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Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity [Paperback]

By Edward Gilbreath (Author)
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Item description for Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity by Edward Gilbreath...

Journalist Edward Gilbreath gives an insightful, honest picture of both the history and the present state of racial reconciliation in evangelical churches. He looks at a wide range of figures, such as Howard O. Jones, Tom Skinner, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson and John Perkins. Charting progress as well as setbacks, his words offer encouragement for black evangelicals feeling alone, clarity for white evangelicals who want to understand more deeply, and fresh vision for all who want to move forward toward Christ's prayer "that all of them may be one."

Publishers Description
Merit Award, 2007 Christianity Today Christianity and Culture Book What is the state of racial reconciliation in evangelical churches today? Are we truly united? In Reconciliation Blues journalist Edward Gilbreath gives an insightful, honest picture of both the history and the present state of racial reconciliation in evangelical churches. In his thoughtful overview he looks at a wide range of figures, such as Howard O. Jones, Tom Skinner, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson and John Perkins. Charting progress as well as setbacks, his words offer encouragement for black evangelicals feeling alone, clarity for white evangelicals who want to understand more deeply, and fresh vision for all who want to move forward toward Christ's prayer "that all of them may be one." Now in paper

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Intervarsity Press
Pages   207
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.22" Width: 6.38" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2008
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830833625  
ISBN13  9780830833627  

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More About Edward Gilbreath

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Edward Gilbreath is the author of Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity. An award-winning journalist, he serves as an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and as the executive director of communications for the Evangelical Covenant Church. He was the founding editor of Urban Ministries Inc.'s online magazine, Urban Faith. Since the release of Reconciliation Blues, he has spoken to thousands of people across the nation at churches, conferences, and university campuses on issues of race, faith and culture.

Edward Gilbreath was born in 1969.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Relationships > General
Books > General Interest > Ethnic & Cultural > African American

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Reviews - What do customers think about Reconciliation Blues-Sc?

History lesson and informative read!!  Aug 6, 2008
As an African-American male who is a member of a predominantly white Evangelical mega-church, the title of this book jumped out at me, and that's why I was so eager to read it. I found the book to be very interesting, with many poignant history lessons, and I could definitely relate to the different prisms through which Christians from different racial backgrounds see God in our great country. Mr. Gilbreath does an excellent job, even using examples from his own life talking about the challenges, triumphs and setbacks in regard to racial-reconciliation. I wish many more people would read this book, because even though it is a touchy subject, I believe that Mr. Edward Gilbreath handles it with class and fairness and shows that he truly has a heart for reconciliation. I highly recommend this book to all Christians regardless of your racial or denominational background.
The Hard Road of Racial Reconciliation  Jul 23, 2008
Everyone views the world along an angle of vision that affects both how he interprets the world and lives within it. That angle of vision itself is formed by, among other things, time and place and creed and culture, not to mention the postmodern troika of race, sex, and class. To understand why a person interprets the world the way he does, then, we must begin by understanding the person.

Edward Gilbreath is editor at large for Christianity Today and editor of Today's Christian. These are two mainstream evangelical publications, placing Gilbreath firmly in the evangelical camp. In America, evangelicals are predominantly white, but Gilbreath is black. That status as a black evangelical gives Gilbreath a unique angle of vision, which he writes about in Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity.

In a moving paragraph, Gilbreath describes "the loneliness of being 'the only black,' the frustration of being expected to represent your race but being stifled when you try, the hidden pain of being invited to the table but shut out from meaningful decisions about that table's future. These 'reconciliation blues' are about the despair of knowing that it's still business as usual, even in the friendly context of Christian fellowship and ministry."

Gilbreath's story is not unique. Although much of Reconciliation Blues is autobiographical, Gilbreath also writes about such pioneering black evangelicals as evangelist Tom Skinner, publisher Melvin Banks, and activist John Perkins, not to mention other lesser-known pastors and professionals. They trod (and continue to tread) a lonely road within evangelicalism's predominantly white subculture.

Historically, that subculture was not friendly to black demands for civil rights. White evangelicals sat out the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Or worse, they rooted against its heroes. Gilbreath tells the story of Dolphus Weary who, as a student at Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master's College) heard white students laughing at the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Of course, that event is forty years in the past, and Gilbreath concedes that white evangelicals have made progress in their racial attitudes. But there are still blindspots. Gilbreath mentions the 2004 brouhaha over LifeWay Publisher's VBS curriculum, Rickshaw Rally, whose stereotyped artwork offended many evangelical Asians. Rather than admitting offense, LifeWay dug itself into a hole defending the curriculum.

For Gilbreath, as for many black evangelicalism, part of the problem with white evangelicals is institutional racism, defined by sociologist James Jones as "those established laws, customs, and practices which systematically reflect and produce racial inequities in American society."

Examples of this kind of racism include "the failures of public education (why are inner-city schools devoid of proper resources?), imbalances in our nation's criminal justice system (what's with the inordinate number of black males in prison?), and the inability of African Americans and other minorities to keep pace with their white counterparts (why do some banks charge higher rates on loans to African Americans and Latinos?)."

These examples of evangelical insensitivity and institutional racism raise political questions that make white evangelicals uncomfortable. Two of the more challenging chapters in the book are back-to-back chapters on politics: "Is Jesse Jackson an Evangelical?" and "God Is Not a Democrat or a Republican." Jackson is a lightning rod of controversy among conservative white evangelicals, both for his politics and for his personal indiscretions, but he is viewed with admiration by many in the black evangelical community for his social concern. Indeed, his heir apparent at Operation Push is a Bible-believing, black evangelical pastor named James Meeks. And while in the abstract many white evangelicals agree that God is not a partisan, they still have problems with the concrete practice of voting for Democrats that is so prevalent in the black evangelical community.

