black church
The Church

For Those Who Stay

Tamara C. Johnson

The black exodus from white evangelical spaces is in full swing. Many have left quietly, though some wise voices among us encourage black believers to depart with boldness to bring lasting change.

Through prayer and wise counsel, I personally chose to be a part of the exodus, but I know many who choose to stay, for practical, relational, or simply preferential reasons.

For those who stay, I respect your story and your reasons. God calls us to different spaces for different times. However, based on a few lively conversations that occurred after I challenged white people to do their homework, I thought of a few questions for my black brothers and sisters still called to white/multicultural churches—questions I feel compelled to ponder out loud with the Witness community.


  • Do you recoil when black people call out racism in the church?
  • If/when someone shares about racial pain in direct or uncouth ways, is your first impulse to protect the leaders of the church (the powerful) or those aggrieved by a societal sin (the powerless)?
  • Do you feel it is your duty to pull your fellow black person aside and calm them down?
  • Are you the leader of most racial reconciliation conversations in your church? If so, why are you the main crusader on behalf of maintaining structures that seem to only gently silence the voices of those who look like you?

I ask these questions because I have been a gatekeeper of white supremacy in the church before. I did not realize that while I laid my physical presence on the altar of “multiculturalism,” I was sacrificing the image of God that is uniquely, beautifully, and wonderfully formed in my body as a black woman.

Why I Left

I left because I got tired of putting most of my energy towards coaxing the disinterested. I spent so much time trying to shape my white church in the image of an institution that cared for those of us on the margins that are not in a third world country, whose mental and emotional pain could not be conveniently solved by installing a well or serving food to the homeless once a week.

Addressing the invisible toll that racism heaped on black bodies like my own was not sexy enough. My education, class status, and overall respectability deemed me a dubious mouthpiece, especially since I willingly frequented the white spaces where microaggressions were most likely to occur. I accepted that my pain was invalid, and my complaints were overblown, and I was losing sight of the gospel for a political issue that I was taking too personally.

The Sunday after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in August 2017, I woke up wondering whether I would have to attend a service that glossed over real and present threats to people of color in our country. Would I have to sit for two hours in suppressed, tearful, and raging grief like I did after Philando Castile and Alton Sterling died? Would my head pop up in disbelief during a prayer like when they acknowledged from the pulpit the loss of police in Dallas, without noting the murders of unarmed black people that same week?

I decided not to find out. I attended the local black church and officially left my church some weeks later. I finally accepted that most of the resistance of the white American church to address the real, valid pain and suffering of people of color because of race is willful. This willful complicity shows itself through shrugged shoulders and vague platitudes disguised as unifying statements, which are often more dangerous than outright hatred.

If you do not believe the oppressed, you will not have to be held accountable for your complicity in their oppression.

Personal interactions at my white church showed me that it is easier for some to wring hands about the immoral black single mothers and their abortion rates than to address the systemic discrimination and mass incarceration that placed them in impoverished predicaments. One can shake their head at undocumented immigrants not following the law without addressing the cruelty of the current administration – an administration that presently enjoys full-throated support of the white American church.

Why disrupt a power structure that purports you and your culture as the most righteous? Shifting the white innocence narrative within the white American church would require separating the white American church from the same roots that upheld slavery, Native American displacement, Jim Crow, redlining, segregation, and other American caste systems.

All. In. The. Name. Of. Jesus.

I wanted no more part of this.

For Those Who Stay

For black/brown brothers and sisters who stay in white evangelical spaces, I simply exhort you to be a catalyst for change, not a crutch for complacency. I pray your soul is being tended to as images of black and brown bodies being harassed, disrespected, caged, or mowed down flit across every screen, every day.

I implore you to reject what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as “the tranquilizing drug of white gradualism.” This is setting the pace of righting wrongs to what can be handled by the sensitivities of the majority. The urge to slow down justice has been the song of “good” Christians throughout history, who frame limp social efforts as gentle love and urgent calls for direct empathetic actions on behalf of the oppressed as harsh hate.

