The Church Identity

The Reformation and Racial Reconciliation


During the 2016 Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference, Ligon Duncan and Jemar Tisby presented a workshop entitled, “The Reformation and Racial Reconciliation.” Duncan is the Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary and has helped lead racial reconciliation efforts at the seminary and in his denomination. Jemar Tisby is the Director of the African American Leadership Initiative at RTS Jackson and the co-founder and president of the Reformed African American Network.

In their presentation, Duncan addressed the theology of the Reformers and why they largely failed to see the hypocrisy of Christian support for race-based chattel slavery. He explained why the common explanations of faulty theology or cultural captivity were inadequate. Duncan centers the failure of the Reformers on the inherent condescension Europeans had for Africans.

Tisby went on to discuss the A.R.C. of Racial Reconciliation. A.R.C. stands for Awareness, Relationships, and Commitment. The A.R.C. of Racial Reconciliation forms a framework for justice around race and ethnicity. Along the way he gives actionable steps for increasing one’s capacity for peacemaking across racial and ethnic divides.

Below are some quotes from the workshop. Listen to the whole presentation by clicking on the video below. Listen to a podcast about the A.R.C. of Racial Reconciliation here.

The Reformation and Racial Reconciliation Audio:



  • From the beginning, African American Christianity has had ‘big God’ theology. And they had to with what they were going through.
  • What happened? Reformed theology failed to apply our own theology to this question [of racial equality].
  • The more you are the beneficiary of a social and cultural arrangement, the less apt you are to…critique that particular social and cultural arrangement.
  • As Europeans, in general, encountered Africans, Europeans considered themselves to be culturally, intellectually and spiritually superior to Africans.
  • Deeply ingrained in the European, and thus the European Reformed tradition, is an inherent condescension towards the African peoples. So that we believed that our ethnicities were superior to them.
  • God is at work in spite of us.
  • There is no biblical warrant for the enforced segregation of ethnicities.


  • I believe racism affects the Body of Christ like an autoimmune disease ripping and tearing at it from the inside. I believe that the gospel is the antidote to the virus that’s tearing the Body apart.
  • Specific does not mean exclusive.
  • One of the problems I’m confronted with on an almost daily basis is a simple lack of awareness of our racial milieu.
  • People who strive to be “color blind” are often simply “context blind.”
  • Practical Suggestions for Racial Awareness: Watch some documentaries. For example, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • 90 percent of my replies to any questions about race could be answered with two words: Google it.
  • Reconciliation is incarnational…Christ Himself is our example.
  • In Jesus Christ [the promise of reconciliation] becomes a person.
  • When our networks are homogenous, our mindsets are homogenous, too.
  • The most common refrain I hear from black people who are actively pursuing racial reconciliation is, “I’m tired.”


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