Reassessing the Inculcation of an Anti-Racist Ethic for Christian Ministry: From Racism Awareness to Deconstructing Whiteness
1. Historical Background
2. Racism Awareness
3. Unconscious Bias and Equalities, Diversity, and Inclusion
4. Telling an Under-Told Story: The Role of Christianity in Creating Anti-Black Racism
5. Deconstructing of Mission Christianity
6. An Anti-Racism Ethic in Practice
Conflicts of Interest
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Transformative Education is a form of knowledge construction that challenges the dominant theories and paradigms that constitute normative frames of epistemology. It proceeds from a critical, dialectical inquiry into the very basis of what constitutes knowledge and truth. One of the most instrumental texts in my own intellectual development is (Banks 1996).
Black theology is a theology of Liberation whose point of departure is the existential struggles of Black people of African descent seeking to interpret their lives’ experiences in dialogue with the God, revealed in Jesus Christ, whom they believe represents the source and framework for their attempts to resist oppression and marginalization. The first Black theology text was (Cone  1986). See also (Reddie 2012).
“Racism awareness raising” approaches to ministry arose out of the wider context of anti-racism approaches to experiential models of informal education and learning that seek to inculcate within participants an increased understanding and a heightened awareness of the existence and ramifications of oppressive forms of action based on the construct of “race”. Racism awareness training first emerged in the UK as a form of anti-oppressive training in professional development in occupations such as housing, social work, youth and community work, and probation work. For more details on this, please see (Tamkin et al. 2003).
Between 1 September 1999, and 31 August 2010, I worked as a consultant in Black theological studies, based at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. This role involved working part time while undertaking postdoctoral research in Black theology and Christian education based at Queen’s. The other “half” of the role saw me travelling across Methodist theological institutions and ecumenical ones in which Methodist students’ training for authorised, public ministry is located, working as a theological consultant. In working as a consultant, my role was to work as a guest lecturer, teaching Black theology, postcolonial theologies, Liberation hermeneutics and, most typically, leading “Racism Awareness Days”. The latter were for the purpose of conscientising ministerial students, equipping them to be anti-racist practitioners in the respective ministries.
A number of scholars have demonstrated the specious nature of such discourse and the ways in which it seeks to create untenable and unstable boundaries between groups of humanity. The concept of “race” is a misnomer as it strictly does not exist, as there is only one “race”, the human race. Racism, however, does exist, as forms of discriminatory action based on the grounds of “race” are very real. See (Barndt 2007) and (West 2002). See also (Hopkins 2005). See also (Carter 2008; Jennings 2011; Douglas 2015; Eze 1997).
For an excellent distillation of the construct of “race” and racism in the context of Christian discipleship and ministry, see (Ackroyd et al. 2001).
See (Walton et al. 1985).
Stephen Lawrence was a seventeen-year-old Black African Caribbean young man who was brutally murdered on the streets of South London in a frenzied and unprovoked racially motivated attack. The Metropolitan police in London (the overarching authority for investigating crime and policing the streets of London) was roundly attacked in the media and within Black communities in Britain for their racist-inspired neglect and inefficiency in investigating the case. No one was initially convicted for Stephen Lawrence’s murder. The public outcry in response to the negligence of the Metropolitan police service gave rise to the MacPherson report. For further details on the Macpherson report, see (MacPherson 1999).
See (Baldwin 1995).
I am very much indebted to my friend and colleague Michael N. Jagessar for the latter term or phrase for naming the eschatological hope of God’s justice and equity for all persons that constitutes our futuristic hope within the Christian faith. See (Jagessar 1997).
See (Andrews 2014, pp. 11–29).
African American Womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas demonstrates the extent to which binary notions of “in groups” and “out groups” within Christian communities can be traced back to the notion of a “closed monotheism” within Judaeo-Christian theologies of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. See (Douglas 2005).
See the following website where the then leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, clearly invokes a cultural interpretation of Christianity as a means of promoting a reactionary, homogeneous construct of Britain. http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2015/04/nigel-farage-calls-for-muscular-defence-of-christianity-in-the-uk (National Secular Society 2015). Journalists have noted the rise in racist attacks and right wing nationalism. See (Booth 2019) for further details.
At the time of writing, these “one-off days” were non assessed and were not integrated into the main curriculum of theological training and formation. This situation may no longer be the case.
See (Cone 2004).
For the basics of “unconscious bias” and its related training, see (Wikipedia 2018). Unconscious bias training continues to use experiential and progressive modes of pedagogy that seek to enable individuals to access their affective domain as a means of instituting behaviour change. In supporting individuals in responding to their emotional states, as the means by which substantive consciousness-raising modes of change can be enacted, this form of pedagogy relates to the broader developments in transformative education and learning in which my work has been located. In short, I am not suggesting any substantive divergences in the pedagogical approaches of my previous work in racism awareness and the contemporary use of unconscious bias forms of pedagogy within the Methodist church. Rather, my critique lies in the epistemological underpinnings of the latter and the developing approach to anti-racism that I am detailing in the second half of this paper.
For details on the Susanna Wesley Foundation, see (The Susanna Wesley Foundation 2020).
One can see examples of this in the research project that has given rise to the main outputs detailed in (The Susanna Wesley Foundation 2019).
For details on some of the criticisms directed at unconscious bias training, see (Noon 2017, pp. 98–209).
See (Reddie 2019).
See (Ray 2010).
See (Townes 2006).
See (Jennings 2011).