We are not always faced with the actively dire crises that our brown brothers and sisters are encountering on the American border, through family separation and detention in inhumane conditions. The quietly suffocating circumstances of perpetual oppression that has taken many different forms (racial wealth gap, underfunded schools, housing discrimination) warrant a passion and sustained action that gets ignored, Sunday in and Sunday out. Whatever your calling is for social justice, test spirits that exhort you to not be too “political” which translates to stop speaking truth to power.

Ponder that in this “Christian” nation, the churches that led the Civil Rights Movement were only a minority of churches. Also consider that the heart of where blacks fought for their rights to live, vote, and not be lynched was in the Bible Belt. The transgressors who sinned against the bodies of our ancestors kept the seats of the white American church warm and polished. We are in another movement for civil rights in our country. Will your church’s current (in)actions be on the right side of history?

Remember that you are not defined by the white gaze and you can delve deeper into what “black culture” is. Just because “black” is in the title of the Black Church does not mean it is inherently atheological. The Black Church acknowledges the heritage and history it comes from and how God has shown himself specifically to African-Americans in their contexts. There is so much beauty from the warm, community nature of the Black Church, even though it is imperfect like any man-made institution. Know that you are a part of that institution, no matter where you attend on Sunday. The call and response chorus always has a space for your voice.

Remember This

For those black and brown brothers and sisters who stay, you are seen and loved by the Savior who sees and loves the unseen. As those of us who left fight to reclaim their salvation through the lens of the Black Church, keep fighting the good fight where you are and rest on the truth that only God can change hearts. Use your energy towards caring for the powerless and know that God will give the increase, with or without the support of the powerful.

Take care of yourself.

37 thoughts on “For Those Who Stay

  1. Thomas W.


    As to your first paragraph, why do you make an assumption of actions on my part? The article is from Ms. Johnson’s views. Her views also carry far more importance to the reality of what she has experienced, by which no other white believer or person can tell me. Their perception is not hers, and it is hers that is important for clarity in her case.

    As to your 2nd paragraph, I’m sure there are plenty of white believers that have dropped the ball. I’m sure some interactions are quite often on their terms.
    The issue isn’t that it occurs.
    The issues become what is the appropriate response, even when we are right. And another, how do we ensure our view isn’t a reciprocation of assumptions and stereotypes we’re reacting to?

    The reality of reconciliation and its progress is that white’s were in fact, seeking to understand and move off their terms. This was reciprocated by blacks. Until the world propped up a muddled, confusing picture where we fell on opposing sides of the matter.

    I’m willing to bet that the 80% of white conservative Christians that voted for Trump, over 99% of them had a vast repository of reasons for doing so but which none included racism or white privileged. And that’s on par with the ~90% of blacks that voted for Obama, where I’m sure over 99% of them had a vast repository of reasons for voting for Obama but which none included him as the antichrist. We have to give consideration, understanding, from both sides. Both sides need to work on this, lest we be driven apart by the world’s false narratives.

  2. David Atkinson


    So….. U left a place?

    And ur having trouble sympathizing w someone else who left another place?

    We gotta learn about each other’s “Egypts” if u will…. I could ignore ur cuban background but I choose to respect it. It’s possible that white ppl in this country don’t represent ur “egpyt” but due to obvious history they may b ur “leftist cuba” to blk americans

  3. David Atkinson

    Thomas, you should prob ask yourself y ur convincing someone not to leave conservative white believers by evaluating them and not asking conservative white believers why so many r leaving them (u?)..

    maybe u truly think conservative white believers ain’t really dropping the ball… welp… mayb they r and their so used to engaging minorities on their own terms that the idea that minorities can have views conservative white believers don’t agree w is too offensive

  4. Thomas W.

    It’s not a far leap when a recent article entirely made the suggestion to only seek fellowship with the 19-20% of white conservatives that didn’t vote for Trump. In addition, Jemar has a lengthy post on describing the “quiet exodus”, practically encouraging the wandering away from white conservatives, without any leadership back toward that demographic even in ministry.

