Future of Mainline Protestantism
Black Church Walk-Out
By Monica A. Coleman
I had a dream that all the oppressed people in black churches staged a walkout. They Facebook-ed, tweeted, texted, called, put flyers on car windshields, and grabbed the arm of the person next to them. Most of the women went first: the ones teaching Sunday school, heading committees, cooking food for the pastor's aide society, and the ones sitting on the side of the pulpit. Then the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, transsexuals, and otherwise queer-identified folk. The children who were celebrated on youth day, but otherwise worshipping in children's church, headed out the door next. A seven year-old girl held the door open for the people who realized that churches don't have adequate checks and balances for clergy sexual misconduct or fiscal mismanagement. Bringing up the rear: the folk who thought they would simply die if they heard another sermon that made a direct relationship between their faith and material possessions.
In my dream, they didn't march or picket or stop tithing.
They just left.
They left because they were tired of living under an apartheid-like system where the majority of the church is female, but the majority of the leadership is male. Others tired of giving their talents, time, and sponsorship to a community that didn't welcome and celebrate their love. Others left because they didn't feel that they were given an opportunity to share their ideas and perspectives on things. Some didn't understand why people in leadership rarely apologized for mistakes they made. They didn't know why no one put systems in place to make improvements.
They didn't leave because they hated black churches. They left because they loved them. Like me, they had been raised in the church: all day on Sunday, Tuesday night prayer meeting, Wednesday night Bible study, Saturday choir rehearsal, and Vacation Bible School. They saw going to church like brushing teeth -- it's just something you do.
In black churches, they learned about Moses and baby Jesus. In Sunday school, they heard Miriam's song and Mary's Magnificat. From Carter G. Woodson's Black History Month, they learned about Mary McLeod Bethune and George Washington Carver. From African American spirituals, they learned about how Ezekiel saw the wheel and the balm that is found in Gilead. From the hush arbors of slavery to the Civil Rights movement, they learned that music and fellowship sustain faith in the midst of great difficulty. From the founding of the AME Church, the AME Zion Church, the CME Church, and the Progressive National Baptist Church, they learned that when church leadership oppresses you, it's not the gospel that's wrong. It's the church. They learned to walk out.