Recently, someone asked my thoughts on racial segregation in the US church on Sunday mornings: “How will we ever move forward together, as a unified church, if people of color don’t forgive us for the past?”
It matters that Mary and Jesus are often inaccurately imaged with light skin in the West. It matters that pastors preach on Jacob, David, and Peter but not Rahab, Tamar, and Priscilla. And it matters that, Sunday after Sunday, women don’t see preachers who look like us in the pulpit.
When I was a young sprout and a budding Christian feminist, I had a lot of love for the American suffragettes. Blind love, as it turned out. Years of conversations with women of color and some harsh lessons on intersectional feminism (as well as womanism, mujerista theology, native feminism, etc.) revealed that my feminist history was narrow and exclusive and likewise, so was my feminism.
Yes, you—whoever you are, wherever you may be. You can be an ally by recognizing the gifted Black woman minister. Speak to her and acknowledge her. Call her by her title, especially when speaking to others about her.
The most glaring difference between the theological quest of white women and black women is the fact that black women are dealing with three levels of oppression (racism, sexism, and classism) while the white women’s struggle with oppression can be one dimensional: fighting the Victorian model of the weak (even pampered) woman who can’t do anything for herself.
As a justice advocate, I thought I understood racism and sexism. But it wasn’t until I became a youth pastor to a multiracial group of teens that I realized just how deeply racial and gender injustice is woven into our society.
Look what God is doing in the lives of women and men partnering together to bring the whole gospel to the whole world! These portraits of Chinese, Nigerian and Indian women in ministry are excerpts from papers given at the Lausanne Conference for World Evangelism.
The world places conditions on who may be welcomed, and even citizens of the most “civilized” nations welcome some and struggle to tolerate others. But the church is called to welcome all, not because of any system of classification or merit, but “because God has welcomed them” (Rom. 14:1ff; 15:7).