Ten personal narratives reveal the shared and distinct struggles of being Black in the Church, facing historic and modern racism. It’s uncertain that Howard Thurman made the remark often attributed to him, “I have been writing this book all my life,” but there is little doubt that he was deeply immersed in...
In January 2021, editor Rudy Rasmus and the writers of I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m Methodist. joined M. Garlinda Burton in a conversation about the book. This discussion included topics such as What Has Racism Cost the Church?; Intersections of Race, Gender, and LGBTQIA+ Identity; and Ministry and Racism. Watch now:
In our current season of violence against Blacks in America, personal stories can help us understand our individual and collective struggles like no other form of narrative.
In I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m Methodist, ten Black women and men explore life through the lens of compelling, personal accounts. They are leaders whose lives are tangible demonstrations of the power of a divine purpose and evidence of what grace really means in face of hardship, disappointment, and determination.
“The confluence of the everyday indignities of being Black in America; the outrageous, egregious, legalized lynching of George Floyd; and the unforgivable disparities exposed once again by COVID–19 have conspired together to create a seminal moment in America and in The United Methodist Church—in which we must find the courage to say unambiguously ‘Black Lives Matter.’ To stumble or choke on those words is beneath the gospel,” says Bishop Gregory Palmer, who wrote the foreword to the collection.
Edited by Rudy Rasmus – Senior Pastor with his wife, Juanita, at St. John’s Downtown Church in Houston, Texas – the essays in this collection each begin with the central identities of Black, Christian, and Methodist, but they also represent different journeys of confronting centuries of White supremacy in our religious and secular institutions. Weaving together autobiography and spiritual formation, together they represent a significant contribution to our theological understanding of racism.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by BISHOP GREGORY V. PALMER
One: I’m (Really) Black. I’m (Amazingly) Christian. I’m Methodist (For Now).
Two: I’m Black. I’m Young. I’m a Woman. And I’m Grieved.
TORI C. BUTLER
Three: I’m Black. I’m Kneeling to Stand.
RODNEY L. GRAVES
Four: I’m Black. I’ve Seen. I Remain.
LILLIAN C. SMITH
Five: I’m Black. I’m Methodist. I’m Fighting for Racial Reconciliation.
Six: I’m Black. I’m Pastor of a White Methodist Church.
Seven: I’m Black. I Stutter. I Teach in a White Church.
JEVON A. CALDWELL-GROSS
Eight: I’m Black. I’m Queer Lesbian. I’m Methodist. I’m Thriving, Irregardless.
PAMELA R. LIGHTSEY
Nine: I’m Black. I’m Conscious. I’m Your Conscience.
F. WILLIS JOHNSON
Ten: I’m Black. I’m Methodist. I’m Challenging (To What End)?
VANCE P. ROSS
“This book made me shout, dance, rage and hope—all at once! As a ‘cradle Methodist,’ I have deep love for my church and bless it for nurturing my walk with Christ and my passion for social justice. At the same time, I lament that my church is also the place where I have witnessed and been most wounded by virulent racism, sexism, heterosexism, and ageism. Yet, I stay and struggle for the soul of the church because I am a Black Christian woman fired by the love of God-in-Christ-Jesus. I stay because this is MY church and the church of my ancestors. Although I regularly question my decision to remain United Methodist, it is stories like these—from other exuberant love warriors—that remind me that I am called by God to stay, pray, fight, and flourish!”
—M. Garlinda Burton
Deaconess and interim general secretary,
General Commission of Religion and Race, Washington DC
“Racism continues to be the unacceptable scandal of American society and the American churches. In spite of some gains, such as the diversity of supporters for Black Lives Matter, even the best intentioned among us remain largely ignorant of the actual life experience of those who are other than ourselves. This collection of testimonies, edited by Rudy Rasmus, helps remedy that by simply recounting personal stories of being Black, Christian, and Methodist in the United States. White Methodist Christians in particular need to read these stories and take them to heart so that racism and its divisiveness is countered by shared experience and recognition of common humanity across difference. More White Methodists need not only reject racism in our society and church but become active anti-racists willing to do the hard work to create the beloved community, dreamed about by Martin Luther King in the 1960s civil rights movement.”
—Bruce C. Birch
Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology,
Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC
“This book is a powerful collection interweaving personal stories, denominational and intercultural practices, and Black lives bearing hopeful witness. Readers will have their consciousness raised, and they will think more deeply about the meaning of beloved community and the embodiment of the justice of God.”
—Harold J. Recinos
Professor of Church and Society, Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, Texas
“For hundreds of years, we have not listened. This book is our chance to hear the words of the Black leaders in our church. They will change us, remake us, and reform us. Get ready to be transformed by painful truth and deep love.”
—Rev. Dr. Dottie Escobedo-Frank
Lead Pastor, Catalina United Methodist Church, Tuscon, Arizona