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