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I'm Black. I'm Christian. I'm Methodist.
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Published November 2020

Ten personal narratives reveal the shared and distinct struggles of being Black in the Church

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 reflection on the times that bear an uncanny resemblance to the present day, which give voice to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Our “life’s book” is filled with sentence upon sentence of marginalization, pages of apartheid, chapters of separate and unequal. Now this season reveals volumes of violence against Blacks in America.

Ten Black women and men explore life through the lens of compelling personal religious narratives. They are people and 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. Each of the journeys intersect because of three central elements that are the focus of this book. We’re Black. We’re Christians. We’re Methodists. Each starts with the fact, “I'm Black,” but to resolve the conflict of being Christian and Methodist means confronting aspects of White theology, White supremacy, and White racism in order to ground an oppositional experience toward domination over four centuries in America.

“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.

Praise for I'm Black. I'm Christian. I'm Methodist.

“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/SMU, 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, Tucson, Arizona

"I’m Black gives readers a clear picture of the diversity and value of Black culture in church and society. After reading the dynamic stories told by these faithful, transformative church leaders, Black lives will be cherished, and systemic change for the better will take place.”
—Joseph W. Daniels, Jr. , Lead Pastor, Emory United Methodist Church, Washington, D.C.

"Dr. Rudy Rasmus and others give an insightful look into what it means to be black, Christian and Methodist in America. Their perspectives on the status and plight of being black in America are both engaging and riveting. If you are looking for ways to better understand the nuances and many faces of African American Methodist evangelical life in America, this book is a must-read!"
—The Reverend J. Elvin Sadler, D.Min., General Secretary-Auditor, The A.M.E. Zion Church
Assistant Dean for Doctoral Studies, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio

"I endorse this powerful book of Essays conceived and edited by my friend Pastor Rudy Rasmus. It is a book for our current and future realities facing the Black Church a must read."
—Deborah Bass , Vice-Chairperson, National BMCR

About the Authors

Lillian C. Smith

Lillian C. Smith is senior pastor, Cheverly United Methodist Church, Hyattsville, Maryland. She previously served in denominational agencies and the Pennsylvania conference office. In addition to contributing to 365 Meditations for Women by Women, she has written Sunday school curriculum for youth.

Rudy Rasmus

Dr. Rudy Rasmus is an author, humanitarian, and coffee-man with a passion for outreach to the world’s most challenged communities. He co-pastors the St. John’s United Methodist Church in Downtown Houston with his wife Juanita. A church that began with 9 existing members in 1992, St. John’s has grown to thousands where every week people of every social and economic background share the same pew.

Rudy Rasmus has raised over $100 million for his work with the world's most economically disadvantaged communities and has completed over $30 million in affordable housing projects created to provide housing opportunities for the previously homeless in Downtown Houston. For many years Pastor Rudy coordinated domestic and global anti-hunger initiatives in conjunction with Beyoncé’s concert tours and most recently teamed up with Tina Knowles Lawson and Beyoncé to help Houstonians in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.

Rudy and Juanita have been married for 35 years and are the proud parents of two amazing daughters, a phenomenal Son-in-Law, and two of the cutest grandkids in the universe.

Vance P. Ross

Vance P. Ross is senior pastor, Central United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia. Previously he served several United Methodist churches and on staff at a denominational agency.

Justin Coleman

Justin Coleman is the Senior Pastor of University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A native of Houston, he is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina.  Rev. Coleman has also served as the Chief Ministry Officer for the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, TN, as Lead Pastor of the Gethsemane Campus of St. Lukes United Methodist Church in Houston, TX, at the SMU Wesley Foundation, and in other college and youth ministry settings. His ministry at University UMC includes leading the church as it seeks to transform lives by loving God, serving others, and building Christian community. Rev. Coleman is married to Dr. Chaka Coleman and they have three sons.

F. Willis Johnson

F. Willis Johnson currently leads Living Tree Church in Columbus Ohio. Prior to starting Living Tree, he was senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri, where thousands have been influenced by his prophetic, faith-filled reflections and strategies on social justice and racial understanding. He counsels bishops, general board agencies, conferences, and local churches across the country. He has also served in professional ministry in Indiana and North Carolina for the last 15 years. Johnson’s writing and lecturing credits range from TIME Magazine, National Public Radio, universities, and seminaries to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History Culture. He has been adjunct faculty at Drew Theological School, Methodist Theological School of Ohio, and Eden Theological Seminary.

Pamela R. Lightsey

Pamela R. Lightsey is dean of the faculty and vice-president of student affairs, Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary. 

Erin Beasley

Erin Beasley is associate pastor at Germantown United Methodist Church in Germantown, Tennessee.

Jevon Caldwell-Gross

Jevon Caldwell-Gross is Teaching Pastor, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.