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Redeemer Presbyterian Church Downtown Resources: Race, Ethnicity and the Gospel

Redeemer Presbyterian Church Downtown Resources:
Race, Ethnicity and the Gospel

While the concept of race is a social construct, it is surely a social construct that has had far-reaching and often devastating consequences for both the church and society in America and in the world. As Emerson and Smith write “Race is intimately tied to the American experience … It is indivisible from American life.” Few would disagree. But most would also agree that race-related issues in America are profoundly complex. Diagnosing the complexities well is crucial to prescribing remedies that will effectively address the brokenness in American society that has arisen from our history regarding race. Because God profoundly values every human life and because that value has not always been acknowledged and manifested, racial injustices ought to be profoundly disturbing to every follower of Jesus. We long for a society in which God’s ways and purposes are honored.

Below is a list of resources to help us think biblically about the issues regarding race in the society and church in America. We have decided to put forth resources that address these issues from a Christian perspective. None of these perspectives are unalloyed from error or are exempt from needing correction. You are encouraged to read thoughtfully, like adults who chew the meat and spit out the bones. Still, we have tried to collect resources that take the biblical perspective seriously.

This does not mean that secular authors don’t have profound and meaningful insights into race-related issues. We believe that we should read and listen both widely and critically. The internet is filled with fascinating and important “orthodox” and “heterodox” perspectives on race and its impact on society. In the abundance of counselors, there is wisdom. Allow those who take alternative positions to challenge you. Our goal is to reach unity in the truth. Our goal is the kingdom of God not the kingdoms of men. So pray, read, interact and pray again. We are confident that if we do so we will increasingly achieve the mind of Christ on this and many other challenges the church faces. We will increasingly become “one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32).

We are grateful to be on this journey together with all of you to pursue unity in the truth. We long for that day when God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. We long for that day when all the brokenness in the world will be obliterated. We long for the day when everything that grieves God is abolished. In the meantime, let’s interact graciously and then act courageously to hasten the coming of that kingdom.

We long for a society in which God’s ways and purposes are honored.

Some general resources specifically from the Presbyterian Tradition:

Historical Studies:

  • Free at Last, Carl Ellis (IVP, 2020)
    • Ellis, a theologian and pastor in our denomination, tells the story of Black America and analyzes it from a Christian perspective. Highly Recommended.
  • God’s Long Summer, Charles Marsh (Princeton, 2008)
    • Marsh’s award-winning book on four lesser know characters from the civil rights movement and how religion shaped their approach to race relations.
  • The Beloved Community, Charles Marsh (Basic Books, 2005)
    • Marsh looks back at the civil rights movement and argues that those best suited to take up the mantle are churches that seek to embody racial reconciliation.
  • The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby (Zondervan, 2019)
    • Examines the history of race and the church in America and suggests that only as we are honest about the construction of race in our country will we be able to deconstruct racism.
  • Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.
    • King’s classic letter addressing white Christian leader’s heartbreaking indifference during the civil rights movement. It is both historically significant and currently relevant.

Theological and practical studies:

  • More Than Equals, Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice (IVP, 2000)
    • The story of a friendship between a black man and a white man for the sake of the gospel in the South. It documents the personal struggles they encountered in learning to love one another in the context of building a multi-racial congregation in Mississippi. Highly Recommended.
  • Welcoming Justice, Charles Marsh and John Perkins (IVP, 2018)
    • A great short introduction by two veteran Christian authors on the lessons they have learned over the years in the struggle for a just society.
  • With Justice for All, John Perkins (Regal Books, 1982)
    • Dr. Perkins is one of the pioneers of the racial reconciliation movement. In this book he both tells his personal story and suggests a church model that seeks to get at the root of racial divisions.
  • Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel and Grau, 2015)
    • Stevenson’s inspiring memoir reflects on the unfairness in the justice system which has had a devastating effect on black America.
  • United by Faith, DeYoung, Emerson, Yancey, Kim (Oxford, 2003)
    • Reflects on how we can cultivate churches that are less homogeneous and which instead serve as a foretaste of the kingdom in which people will gather from every nation, tribe and tongue.
  • The Road to Reconciliation 2.0, Brenda Salter-McNeil (IVP, 2020)
    • Addresses the practical steps the Christian community must take to achieve unity, wholeness and justice.
  • The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change, Brenda Salter-McNeil (IVP, 2009)
    • Firmly locates the ministry of racial reconciliation and justice in the biblical context of spiritual transformation and spiritual warfare.
  • To Live in Peace, Mark Gornik (Eerdmans, 2004)
    • Gornik, the Director of the City Seminary of NY, in this rich work of theological and sociological reflection suggests how the church can be a significant force for justice and human flourishing when it fully invests itself in a community.
  • Mirror to the Church, Emmanuel Katongle (Zondervan, 2009)
    • The value of this haunting book is that it looks at racial dynamics in the context of another country, namely Rwanda, where Christians killed other Christians in a horrible genocide. That event can serve as a mirror to look at the Church in the West. He suggests our hope is to be found in a new kind of Christian identity for the global body of Christ.

Sociological Studies:

  • Divided by Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith (Oxford, 2000)
    • A very important sociological study by two Christian authors that documents the racialization of both American society and the church. They reflect on how evangelical theology may well undermine the reconciled communities for which we long.

Political Engagement:

Resources for critique and effective conversation:

Resources for families and children:

Some ways to get involved and act:

  • Apply for the Gotham Fellowship and be a part of this work on the ground (Added August 2020)
  • Meditate & pray with others: Grace, Justice & Mercy Prayer Guide
  • Evaluate your relationships. Do you have friendships across differences? If not, think of ways to place yourself in places/situations where they can happen.
  • Host movie and discussion nights. Suggested films: Just Mercy, 13th, Selma.
  • Host a book and discussion group on any one of these books.
  • Identify how and where you can serve your neighborhood consistently. Consider serving with a HFNY affiliate monthly.
  • EJI recommenced justice/prison-related organizations near you
  • Support the PCA Unity Fund
  • Join a prayer march hosted by local churches.
  • Financially support local churches in need.

*This is a dynamic resource list and will be updated periodically. Last updated August 2020.