August 10, 2020

Becoming an Anti-Racist Church: Journeying toward Wholeness

If you would like to purchase this book or learn more about it, please click on the image below to go to its publisher’s website

See brief introductory excerpts from each chapter, below

Introduction: Eleven O’Clock Sunday Morning  (pp. 1-10)

Martin Luther King Jr. preached these words in a sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968, just days before his assassination. He had repeated them on many other occasions as well, referring again and again to the shameful reality of America’s racially divided churches. Although Dr. King faced racism and challenged segregation in every part of society, it was the “sad fact” of a segregated church that disturbed him the most. Fast forward to the present time, and picture yourself attending a church at eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning in a large city, suburb,…

Chapter One – Setting the Biblical Context: Reclaiming an Anti-Racist Gospel (pp. 11-22)

It should be clear by now that the aim of this book is to address the church with hard and critical questions about an extremely difficult subject. It is understandable if readers might feel a bit anxious about this at first and worry that someone might ask, “Who do you think you are? Who gave you the right to do this?” In response, I believe it is important to affirm that wedohave the authority to undertake this bold venture. In fact, we have a mandate to do so—a mandate that comes directly from God.

Part I The Past: Racism and Resisting Racism in Church History

Part I: Introduction (pp. 23-26)

The present is a product of the past. In the church’s past is a painful history of racism, resulting in a divided and sick Christianity today. There can be no understanding of how racism functions today in the church or anywhere else in society without knowing this history. Nor can we begin to comprehend our task of eliminating racism in the church or in society without having a clear picture of efforts to end racism in times before us. In order to move forward to the future, we must remember the past and deal openly and honestly with it. Following…

Chapter Two – A Tale of Two Churches (pp. 27-36)

Throughout its long history, the Christian church has been both shamefullyforracism and courageouslyagainstit, standing at least as often on the side of racism as it has stood in opposition to it. This chapter will paint a portrait of a church with two personalities, a racist church and an anti-racist church. Readers need to prepare for a great deal of emotional trauma and to be torn again and again from one side to the other.

There is an indisputable historical record of the Christian church repeatedly taking positions and actions that were wrongly on the side of…

Chapter Three – Racism in United States Church History (pp. 37-50)

The history of racism in the church in the United States is a story of God’s beloved New Israel committing the same evils as the Israel of old: making alliances with an idolatrous nation and practicing idolatry and injustice among its own people. The voice of God through Jeremiah reaches through the pages of the Bible, accusing our forebears and ourselves, their children’s children, of forsaking God, the source of living water, and depending instead on water from leaky cisterns.

The history we are about to explore is confusing and contradictory. An example can be seen in the following story,…

Chapter Four – Resisting Racism in United States Church History 

It cannot be said often enough or emphasized strongly enough that the evil of racism in our nation and in our churches is only half of the story. There is another story, a far better story to be told. It is the incredibly courageous and powerful story of the struggle to end racism.

Throughout history there have been those with profound courage who were willing to stand up publicly and struggle against racism. From the very beginning, church people have joined together with non-church people in this powerful resistance. The amazing truth is that there was, there is, and there…

Chapter Five – Racism and Resisting Racism in the Post–Civil Rights Church (pp. 67-82)

We move now to the final step in this historical recounting of racism and resisting racism within the church, with an exploration of what happened after the civil rights movement, from the early 1970s up to today. The period began with a sense of optimism about the end of racial hatred and division and the beginning of a new future of togetherness. There was hope that churches divided by the history of racism could find together a new sense of oneness and unity. In these next pages, history and present meet and our faces begin to appear in the story…

Part II The Present: Racism in the Church Today

Part II: Introduction (pp. 83-86)

After a somewhat long and winding path, we come to the heart of the matter: the task of exploring how racism functions in the church today. On the way, we traced the trail of the history of racism and of resistance to racism in the churches over the past five hundred years, and even reached back to the theological foundations that were laid in the church two thousand years ago.In our look into the past we discovered two contradictory images of the church. One is a painful depiction of the church’s support of racism and its participation in racism’s…

Chapter Six – Race, Prejudice, and Power in the Church (pp. 87-100)