    I agree with you, it is not unreasonable in some instances to leave spaces that have become hostile. And that very well may be your case, which I accept at your word if so, but you seem to describe more of a perception and/or lack of response to your views on things, and an extrapolation to stereotypes and dichotomies.

    However, the reality of desegregation and reconciliation of churches will have friction, sometimes hard, heavy friction. And it will be most tiresome and challenging with the highest potential of failure when politics and viral events become involved. Where both sides find themselves tired, assuming the other doesn’t want to listen to us, and close ourselves off, perceiving the motivations of others (i.e. apathy), entrenching our own world views. Where the facts, honestly can fit multiple filters/worldviews.

    Matt 10:14 though is in the context of Christ directing his disciples to only approach Israel cities, excluding Samaria and the Gentiles. We should be careful in taking it from that context as Christ later expands their ministry (and ours) to those exclusions, would you agree? Though the point of what you’re appealing too can still be true, as in a “pearls before swine” argument. Or worse, a “pearls before open hostility”.

    However, I’m not sure that a lack of acquiescence and agreement despite best efforts to persuade qualifies as an appropriate usage or excuse to leave (in general at least). It’s definitely understandable that it happens and your situation may be far worse, but I sympathize with the amount of effort you and others put in,. I would even bet that most white conservative Christians, feel the same way even. Wondering, why you and others won’t listen. Attesting to apathy or disinterest. Are they picking up your micro-aggressions, and stereotyping you?

    The reality is that there are multiple movies that played out over the last couple of years regarding the election and this administration, it fulcrums around how we view Trump as a racist or not. Here is a persuasion expert on those movies if you are interested.

    There’s also a link to the media play of 2017, which involved charlottesville. Not the event itself, but how the media spun the President’s words.

  5. Jeremy

    PATRYCE – My motive is to, 2 Timothy 4:2, rebuke, correct and encourage with patience. The problem with the interpretation of the Acts passage is, they were in an agreed upon commune where everything was being shared to live on. There wasn’t a “we hold a difference of opinion, therefore you guys are in sin” situation going on. In the previous chapter God even killed a husband and wife for not sharing, then lying about it. This is a vast difference from choosing to self segregate yourself from other Christians because they have reasoned to different conclusions. Or worse, to basically say “You’re not telling me what I want to hear so I’m leaving”.

  6. Tamara Johnson


    You make good points, but your conclusions about the Witness’s call for segregation is a leap, in my opinion. Asking for empathy, and asserting dignity by leaving spaces that refuse that empathy, is not unreasonable. Didn’t Jesus talk about shaking the dust off our feet when people refuse to hear our testimony and message (Matt. 10:14)? Listen to the amount of effort put forth by the aggrieved parties in trying to get their voices heard before taking offense that apathy was no longer an acceptable answer for them.

  7. Thomas W.

    Usually one sign of cognitive bias/dissonance is when an action advocated for is entirely opposed to the original goal of one’s worldview, such as ending/reducing racism. Advocating for segregation on the basis of color should be a red flag that one is quite possibly in the wrong and is undermining their initial desire and efforts.

    There are also tells when one decides to become close minded to other positions/filters/views on subjects, resulting in an echo chamber. As well as, when mind reading micro aggressions creep into our perception of others due to personal experiences that lead to generalities and stereotyping. (We all do this as human beings.)

    Regardless, the recent call for segregation from this community is entirely in opposition of the gospel.

  8. Tamara Johnson


    Your words deeply resonate with me. I fully, completely understand where you are coming from. Our experiences are so similar. You are not alone. I am glad you found a place to land.

