Historically, the early Christian churches in America were mostly interracial and attended by both African and European members. However, the reason for this “integration” was to ensure that enslaved Africans in the South could be watched, monitored, and taught that slavery and obedience were God’s plan and will for them. Africans were commonly told by the Christian church leaders to remember Paul’s admonition that “slaves should obey their masters,” or that they were slaves because they are members of the cursed descendants of Noah’s son and therefore have been chosen to be a “servant class.” Thus the Christian church in America that was founded and controlled by Europeans was one that preached and practiced a theology which supported the domination of whites over blacks. It was a theology which blessed slave ships and “justified” the mistreatment and enslavement of African Americans. These early “integrated” or “multi-cultural” congregations had African American bodies in the pews, although they were forced to sit in the balconies or in the back of the church, but they did not allow Africans equal participation in the leadership and decision-making structures or positions within their churches and denominations.Black churches were formed to give African Americans the freedom to worship without the tyranny of white oppression.
It is important to recognize the value and the role of these culture-based congregations. Likewise, it is a grave misunderstanding of these healing places to label the actions of these persons as “racist” or “reverse-racist.” Instead, we need to realize that this is the first step in healing for socially excluded or oppressed groups.