ought to do this, but it deserves to be said again. They are part of the “all the saints” of Ephesians 6:18, and we ought to persevere in prayer for them.
4. Listen to our black brothers and sisters
James 1:19 is a good verse to keep in mind here. We should give them the space to share, without responding in a defensive or paternalistic tone.
Whether they go to an African/Caribbean American assembly, or they’re one of the few (or only) black individuals in your own assembly, sit down with believers and listen to their stories and perspectives.
Ask them how they can be better supported and encouraged by the assembly. Ask them how we can actively improve relations between Blacks and Whites in our own communities. Let’s “wage peace with [our] listening,” as Judyth Hill wrote.
5. Schedule black speakers
When was the last time an African American or Caribbean American itinerant speaker preached at your local assembly? It may be time to schedule one. Encourage them in their ministry.
If you allow your regular speakers to preach on any topic or passage they choose, let your guest black speaker preach from his perspective and on the topic or passage of his choice as well.
6. Visit a black assembly
Yes, there are majority black assemblies in many cities and states across North America. Why not visit one sometime?
It may require a little research, and it might be different from what you’re used to (scratch that, it WILL be different), but I know from experience that you will be blessed. You have nothing to fear. [Just a note that this one might have to wait until the Covid-19 social distancing restrictions are lifted.]
This is just a start
There are more things we could do, and hopefully, those will come out in the conversations we have with our brothers and sisters in the coming days.
May we, like the Thessalonians, “increase more and more [in love for one another]” (1 Thess. 4:10), so that the name of our Lord will be glorified in our unity.