  9. Tamara Johnson


    Thank you for sharing about your own Damascus Road moments – even as a black Christian, it took me a while to not be complacent about these issues, as indoctrinated as I was with the idea that race issues were not biblical. I only write these words out of love and hope for my white brothers and sisters (and for my black relatives who also are ambivalent/defensive) – not for them to become liberal/Democrat, but for any hardened hearts to be softened in the name of Jesus and his love for the powerless.

  10. Tamara Johnson


    Thanks for your comment and the scriptural references. I agree we should keep the bible as the focus of our message. That’s why I look to Matthew 25 when I consider how to share the love of Christ, and how to care about those who are hungry and thirsty, literally and figuratively. This piece was an exhortation to those who, like me, have been told that putting energy towards caring for the figurative widows and orphans was too political and atheological. I reject that perspective, but I do not reject you. See my comment under JC’s comment re: bringing the gospel into our context – i think the only way you can say Christ doesn’t care about our current contexts is if you have enough power to assume that your current position is the default, and everyone else is politically biased. I would welcome further dialogue in person.

  11. Tamara Johnson

    Great word, Patryce. Thank you for the scriptural references.

  12. Tamara Johnson


    I know an interracial couple who was recently turned away from getting married at a church because the church didn’t support marriages that were “unequally yoked”, i.e. , because they were of different races (though both are Christians). Using biblical language to support political stances is as American as apple pie., and it’s why several slave holders got to proclaim Christ. I will not go down the list of other examples because I know you are capable of understanding that Christian values always intersect with contexts, present and historical. People understand that when it comes to abortion and gay marriage, but for some reason it’s hard to wrap our minds around how wrong American Christians have been re: racism in our country in the past, and how they therefore might be wrong right now. “We have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word our testimony” means that Christ cares about our story and our context, and we can invite the blood of Jesus over our circumstances.

  13. DCStudent


    Your comments about the selection of deacons in Acts is helpful and warrants further exploration. Thank you for mentioning it! I hope you and the others on this website can discuss it more, since I have wondered about its implications.

    At the same time, however, your comments about Cuban-Americans exhibit my concerns about the identity politics approach of this website. Identity politics, intersectionality, etc., tend to create division rather than unity. I am sure you did not mean to engage in racial stereotyping, but, in your comments, you downplayed the challenges that Cuban-Americans have faced in the United States. You then implied that Cuban-Americans, as a group, betray other minorities by seeking to be a part of majority culture. You also suggested that Cuban-Americans need to do soul-searching because a minority of them voted for President Trump (even though, after Elian Gonzalez, Cuban-Americans had ample reasons to distrust the Clintons). And you openly suggested that the commenter you were addressing did not understand American history because he is a first-generation immigrant. Finally, you claimed that your own race, exclusive of Cuban-Americans and others, “built this country.”

    Again, I imply no ill-will on your part. You seem to be a thoughtful person. I just find that identity politics and the similar ways of thinking displayed on this website fail to unite different ethnic groups. Instead, these ways of thinking divide us all, by engaging in endless comparisons and contrasts. It is important that we not simply make judgments about each other and ourselves purely on racial identity. The Church is to be so much more than that.

  14. Patryce

    @ Jeremy and LPADRON – It is sad to see these two comments posted here on this article. Jeremy, the comment was veiled tone policing, at best. Instead of having compassion for the pain of African-Americans attending White American church, your comment focuses on the outcry as the problem. The problem starts with “I left because I got tired of putting most of my energy towards coaxing the disinterested.” As Tamara Johnson stated that the effort was met with deaf ears–just like your comments. However, if you feel you need a Bible scripture or two to support this, I can start two. Acts 6:1 – 6:8. The Hellenist Greeks were complaining that their widows were not getting daily rations, which pulled them away from their discipleship duties. The Twelve apostles found a solution by choosing seven Greeks to go out an fulfill their ministry duties and not be left behind. Matthew 8:15 – 17 is similar. Ms. Johnson stated that she tired to tell the church the problem repeatedly and they didn’t listen. Also, there’s the golden rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. And there’s Christianity in and of itself. Christ has compassion for all. Compassion means “To suffer with”. The majority are not listening or understanding the suffering. I suggest understanding the suffering, not criticizing the sufferer.

