February 6, 2023
By Rev. Carolyn L. Grice
I have recently begun reading What Kind of Christianity: A History of Slavery and Anti-Black Racism in the Presbyterian Church, by William Yoo. Right at the beginning it speaks of the late Rev. Katie Geneva Cannon. She was the first Black American woman and theologian to be ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA, in 1974.
In that opening paragraph of the book she is quoted as asking the questions, “Where was the Church and the Christian believers when Black women and Black men, Black boys and Black girls, were being raped, sexually abused, lynched, assassinated, castrated and physically oppressed? What kind of Christianity allowed white Christians to deny basic human rights and simple dignity to Blacks, these same rights which had been given to others without question?”
Well, as I thought about this I started to reflect on recent circumstances where I encountered racism. I had an amazing experience at the first church I served as a temporary associate pastor after my ordination. In the long 15 months I had with them, I was accused of “deceiving” them into becoming the Matthew 25 initiative, of the Presbyterian Church, based on verses 31-46. I had a member of the church council make a motion at a meeting to remove the Scripture readings for the Black History Month recommendations because they offended her. (I was the only African American around-no members and no others on staff!) I had an older gentlemen tell me they just want their sermons to be entertaining. Another person told me she just wanted to come to church to get a feel-good message and go home.
It became necessary to explain that I have not been around a church that was fearful of Scripture. It is supposed to make us uncomfortable but help us build the foundation for our faith and do what is right for all people.
Every day we wake up is because God is not through with us yet. We have work to do as members of the Body of Christ. While it may be uncomfortable to do God’s work, it is what we do as Christians. There are lots of positives in what we do as well as the challenges. Even though we face the future with some uncertainty God’s love for us will guide us. Accept the challenges before us. As members of the Body of Christ, let us reaffirm what we have been called to do and let’s start right now.
We must learn from what happened in the past so as not to make the same mistakes again. We must grasp on to hope and make a change for this world. Micah 6:8 sums it up best. “What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”