For an incisive and critical interrogation of the corruption of Christianity by notions of “race”, which assisted in the theological construction of chattel slavery, see (Carter 2008).
See (Hood  2000).
For a critical rereading of the Exodus narrative, which offers an anti-imperialist, anti-hegemonic hermeneutic, see (Warrior 1997, pp. 277–85).
For a wider discussion on the destruction consequences of the book of Joshua, see (Bridgeman et al. 2010, pp. 180–88).
See (Warrior 1997, pp. 277–85).
See (Hopkins and Lewis 2014).
See (Gerzina 1995).
See (Johnson 2004).
See (Hood  2000).
See (Douglas 2005).
See (Reddie 2007) for a more in depth analysis on this issue.
See (Reddie 2006b).
Mission Christianity is the form of Christian faith that went hand in hand with the British Empire. London Missionary Society evangelist and explorer David Livingstone is reputed to be the author of the infamous 3 Cs: Commerce, Christianity, and Civilisation. For further details, see (Nkomazana 1998).
See (Perkinson 2004, pp. 151–84).
See (Cone 2004).
Details of the EDI Toolkit can be found in (The Methodist Church n.d.a). The EDI Toolkit has become the new normative training resource for demonstrating the ethical approach to justice-making and equity within the Methodist church. The Toolkit is comprised of a number of modules that cover differing aspects of equalities, diversity, and inclusion from a legal and a faith-based perspective. Unconscious bias provides the underlying intellectual basis for the various exercises and units that comprise the Toolkit. In effect, there is a clear intellectual link between unconscious bias and the practical pedagogical resource that is the EDI Toolkit, which includes a plethora of fine and intelligent experiential learning resources that seek to conscientise participants in undertaking anti-oppressive forms of Christian ministry and activism.
See (Sugirtharajah 2003).
For details of this work, see (McIntosh 1990).
A classic example of this can be found in (McFarland 2001).
See (Webster 2009, pp. 42–79).
By this I mean how White authors write and speak in an alleged universal language and whose work then has universal applicability. See (Reddie 2006a, pp. 46–51).
For an insightful left-wing critique of Brexit that challenges class based notions of privilege and explores notions of White entitlement and racism, see (Younge 2016).
For an excellent example of this, see (Chaplin and Bradstock 2020), where a number of the contributors offer supportive accounts of the rise of White English nationalism (skirting over the rise in racist attacks and xenophobia) in terms of the sense of displacement, fear, and sense of being “left behind” felt by many White working class communities in the Britain. See also (Girma 2018, pp. 117–33; Nixon 2020).
In 1991, he retired early on health grounds, and he and Mother returned to Jamaica to live in retirement. My mother died in February 2014.
Of particular note are the chapters by Philip North “Brexit: competing visions of nation”, pp. 9–18, and Sam Norton, “Patriotism and theology will have to come together again: Royal Consciousness and the Church of England”, whose work argues in defence of White working-class people. At no point do either of them identify Black and Asian migrants as also belonging to the working class and having also suffered from economic deprivation. Both essays are to be found in (Chaplin and Bradstock 2020).
For further details on the death Clinton McCurbin see (Flash and Hyatt 2020).
Local preachers are non-ordained “lay” people on whom is conferred the authority to preach within the circuit in which they are authorised. For further details on the office of a local preacher, see (The Methodist Church n.d.b).
For details on the pulling down of Edward Colston statue, see (Jannesari 2020).
For a helpful distillation of the Black Lives Matter Movement see (Black Lives Matter 2020). See also (Lightsey 2015). Lightsey’s work seeks to examine the plural and intersectional nature of the Black Lives Matter Movement, which includes Black LGBTQI+ people, in order to reassert the primacy of all Black bodies mattering and not just respectable, heteronormative, church-going ones.
This comment is reflective of the push-back of “some” White Christians on social media responding to the threat to law and order and property. It is important to acknowledge the many Black Christians who have also shared their disquiet at the dangers of mob rule and the desecration of public monuments. I am forced to acknowledge that there are obvious dangers of untrammelled “violent” direct action of this sort. My comments are not an absolute endorsement of this action, but a criticism of the complicity of the authorities in the city to side with the blandishments of White supremacy that is exemplified in the maintenance of statue of Edward Colston in the first place.
For an excellent exploration of the ways in Black Christian faith has been an essential means of dealing with the environmental features of systemic racism that leads to disproportionate levels of mental ill health amongst African Caribbean people in Britain, see (Willis 2006).
An example of this can be found in (Dearden 2020).
For arguably the most comprehensive appraisal for the epistemological frameworks that have given rise to the predominance of a White Jesus, see (Kelley 2002).
Common Awards is a Church of England led, but ecumenical, validating mechanism for those for ordained and authored lay ministry in the major Historic churches in England. For more details see (Durham University 2017).
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Reddie, A. Reassessing the Inculcation of an Anti-Racist Ethic for Christian Ministry: From Racism Awareness to Deconstructing Whiteness. Religions 2020, 11, 497. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100497
Reddie A. Reassessing the Inculcation of an Anti-Racist Ethic for Christian Ministry: From Racism Awareness to Deconstructing Whiteness. Religions. 2020; 11(10):497. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100497Chicago/Turabian Style
Reddie, Anthony. 2020. "Reassessing the Inculcation of an Anti-Racist Ethic for Christian Ministry: From Racism Awareness to Deconstructing Whiteness" Religions 11, no. 10: 497. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100497