    @LPADRON – I understand that you fled persecution from your home country. Cuban also had been given the gift that these separated migrant family did not have for decades: Wet foot-Dry Foot. Of course, no one wants to be classified as a minority and subject to discrimination. However, that desire to align with a majority and speak against a fellow minority is a form of self-hate. Almost half of all Cubans voted for Trump, while 26% of non-cuban Latinos voted for Trump. I think the Cuban American community needs to do a bit of soul searching. That too is another discussion.

    What is relavant to this article is compassion for your fellow Christian. Since you are a first generation Cuban American, you may not know the history of the African American Community. You may not understand Japanese interments. Perhaps think about the annihilation of Natives in the North and Southern Hemisphere. Those individuals in South America that try to reclaim their native tongue and keep their heritage may be shunned an ridiculed. Why are should they be shunned? It doesn’t feel good to have that happen in society and when it happens in the church, it is detrimental to the congregant trying to serve Christ. They have to do it alone, without a glad heart. As a proud American, I suggest learning how this country came to be so prosperous. How my ancestors made the south rich, and how we are not treated by Americans even though we built this country. Yes, we do know about micro and macro agressions. How about you ask us?

    I hope that both you can fellowship more with Christians of all backgrounds and races with love and compassion. Grace and Peace

  15. JC

    Mr. Atkinson,

    Thank you for your reply. You may be correct in that that is what the author was saying.

    However, that still does not answer my question about what exactly the “right/wrong side of history” is and how we determine that.

    And should it even be “A” factor? If we as Christians are going to use Scripture as our guide, than why would the “right side of history” question even be an issue? Shouldn’t we be obedient to God regardless of which “side of history” that puts us on? Can you think of an example where you would choose “being on the right side of history” over being obedient to God? If not, than it seems that it is a very unhelpful question to ask, especially since it is completely undefined.

    My big issue is that this seems to be a way to shut down a conversation (which is pretty much what many gay marriage advocates did). “oh you think XYZ? Well you are going to be on the wrong side of history”. As if our morals should change based on how the future historians will view us.

  16. Lpadron

    Can’t get with this program for he reasons mentioned by Jeremy. Also, I’m a first generation Cuban-American whos parents fled the likes of the far left types who were helped make up the other half of the trouble in Charlottesvile.

    Also, also I’ve attended nothing but all white congregations for going on 25 years. I’ve not been micro or micro aggressed against. Or maybe I have been. I wouldn’t know because I don’t care and I don’t care because I’m too busy focusing on the lumberyard in my eye.

    Ustedes no tienen idea lo que un microaggresion es much menos un macroaggression…

  17. Jeremy

    Hi Tamara,
    I was giving an account of my experience in the churches I’ve attended. Currently I don’t see a reason to “be the change that you want to see in your church” because we are focused on what a Biblical church should be focused on. The Bible. The fundamental issue with the post is that it offered NO Biblical reasons as to why someone should leave a body of believers. And to that end, reinforces the “church shopping” mentality so many Christians already have. Worst yet, it encourages church shopping because of “racial issues” of all things!

    A Biblical argument should be the directive for your bothers and sisters in Christ. So that you’re not complicit in Paul’s example from 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 6-7

  18. David Atkinson

    I think “right side of history” can be A factor without being THE factor… that’s the sense I got here

  19. David Atkinson

    Wow, sorry to hear that Tia

  20. Patryce

    @Brandon Boatner – I’m not the author, but thank you for sharing. Grace and Peace to you.

  21. JC

    “Will your church’s current (in)actions be on the right side of history?”

