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.

Gordie Hanna

    5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Interesting topic. Between some assemblies, there is a racial divide. Several years before I was born, our assembly was a mix of black and white. This was back in the early-mid 1970s. But then as more believers from the Caribbean started to arrive in droves, like my parents, many of the white believers felt uncomfortable, and moved to create their own assembly in another part of town. Not only that, when they left the white brethren took most of the movable furniture with them, leaving the caribbean believers with only an old lectern that must be well over 120 years old by now. The caribbean believers showed up one Sunday for the breaking of bread and everything was gone, like the Cleveland Browns relocating in the middle of the night! All the white brethren left, except for one brother who stayed for a couple decades more until he died in his late 90s. Both assemblies still exist today. Many of the believers of that time are either in their mid to late 80s+ or have gone home to be with the Lord. But despite incidents of the past fading to memory, there’s still this divide. There are always a few white brethren who will come to our assembly to visit, show up at funerals, or during special events, but most stay away no matter how often we invite them. As the years went on, we got the message, so we stopped inviting them. The few who came, continue to come, and these are all lovely believers. And they never invite us to their assembly either. There was one white brother who came with his family and stayed for a couple years, but had to move away to another province for work. Another white brother lived in a rural area, but came into the city every week to help us with our youth meetings, with VBS every year, and even travels to another mostly caribbean assembly in the US to help them with VBS every year too. Unfortunately, believers like that are rare. Our assembly and the other assembly are small and could easily merge to create one. It’s sad, because as a younger believer watching all of that, I’m less concerned about race, and more concerned about how people are living for Christ. I don’t have to fellowship with people who look or sound like me. I don’t understand why some believers, of all races not just white, have these issues, where they don’t want to fellowship with people who don’t look like them. Either we believe the Word of God, or we pack it up and close our assemblies. The place that the Lord is preparing for us will be multicultural, but with our glorified bodies, none of these earthly issues will matter. I wish believers lived that way now, rather than passively withdraw from other believers who don’t look like them. And it’s always a passive withdrawal, because it’s not a good look for a believer to overtly declare prejudice for others.

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  2. Avatar

    I made a mistake in my first comment, so I sent this one with the correction. This interesting topic. Between some assemblies, there is a racial divide. Several years before I was born, our assembly was a mix of black and white. This was back in the early-mid 1970s. But then as more believers from the Caribbean started to arrive in droves, like my parents, many of the white believers felt uncomfortable, and moved to create their own assembly in another part of town. Not only that, when they left the white brethren took most of the movable furniture with them, leaving the caribbean believers with only an old lectern that must be well over 120 years old by now. The caribbean believers showed up one Sunday for the breaking of bread and everything was gone, like the Cleveland Browns relocating in the middle of the night! All the white brethren left, except for one brother who stayed for a couple decades more until he died in his late 90s. Both assemblies still exist today. Many of the believers of that time are either in their mid to late 80s+ or have gone home to be with the Lord. But despite incidents of the past fading to memory, there’s still this divide. There are always a few white brethren who will come to our assembly to visit, show up at funerals, or during special events, but most stay away no matter how often we invite them. As the years went on, we got the message, so we stopped inviting them. And they never invite us to their assembly either. The few who came, continue to come, and these are all lovely believers. There was one white brother who came with his family and stayed for a couple years, but had to move away to another province for work. Another white brother lived in a rural area, but came into the city every week to help us with our youth meetings, with VBS every year, and even travels to another mostly caribbean assembly in the US to help them with VBS every year too. Unfortunately, believers like that are rare. Our assembly and the other assembly are small and could easily merge to create one. It’s sad, because as a younger believer watching all of that, I’m less concerned about race, and more concerned about how people are living for Christ. I don’t have to fellowship with people who look or sound like me. I don’t understand why some believers, of all races not just white, have these issues, where they don’t want to fellowship with people who don’t look like them. Either we believe the Word of God, or we pack it up and close our assemblies. The place that the Lord is preparing for us will be multicultural, but with our glorified bodies, none of these earthly issues will matter. I wish believers lived that way now, rather than passively withdraw from other believers who don’t look like them. And it’s always a passive withdrawal, because it’s not a good look for a believer to overtly declare prejudice for others.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      I was visiting a city in Florida years ago for work, and wanted to fellowship with the saints while there, so I looked up a assembly in the assembly handbook and called the number. A older friend of mine mentioned to me, “oh them, their a all black assembly. And their dear believers!”
      But I wondered at his statement- why does that matter- I just wanted some Chrisian fellowship with brothers and sisters.
      I wonder, would I say that about any other assembly- “oh thats a ‘white’ ssembly”? In my mind, the description based on race shouldn’t even be a sidenote. Our hearts should respond regarding a specific assembly, “oh they are a lovely group of believers”.

      Reply

  3. Avatar

    The answer to this is biblical very simple: Love your neighbour as yourself! ‘Red or yellow, black or white; ALL are precious in His sight!’ A believer walking in the Spirit cannot be racist! I travel among the assemblies over a wide area and see tremendous love and compassion. Segregation simply doesn’t appear to be an issue. It is not because we don’t have the joy of having a mixture of races but because there is genuine love and acceptance of all.

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