The purpose of this chapter is to explore how racism is still embedded in the church today. We will do this by examining how the church relates to each part of our definition of racism—race prejudice plus the power of systems and institutions—first focusing on prejudice and the church, then on the concept of race and the church, and finally on racialized power in the church. When we have finished exploring each of these parts, we will be able to look again at the definition as a whole and see that we have laid the groundwork for a…

Chapter Seven – Captive Christians in a Captive Church (pp. 101-114)

I began this book with the observation that for the vast majority of Christians, the scandalous reality remains that even if our daily life is increasingly multiracial, when the work week is over and we head for church on Sunday morning, we walk through doors into congregations that are racially defined as red, brown, yellow, black, or white. No matter how hard we try, we remain locked away from one another, imprisoned in separate and segregated churches.

Prison bars and gates are fitting images, in fact, for what keeps white people and people of color separated from each other, not…

Chapter Eight – Institutionalized Racism in the Church (pp. 115-132)

Remember our definition: racism is race prejudice plus the power of systems and institutions. Racism is far more than the prejudices of a single individual and even far more than the collective prejudices of any one racial group. In fact, as we just finished exploring in the previous chapter, racism is so powerful that it can take individuals and entire racial groups captive and, like puppets on a string, make them do what it wants them to do.

Racism is based on systemic and institutional power. Racism persists in the United States because of the way institutions in this country…

Chapter Nine – Cultural Racism and the Multicultural Church (pp. 133-144)

Have you been in church on Pentecost Sunday and heard the story from Acts 2 read aloud in one language and then in another and another by congregational members? God speaks to us in many languages. Hearing the gospel in each other’s language is one of many exciting symbols of an increasingly multilingual, multiracial, multicultural church in the United States. It may be a small step—for some a first step—but it is a very important step on a path that we all need to walk.

The Christian church today is in the midst of a multicultural movement. We..

Part III The Future: Shaping an Anti-Racist Church

Part III: Introduction (pp. 145-152)

While I was working on this final section, I heard from the Rev. Willard Bass, an African American Methodist pastor, community organizer, and friend from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has been helping me think about the content and style of the book. He wrote:The challenge I continue to think about is to be able to have hope. It is not enough to be convicted, ashamed and disarmed by the truth about racism in the church. I think that for white people and for people of color who are Christians, embracing the whole truth about our faith requires a rethink…

Chapter Ten – God’s Call to Become an Anti-Racist Church (pp. 153-168)

The first and most important task in shaping an anti-racist church is to give birth to an anti-racist Christian identity. Stage four of theContinuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Churchdescribes this process in step-by-step detail. As with any birth, this includes a long period of pregnancy and gestation that is risk-filled, often painful, and has many potentially dangerous complications. And likewise, as in any other birthing process, when it is completed, the exciting and joyful celebration of the newborn will far outweigh the agony of the delivery. Six steps in giving birth to an anti-racist identity are outlined…

Chapter Eleven – Getting It Done: The Organizing Task (pp. 169-184)

From a Christian point of view, to speak of racism is to speak of “the wiles of the devil” and “spiritual forces of evil.” When we promised in our baptism to resist the devil and to stand against evil and all its empty promises, we were actually making commitments to resist racism. The goal of this chapter is to help us put on the whole armor of God by increasing our organizing skill in order to help the church shape a new anti-racist identity.

A friend of mine, Pamela Warrick Smith, has written and recorded a song about organizing, titled…

Chapter Twelve – Institutionalizing Anti-Racism in the Church (pp. 185-200)

One of the most disturbing aspects of being human is our propensity to build walls—hostile walls that divide us. The dividing walls of hostility that the apostle Paul refers to in his letter to the Ephesians are not just spiritual. They also are physical, like the Berlin Wall and the wall the United States has built between our nation and the nation of Mexico. Dividing walls of hostility are also defined and created by law, such as the walls of legal segregation in our history and the walls of legal apartheid in South Africa’s history.

Speaking directly to the…


Joseph Barndt has been a parish pastor and an anti-racism trainer and organizer for thirty years, much of the latter work being done with Crossroads Ministry, Chicago, which he directed for eighteen years. His writings include Becoming an Anti-Racist Church: Journeying toward Wholeness (2011), Understanding and Dismantling Racism (2007), Dismantling Racism (1991) Beyond Brokenness (With Louis A. Smith, 1980), and Liberating the White Ghetto (1972).