    What exactly is the “right side of history”? Or the wrong side of history for that matter? I heard this term thrown around (most recently) with regards to gay marriage (i.e. if you believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman, you are going to be on the wrong side of history).

    Is this how the author recommends that we make decisions as Christians? That we should ask ourselves if an action is going to be on the “right side of history”? How does one know if one is on the wrong/right side of history except to wait and see? Who makes these distinctions?

    Considering what future generations will think of our actions today seems to be a rather subjective way to make decisions. Although since it is unknowable (what history will say about us), I guess it allows us to assume that whatever we do will be on the right side of history and whatever those who disagree with us do will be on the wrong side of history.

  22. Dennis Whitfield

    Yes like the New Era Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama whose Pastor Jordan’s openly racist postings on their sign that blacks should stay out of white churches and against any white churchs having ministries in black neighborhoods.

  23. Patryce

    Link: Pew research: The most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups

  24. Brandon Boatner

    Thank you for your article. As a pastor, your truths resonate with mine. One of my biggest concerns in churches is the makeup of leadership. The leadership must represent the ethnic differences of the area. Even multicultural churches are often all white leadership. I want you to know that there are those of us who care about racialization and the white-washing of history. I believe most white congregants are ambivalent and ignorant to the prejudices they don’t experience. We can turn off the news or walk away from injustice, and Anglos don’t understand that black Christian can’t. I know my journey of waking up to reality has been an intentional work fueled by the Holy Spirit. Keep praying for us white brothers and sisters. We will one day Worship together even if for most that won’t come until we stand in the presence of Jesus.

  25. Patryce

    Yes, I’m so sorry you had to leave. It is difficult. The area I live in is one of the most diverse areas in the country. We are also ranked as one of the ‘most accepting areas of different people in the county, but we don’t know what to do with that!’ Unfortunately the church is situated in an area that is more white and they have simply absorbed people in the area. If my church was in an area that was more diverse, it could potentially be more diverse. However, that would only play a small part of the puzzle.

    In my opinion, what is driving this divide is simply the history of the country itself. White culture and black culture have not mixed yet in a secular way to the point of equality, and so neither have the churches. Historically, we had to have everything separate. I mean, I have never heard of many of these predominately white denominations. Lutheranism came from Germany. By sheer demographics and history alone, it’s going to be a white denomination. Buddhists are predominately Asian. That is where that religion grew from. So, the question, is why should they mix? I don’t mean that in a devil’s advocate way, I mean and in a plain, socio-historical way. Public opinion has not swayed. ACLU and the NAACP cannot be the only major players to bring out a cultural shift. The change cannot come by force like a Supreme court ruling of Brown V. Board. It needs to come from a public majority. A cultural shift in the country throughout to change church from within.

  26. DCStudent

    I recognize that there are times to leave churches because they are unwelcoming or because they are failing to uphold biblical standards. And, I also know that minorities have faced and continue to face terrible oppression at many white-dominated churches. Churches that persist in such behavior absolutely need to repent, and if they do not, leaving them is justified. But, nonetheless, I have questions about the theology in this article. First, Ms. Johnson, you speak of a “Black Church” not simply as a historic institution that grew in strength despite white oppression; you speak of it as something more, encompassing all blacks in all churches, and presumably, therefore, excluding those of other races. But, the Church to which we as Christians are to be loyal is one that unites believers of all people groups under the headship of Christ. No earthly institutions do that perfectly, but spiritually, that united Church exists. I do not see it discussed here.

    Second, you speak of “the Black Church” without clarification. If a reader were to want to attend a historically black church, does it matter which one? Are all historically black churches the same, or should readers seek ones that teach certain things about Christ, the Bible, and the nature of salvation? Again, I do not see that discussed here.

