De-Colonizing the Church: A Commitment to Anti-Racism
By Bryan Tener
Discipleship Ministries’ commitment to anti-racism extends through Path 1’s work in church planting and revitalization. Earlier this spring, Path 1 hosted a webinar series, “De-Colonizing the Church,” that focused on anti-racism and approaching church planting and community engagement through a de-colonization strategy. While focused on church planting, the series was not limited to that subject. It offered help for those leading in long-established churches.
The challenging content of the webinars created space for engaging conversations and practical ways in which to shape and reshape congregational DNA to reflect anti-racist discipleship. The series looked at where we are now as a country, both politically and socially, and noted where we have been as a Wesleyan movement. Participants and leaders discussed anti-racism and de-colonizing the church and providing a way forward toward the fulfillment of the beloved community.
Key highlights of the series that can help the local church engage in the work of anti-racism are outlined below.
Session One called the church to recognize that America and the church are both structured by race and noted that race matters. The session presenters stressed that the church needs to raise consciousness so that we learn to work together and partner toward a more civil and just world. Disciples must pursue the common good by using biblical resources that envision a just society characterized by mutual care and responsibility.
Session Two focused on embodied racism and embodied anti-racism. One of the highlights of the conversation was on living into the beloved community. Living into God’s preferred future takes practicing something different from what is currently practiced. Practices for living into God’s preferred future were listed: shared leadership, solidarity, spirituality, sensitization (collectively building knowledge together).
Session Three offered a broad overview of the ways in which racism shaped the history of the Methodist Church and where the church followed the culture rather than led. The session also highlighted Richard Allen and the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This session offered important reminders that the local church is the most effective vehicle for living out anti-racist discipleship in the community. It stressed that people should not lose hope but continue to meet Jesus in the neighborhood and offer presence, listen, and engage with others in a way that works for justice. Presenters urged webinar participants to take action through advocacy and solidarity and to be the prophetic voices that God has called the church to offer.
Session Four looked at ways that de-colonized church planting is occurring in the present. One important learning from this session that can help in the work of de-colonizing is to set aside the idea of competition with other pastors and other churches, especially new church plants. Instead, participants were encouraged to partner with and support planters in their work and use collaboration and partnerships within the community to share resources such as facilities or administration as a way to move away from competition. Participants were urged to commit to centering marginalized voices and offering a prophetic witness to the future so that the church can be on the forefront of these conversations rather than being behind.
Session Five offered a conversation on leading in an anti-racist way. One key learning was to make room for people of color and those who have been marginalized to lead. It is vital that leaders take time to listen, stand in solidarity—even when it is difficult—and offer themselves so that others may live. Solidarity is about risk, not reward. Committing to solidarity requires knowing that it is challenging and difficult. Participants were called to model anti-racism in leadership and to use tools and practice community organizing to shape the church’s work in justice and anti-racism.
This webinar series is now available in the Discipleship Ministries web store for purchase with all five sessions included for $20.