5th July 2018
Since moving to join the King’s team two years ago, the subject that I have had the most to learn about has been the subject of diversity. I didn’t know much history (of Africa, empire, white supremacy, slavery, the civil rights movement, more recent developments in America and Britain); I knew even less about the lived experiences of minorities in contemporary Britain and in the church. So, in moving from a largely white context to a church in south-east London, I had a lot of catching up to do. Good resources—books, articles, podcasts, videos, and so on—were hugely important to me.
Occasionally people ask me which resources I have found particularly helpful. So here is my top ten:
1. Christian Smith and Michael Emerson, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. Don’t worry that it’s US-based: the issues are almost identical in the UK, and their uncomfortable thesis (that evangelical Christianity usually makes the problem worse, not better) is both very challenging and very persuasive.
2. Duke Kwon’s message at LDR on “Speaking the Truth in Love.” As an Asian-American, Duke has a unique perspective on black/white relations, and this message is the best single talk I heard last year.
3. David Anderson’s books Gracism (which King’s used as a preaching series ten years ago) and Letters Across the Divide (in which David exchanges letters with a white man who has objections and questions) are very helpful in “earthing” some of the issues, especially for white pastors.
4. Thabiti Anyabwile’s Top Ten Tips for Talking About Race are very helpful. Six years later, he wrote this, which is excellent at a more congregational level. Thabiti is one of the outstanding voices on this subject worldwide, and virtually everything he writes on it is worth reading.
5. Because so many of these resources are US-based, I think it’s also helpful to get a punchy account of black British history, so that we don’t imagine this is only something Americans struggle with. I found the history chapter in Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race very helpful.
6. The subject of privilege, and particularly white privilege, is massive, but I’ve pulled clippings of three helpful treatments together here.
7. I have found it hugely helpful to have a perspective on African history more generally, not least because African history and heritage is so often decentred in favour of European history. Martin Meredith’s The Fortunes of Africa is magnificent, but it’s also long, so my summary is here. From a historical point of view, it is also extremely valuable to read the African church fathers—many white people (and some non-white people!) do not know that most of the key Christian theologians of the first few centuries were African—like Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius and Augustine.
8. Taking a more medium-to-long-term view, we obviously need to go beyond one-off reads (as helpful as they are), and make sure that we are regularly seeing the world from a diverse range of perspectives; otherwise, we fall into the trap of seeing something as "the black community’s view” on X or Y, when things are always more complicated than that. For me, Twitter really helps, and I’ve found it especially illuminating to follow @ThabitiAnyabwil, @DukeKwonDC, @JemarTisby, @TheoChick, @TrilliaNewbell, @Mika_Edmondson, @BCWLindsay, @DrCEdmondson, @CarlEllisJr, @JasmineLHolmes and @JackieHillPerry. I also listen to the “Pass the Mic” podcast and keep an eye on thewitnessbcc.com. Reading cultural influencers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Gary Younge, Afua Hirsch and others is also very eye-opening, even though (or because!) you don’t agree with everything.
9. A number of resources that have really helped me have been TV shows and movies: Stephen: The Murder that Changed a Nation, Roots, OJ: Made in America, 13th, Selma, even Black Panther. They’re not made to help white pastors handle issues of diversity, but they do anyway.
10. Most recently, the messages from April’s www.mlk50conference.com are all free to watch online. The panel discussions, short talks and main sessions are all outstanding, and by being grounded in Scripture, they provide hope in the midst of the challenges.
On top of all this, the one irreplaceable thing is the most obvious one: eating with, talking to and building good friendships with people from different ethnic backgrounds, both inside and outside the church. Our Invited series last year was a fantastic invitation to the whole church to do that, and it’s hard to quantify how much this helps. I hope some, or all, of that may help you as you wrestle with this massively important subject.
Andrew Wilson is the Teaching Pastor at King's and is responsible for much of the preaching and teaching. Andrew has a PhD in theology, has written numerous books and regularly blogs at thinktheology.co.uk.
Steve Tibbert is on sabbatical and will return in September.
Posted by Andrew Wilson
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham and Lee. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.