A year ago I made a decision to separate myself and my family from all predominantly White Christian spaces. More specifically this meant detaching myself from a denomination and network of which collectively I had been a member of for over 6 years. This departure was a part of the “Quiet Exodus” journalist Campbell Robertson covered in his 2018 article with the New York Times. The increasing racial tension, election of the current president, and the many injustices around the United States were causing many Black Christians to no longer feel safe around their White evangelical family in Christ, and I was among this group of people.
Although I participated in this “Quiet Exodus”, it is inaccurate to say that I myself left quietly. On September 9th, 2018, I posted a blog entitled: “I Don’t Wanna Be Multi-Ethnic Right Now”, in which I stated why I believed I was too dangerous to remain connected to predominantly White churches. I laid out personal wounds I suffered fostering a multi-ethnic church, the growing loneliness my family often experienced being the few (sometimes only) Black people around, the various issues particular to people of color in my city that demanded a gospel engagement, and a few ways in which my White family were unequipped to assist me in those matters. My intent was to honestly state that I couldn’t continue to keep it together among them anymore, my sanity was at stake. Even upon my departure I was already cracking.
However, even though it is true that my particular situation made my departure from White Christian spaces necessary, I made some mistakes doing so. I believe there are some ways I caused hurt to my White family due to the manner in which I responded to social issues impacting my life. I would like to genuinely extend an apology to anybody who I have hurt due to the various actions I will describe below. I especially have in mind a particular body of believers who worship at my former church. If I hurt them, I want them to know that I’m sorry.
It has taken me a full year to see what mistakes I have made, and even now I admit I may not see them all yet. I am not proud of the blog I wrote. My intention was to articulate pain, therefore reading it myself reminds me of it. But there were hidden errors functioning in my heart at the time that I want to address. I also should say that upon thinking about this apology, ironically someone else in another part of the country published a very similar apology nationally! His name is Thabiti Anyabwile. I do not want my readers to think that I am copying this man ( a man that has personally given me counsel and I deeply respect), however, I have chosen to model his apology, since he has done so well at communicating errors much the same as my own.
First, I want to apologize for not making it clear that the lead pastor of my former church loved me, befriended me, and was for a time the only support I had. Not even a hint of that is in my blog (although that wasn’t it’s purpose). In the blog I described common experiences I’ve had in predominantly white spaces. I was not referring to him specifically, but it was left unclear. If someone didn’t know this pastor, or was potentially reevaluating their view of him in light of my words, they would walk away thinking he cared nothing about African-American core concerns, but I know personally that this is not true. I want to apologize if this caused harm to anyone who read it. I may have put some people in a position where they had to consider, even if for a moment, whether or not they could trust their pastor.
The man I am speaking of is indeed a sinner saved by grace, but Christ has shaped him so beautifully that his character will perhaps always tower over me. Humility, kindness, and patience were the dominating qualities that came through him as a friend to me – period. He is among a few others who through the years loved me and sought to understand my particular experience.
Second, I want to confess and apologize for the anger and bitterness that was within my heart before and upon divorcing myself from White Christian spaces. This was an area I needed help to see. I learned in some ways that I was contributing my sin to other people. Allow me to share something I have never said publicly. I became ashamed of ways I was being influenced through my 6 years in White Christian spaces. I learned theology and cultural sin from their perspective, which in some ways, can be problematic towards people who look like me. I steeped myself in their theological perspective, so much so that I began to believe it was superior to all others. Over time I found myself saying things about my own people that I now regret, and I realized I was in turn becoming unnecessarily suspicious of Black Christian spaces in similar ways as White evangelicals. Once I realized the impact the influences I so eagerly clung to were having on me, I became increasingly embarrassed. But instead of owning my embarrassment, I got angry with White evangelicals. This was a mistake I now regret. I’ve known for a while that this is the kind of behavior that turns White Christians off towards Black Christian voices, even the ones that share similar theological views. They see these kinds of things and don’t have a framework to understand it, so they in turn quickly hit the eject button (it’s understandable). I can no longer deny that a part of my critique of the White evangelical perspective, is a violent anger and bitter spirit (due to my experience with it). It is not behavior consistent with the gospel, and I just wanted to be honest about it and apologize to anyone who was hurt by how I responded to it.