    Third, and finally, some of what you suggest seems to carry forward the spirit of segregation, and that deeply saddens me. In saying this, I in no way, shape, form, or fashion, mean to make light of or question your own pain. But after so many, black and white, have given so much over the years to promote racial reconciliation, it is painful to see this website repeatedly suggest that blacks should segregate themselves out of non-black churches. Indeed, it is a self-defeating message, since this website claims that non-black churches need to quit being white spaces but proceeds to strongly imply that blacks should leave non-black churches. Essentially, that means this website is criticizing churches for being predominately white then is openly seeking to make those same churches more white. It is a self-defeating message, to say the least.

  27. Tony

    I live in a rural/suburban part of Maryland, but attend a multiracial congregation about 35 miles from my home. On the Monday following Charlottesville, I decided to do an informal online survey of white churches in my area to see if they mentioned Charlottesville in their sermons at all. I looked at over a dozen churches’ websites and social media platforms. If they streamed their services, I watched to see if any mention was made. If they didn’t, I checked the social media platforms of the churches and their leaders. Out of all the churches I saw, 2 mentioned it and neither talked about it for longer than 46 seconds in a “Can you believe this type of things still happens?” kind of way.

    Even in my multiracial church, there are people who are so deeply invested in “not getting it” that it’s maddening. We preach the gospel, but also racial reconciliation and bridge building, and STILL there are people too deeply entrenched in their own privilege to understand the pain POC feel.

  28. Tia

    This piece resonates so much with me. Thank you for for sharing your wisdom and experience.
    Even though I did not come out of an evangelical church, the organization was just as focused on white supremacy, and sadly, I became one of their agents for perpetuating their agenda. Thank God, I came to my senses this past year when I had a series of events that were so blatantly racist that I could no longer make excuses to stay.

    I was part of the Orthodox Church for a little over 7 years. Week after week, I’d wonder why there were never prayers intoned for injustices that were levied towards Black or brown people in *this* country, yet over and over, we’d hear prayers for those in the Ukraine, the “lands of the Rus”, and occasionally Syrians. I knew better than to ask because I knew the answer — the Orthodox Church does not “do politics” because they claim to be the ancient faith that supposedly rises above “all earthly cares”. Human conflicts were supposed to be solved with no actual human engagement, but with amassing icons, collecting prayer ropes and visiting monasteries when things got really tough. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been fine with us having dialogue from time to time to work out human issues, but that was a no-go.

    The one time the topic of bringing Black folks into the Church came up, it was by way of a brother who put together a seminar intended for clergy (I showed up, anyway). It amounted to him degrading and simplifying the Black community by highlighting a host of negative issues — poverty, lack of fathers, etc. “We need healing!” he crowed, and the white folks responded by suggesting that they’ll have soup kitchens for Black folks “to bring them in”. It was disgusting.

    Over and over, I’d seek guidance from the priest at my parish with instances of how my family was harmed by the most idiotic behavior by fellow parishioners, only to be met with stale comparisons of how the priest’s wife was called a hussy and how the priest’s choice to wear a beard was somehow more harmful than the racism I faced (which was all in my head, of course). Oh, and a lukewarm suggestion to pray more.

    I stayed only because I truly believed that the Lord would heal the weakness of the Church and change the hearts of those within. I was in a haze, and I really believed that my Black presence would soften hearts and minds. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t my job to convince them of my humanity, and it was killing my spirit to keep functioning from that dreadful mindset.

    We are now attending a historically Black Episcopal parish where all are welcome, though it is probably 98% Black. The rector and asst. rector (a male and female) deliver intelligent, thoughtful, inclusive sermons combined with real guidance on how to live out life as Christ intended. This week I had the pleasure of attending VBS for the first time in over 25 years, where we are having nightly adult Bible study that is fruitful and engaging. I am experiencing a renewed sense of purpose in Christ that was once heavily crowded out by too much focus on church traditions, symbols, and hyper-obsession of ethnic European culture.

  29. David Atkinson


    I’m actually in the middle of an article about my experience fellowshipping w asian Americans as a blk person.