(Indeed, after reading Gilbreath, I began to wonder whether politics is a stalking horse for race in contemporary American culture. That is to say, I began to wonder how much of the tension between white and black evangelicals is due to political differences rather than racial ones.)

Gilbreath tells his story and provides challenging analysis, but throughout this book, his main concern is racial reconciliation among evangelicals. This was a prominent them among evangelicals in the 1990s. Promise Keepers made racial reconciliation one of its seven key promises. And white Pentecostal denominations (such as the Assemblies of God) disbanded the all-white Pentecostal Fellowship of North America and joined with black Pentecostals and others to form the multiracial Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America in 1994 (the so-called "Memphis Miracle").

Unfortunately, racial reconciliation has fallen on hard times. The first sentence of Gilbreath's book is the sentiment of a black female friend of his: "I'm sick and tired of racial reconciliation." And the Epilogue of the book describes a November 2005 conference of dispirited racial reconciliation leaders, Gilbreath among them. Despite the history, heartache, and hard work, Gilbreath isn't giving up on the dream of reconciliation. "I think about Jesus' prayer for his followers, `that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me' (John 17:21)."

As I said at the outset of this review, everyone has an angle of vision. Gilbreath has his, and I--white, Pentecostal, and politically conservative--have mine. But surely Jesus' angle of vision is the one that counts, the one that calls us to work through our differences to a higher unity based on our common life in him!
Very powerful  Jul 6, 2008
I've given up on racial reconciliation quite a few times. The first time was shortly after I discovered it due to my inability to sleep peacefully as I grappled with my newfound understanding of ethnocentrism. The second was when my Asian American husband and I left the segregated and monocultural Midwest for the more integrated and diverse landscape of the East Coast (where racism no longer exists, or so we thought...). The third was when the African American pastor of our mostly white urban church resigned, citing racial reasons as one of dynamics that shadowed his pastorate. The fourth and most recent was when we returned to rural Indiana to a landscape of, shall we say, far more (white) milk than (brown) honey. However, it gets a bit tricky to walk out completely on racial reconciliation when you're married to someone of another race.

Although I am white, I daily face racial issues through my children and husband. While I easily blend into the crowd, they never do, and I am regularly privileged to experience life through their eyes. In his book Reconciliation Blues: a Black Evangelical's View of Christianity (Intervarsity Press, 2006), Edward Gilbreath offers a similar gift. With painful honesty, he shares his experience of being an African American evangelical Christian in a white dominated church culture. Confronting the majority notion that racism in the church is not a pressing issue, Gilbreath observes that "something is still broken." He offers examples not only from his own life, but also from other African American Christians who struggle to interact with and trust white evangelicals.

While he concedes that the church has come a long way from the days of slavery, segregation and lynching, he still questions if we have come far enough, citing the lack of diversity in many Christian organization, and the white majority's unwillingness to genuninely submit to leaders from other cultures.

Gilbreath begins by describing his experience being the only black person in many evangelical Christian institutions and organizations. He speaks candidly of how he is often expected to speak for his entire race, and to `give in' to the white majority's unacknowledged ignorance of other cultures. "Many days the weight of it all leaves me exasperated," he writes. "Sometimes in the silent thumping of my heart, I am haunted by the thought that I will always carry the mantle alone - terrified by the realization that, on a daily basis, if I do not speak up to voice a nonwhite perspective, it will go unheard."

In addition to sharing about his personal experience, he offers portraits of other publically known black Christians such as Tom Skinner, Martin Luther King, Jr., and (gasp!) Jesse Jackson. Offering a fair treatment of each figure, he shows how their influence has both affected and been received by a white evangelical audience. He even explores how hot-button issues like political associations and cultural over-generalizations effect race relations within the church.

While a powerful read for those already in the throes of the reconciliation movement, I would also highly recommend Reconciliation Blues for those who have not yet entered. While the issue of racism - especially in the church - is never an easy one, Gilbreath addresses the issue much with gentleness and grace. His vulnerability is a sigh of relief for other nonwhite believers who share his experience of isolation, and a challenge to those of us who too often forget how much we have to learn.
Be Afraid ... Be Very Afraid  Feb 18, 2008
Be afraid? Not really, I'm kidding! But, let there be no mistake that Edward Gilbreath has something significant to say, and you had better be willing to have your comfortable evangelical faith tested. From cover to cover, this was an excellent book! I was especially grateful that Gilbreath's perspective intentionally went beyond just black and white. It is time that every Christian of every color should get with God's program of multi-ethnic evangelism and discipleship.
Did it need to be fixed? Did I miss something?  Nov 5, 2007
As a tenured white Christian, I grew up in a very bigoted community, went to a bigoted school, and grew up thinking "white flight" was just the way it was. I was convinced that going to a church in a multiethnic community had solved many of my ill-conceived notions of race. Like Mr. Gilbreath writes in the first line of his book, "I am sick and tired of racial reconciliation," so was I. Or so I thought. As the chapters of the book unfolded, I found myself getting angrier and angrier at the perceived "stones" that Mr. Gilbreath was throwing at the "church." And then my heart broke. I finally understood the ignorance I had toward a community that was oppressed; that I, unknowingly, oppressed. As Christ longed for us to love our neighbors, that process begins with getting to know our neighbors. I strongly believe that all believers need to have the veil of ignorance lifted by this book, so that the discussion, (and healing) can then begin.

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