Third, I want to also confess and apologize for speaking out of fear. I was scared about many things concerning my future when writing the blog. Fear is one of the emotions that was in the driver seat through my struggles in White evangelical Christian spaces. In the blog I tried my best to emphasize how dangerous I was, but it is more accurate to say additionally that I was scared. I don’t listen fully to God when I am scared of something concerning the future, and I may have hurt other people around me acting like this. I think it was bad enough that I didn’t fully admit how scared I was, but even so, I could see some ways in which it is unnecessary for the public to know that, especially people who are not close enough to be crystal clear about what it all means. Here lies a problem particular to any Black Christian in White Christian spaces, the potential of hurting their White family while reacting to their fears publicly. This was a risk I was willing to take, and I’m sorry for anyone I harmed in the process. Even if my concerns were legitimate, it doesn’t change the fact that I was operating out of fear. What I’m really saying, is that this action was proof that I wasn’t fully trusting God. Therefore it is foremost a sin against Him and whoever around me who was also hurt by it.
Finally, I would like to admit (but not apologize for) something I have been prevented from saying publicly. There are many who don’t know the full context of the blog I published a year ago. It would seriously take me several hours uninterrupted to explain it adequately. In my blog I hinted at some of the problematic issues I faced missionally as Christian and socially as a Black man in Cincinnati. But part of the context that largely influenced my decision to separate myself, was indeed the major soccer franchise coming to my historically Black neighborhood. Honestly, it traumatized the hell out of me. I realized how powerful the movements of the dominant culture (White citizens) can be …so powerful, that even my white family in Christ could be complicit to them, whether they realized it or not. So I decided it wasn’t safe for them or for me if I stayed around. A year ago, along with many Black residents in my community, I was trying to brace myself for the potential gentrification and White washing of another urban neighborhood in my city, and I realized that I had no help from my White family of faith. Again, I believed many of them were more likely to be complicit with this major White development’s schemes. The organization I’m referring to began to push their brand logo hard, even at a time when residents in my neighborhood were begging the powers involved to prevent the soccer stadium from coming. Doing that time I saw the soccer team’s logo expand everywhere, at Kroger’s, the Airport, Banks, and even on shirts at my then predominantly White church. I also was among other community leaders who were actively and legally engaging with the franchise owners. Because of this, I often hesitated publicly speaking on how much pain I was truly experiencing for fear that it might badly affect my neighborhood ( I would totally change that If I could go back). This played a huge role in my decision to separate myself from White Christian spaces.
Why Am I Saying This Now?
Why am I disclosing this now? Well.. again, I wanted to apologize for the actions described above, and ask forgiveness from some people I unintentionally harmed. But I also would like to ask for understanding (graceful understanding). It is important to me that people hear directly from me concerning these matters. I think the transparency that I have offered over the years is better than saying nothing at all. I don’t want to be led by fear anymore, but I’m still scared about certain future realities in my city. It’s really easy to cook up false hope for people, I’m trying to be honest about the real hopelessness I have in Cincinnati, even as someone who’s ultimate hope is in Christ’s redemption of all who believe in Him. The featured image of this blog shows me looking out over my neighborhood. Soon the direction I’m looking will have a MLS stadium built for the entertainment of soccer fans and the profit of it’s wealthy owner’s. No matter how much one may believe my problem is a matter of not focusing on the beauty of the gospel of Christ, what may not be understood, is that my experience as a gospel centered Christian will always be less hopeful in Cincinnati than a good chunk of my White family’s. This is because I am a Black Christian from one of the shadow communities of Cincinnati and I’m not sleep to the many ways the dominant culture in this city can and has taken advantage of it.
However, I have not and I suppose never will be perfect in how I respond to issues affecting me or my people. I have to remind myself that I’m 26 years old and an 8 ½ year old Christian. I regret my immaturity in handling these issues before my White family of faith. For some of them, my own family has been the first Black people they have ever had an opportunity to know, others had high hopes of a long lasting friendship, and I’m sure there were some who just liked having us around. This is why I would like to publicly state, that any harm I caused to these particular groups of people due to actions I’ve described above; I apologize for it. Presently, I still do not desire certain multi-ethnic Christian communities (the kind that are truthfully just predominantly White churches), nor do I have the desire to intentionally work for one, but I’m seriously praying that God heal, direct, and correct all needed areas in my life, because it has become more and more obvious that I’m going through a process.
A brother in Christ & A Black Citizen of Cincinnati