    I have seen blk ppl b dismissive of non blk poc in the blk church and I want to write something to deal w that

  30. Tamara Johnson

    Wow. Thank you for your candor and honest thoughts, Patryce! Seriously. If only it was as simple as slamming the door on one aggression too many….I mean, i loved my church! Even after my Charlottesville incident I met up w the pastor and pastor’s wife frequently, and I still attended the bible study of the church for a while. It was my community, and leaving was the best thing for me but it was still the hardest. I respect those called to continue the culture shift from within the church walls.

  31. A

    (don’t join PTM if you are a non-black ethnic minority or POC…it’s the same level of dismissal, tone policing and microaggressions you experience in majority white spaces, sadly.)

  32. Patryce

    I attend a Lutheran denomination church. It’s very liberal and very white. I’d say we are 95% white and 5% everything else. I have been a member since 2016. I am considering leaving.

    1) Do I recoil when black people call out racism at my white church?
    A: My black brothers and sisters have not spoken out against any micro or macro agressions in the church. Honestly, there are so few us of us. We would need to come together as share our experiences first.

    2) My Pastor is the most vocal about racial injustices. Sometimes I can feel the white congregants cringe, while I nod my head in affirmation that, “yes, this is life”. There as one lade who visited our church and we discussed police brutality, but she never returned.

    3) I would never feel the need to start tone policing about black congregant. Ever.

    4) I’m deciding whether I want to be the leader of the racial reconciliation attempt at my church. In order for me to continue staying and feeling a sense of community. I need this effort to take place. White congregants at my church have welcomed my with open arms and encouraged me to participate services to the community.

    When you this passage,” I spent so much time trying to shape my white church in the image of an institution that cared for those of us on the margins that are not in a third world country, whose mental and emotional pain could not be conveniently solved by installing a well or serving food to the homeless once a week.” that resonated with me so much. My church is so silent on race that its defining. I don’t believe it’s because of white guilt. When I first became a member, someone kindly said to me, “Finally, we have some more color”. They just don’t know how to become more integrated. They don’t know what to say. If their ignorance resulted in unconscious bias or malicious remarks, of course I wouldn’t be there.

    I’m in a tough spot because the only place I know where I will feel at home is an integrated church–and that doesn’t exist. So, I have to at least give them a chance before I leave too.

    Thank you for writing this.

  33. Tamara Johnson

    Hi Ben,

    This was written as an in-group discussion about how to handle social issues in the church in majority spaces, and as a set of exhortations to speak truth in love, even in hostile spaces, based on my own experiences as a minority in majority white churches, and the experiences of others. The Witness has published articles re: your thoughts about how to reform majority churches’ approaches to social issues. I would click around this site for those resources (and consider joining the Pass the Mic facebook group for more conversations that address your inquiry). I would not have written this if I did not have hope for white churches, black churches, myself, and other brothers and sisters., and all of us who are constantly growing and trying to shape ourselves to be even more like Christ.

  34. Tamara Johnson

    Hi Jeremy,

    I surely can write a post about the compassion for social issues that I have experienced through my black (and non-black) church experiences. Will you write one about your lack of that same witness of Christ like behavior? If not, will you be the change that you want to see in your church? Or will you settle for sniping comments in forums that are about healthy dialogue?

  35. Jeremy

    lol Yes! I hope she writes a post about how many people care at what ever black church she lands at. Fact is, NO one really talks about these issues. I’ve been attending black churches over 40 years and, probably sadly, there’s WAY more discussion and care about say sports than even theology!

  36. Ben P

    Some of this article seemed like you were questioning black men and women who stay. And at times it seemed you felt little to no hope for majority white churches. Is this accurate?

    I know this is directed towards black men and women, but I’m curious what advice you would give a white member of a majority white church who sees the reality/effects of racism in society and the church and wishes to combat it. I respect your thoughts. Thank you.

  37. Dennis Whitfield

    Well I hope your much happier now.

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