Jurrita Williams often finds herself grieving alone when she sits among the crowded pews of her church.
Following tragic events — like the shooting massacre of nine African-American Christians at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, or the more recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly — she waited to hear them mentioned by her white pastor.
Williams, an Alabama native who is attending seminary in Dallas, attends a white church she loves. But while her white brothers and sisters have embraced her, they don’t respond to racial events with the same level of sadness. And, short of a major event, race is rarely discussed.
“Even though they’re Christians, even though they follow Jesus, they separate … the gospel with social issues,” said Williams.
But in the wake of Charlottesville, she and many other black Christians say it’s time for evangelical leaders to address racial discrimination, attacks on undocumented immigrants and police brutality.
“For me, there is a separation between your gospel and my life,” Williams said. “I think we can do both and not separate them from who I believe our Savior is.”
Many evangelical leaders don’t mind discussing issues like abortion or sexuality, but skirt the issue of race, says Nicola Menzie, of Brooklyn, who is editor and publisher of Faithfully Magazine, a digital publication for Christians of color and women. Even though race may be on the “hearts and minds” of people in their congregations, she argues in the current issue that racism is crippling the church.
“Even to simply say, racism is wrong. Racism is counter to the Christian message,” Menzie said.