At the time Vincent Bacote wrote “The Results of a Theological Failure,” I was fully steeped in the Afrocentric movement and a devotee of Louis Farrakhan. I was not interested in joining the Nation of Islam, but I was captivated by Farrakhan’s messages. In fact, for a period of time I would go to sleep every night while watching the video of his 1985 speech at Madison Square Garden. To me, in those days, Christianity was indeed “the white man’s religion.” I had rejected the Christian faith of my upbringing to embrace a Black nationalistic worldview that seemed to provide a better, more militant response to injustice and racism. In many respects I was the object of Dr. Bacote’s concerns.

Obviously, my story did not end with my anti-Christian and Black nationalism views. I was brought into the story of the victory of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That victory guarantees that God is going to unite all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). God’s victory in Christ is an animating charge for his people to pursue the unity in diversity that is sure to come when he returns to set all things right. It also means that we must, as Dr. Bacote says, face the truth around the racial divisions that continue to permeate the church in America. A unity devoid of truth is fragile and unstable. The truth is that the “lamentable history of white Bible-believing Christians on the question of race in the United States” is not simply a matter of historical reflection. Dr. Bacote is right to argue that this theological-ethical failure has not been overcome. It still has legs and manifests itself in the current conversation around race in the church.

The importance of engaging this truth with a thorough biblical apologetic remains a priority. I depart slightly from Dr. Bacote here on his point that Farrakhan does not have the same level of prominence or public influence. This may be true as it relates to what or who is on the radar of white Christians in the United States. The Nation of Islam still finds significant resonance among many black people in the urban context, and it is common for Farrakhan to gain a hearing many urban black churches. Indeed, there are other movements, like the Black Hebrew-Israelites, invisible to most white Christians, who are promoting answers to the question of race in the United States.

If the church in the United States is going to pursue unity in our diversity, it is imperative that she reckon with the history (and contemporary truth) of her complicity in racial inequity. Let me posit why this seems to be so difficult for white Bible-believing Christians. The shamefulness of it and the desire to distance ourselves from that shame is powerful. Dr. Bacote wrote,

While facing the truth will likely lead to sadness and guilt, the more important aspect is the cultivation of a willingness to cultivate and craft approaches to theology and church life that facilitate genuine community and mission among Bible-believing Christians of different ethnic backgrounds in general and between whites and African-Americans in particular.

In order to cultivate and craft approaches to the Christian life that facilitate genuine unity in diversity, we cannot be afraid to face the shame head-on. This is hard. Indeed, this is impossible apart from the Spirit of Christ working in, through and among us.

My mother’s side of my family is from Wilmington, NC. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY because the Great American Migration is a part of my family’s history. This is the mass exodus of black Americans from the southern states from 1900-1970. My grandmother left Wilmington for Harlem, U.S.A. in 1947 to pursue a better life and more opportunities for she and her children. Her six children remained in the Wilmington area with family until she could bring them up to be with her. I remember a conversation with my grandmother one Saturday morning at the kitchen table when I was an adolescent. Nana said that when she lived in Wilmington, there were days she woke up in the morning not knowing how she was going to feed her children that night. “But God always provided,” she said.

My mother saved her money and purchased a one-way train ticket to New York City in 1952. She was 15 years old. She finished high school in Manhattan, attended nursing school in upstate New York and went on to have a full and rewarding career as a nurse anesthetist and nursing school administrator. A few years ago, mom told me that she wanted to be a nurse for as far back as she could recall. Then she said, “But I knew there was no opportunity for me there in North Carolina.” She was ready to leave, be with her mother and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

Here’s why I’m including this personal story. I’m currently reading David Zucchino’s new book Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy. The short story is this. In 1898 Wilmington, NC was the largest city in the state and was 56% black. There were black elected officials, police officers and a thriving black middle (and some upper) class. This condition was intolerable to white supremacists. Those overt white supremacists (they called themselves the "white supremacy campaign”), plotted a government coup and massacre of blacks over the course of several months. They amassed weapons and ammunition during those months. They rigged the 1898 election through threats, physical violence and fake news. Two days after the election they began the slaughter of black men in Wilmington, also burning the building of the city’s black newspaper, The Record. The white church was not simply complicit in this coup, it was active in participating. White pastors were included in the white supremacist movement.

This story is unknown. My grandmother was born 18 years after the coup, in 1916. My mother was born in 1937. What if the white church refused to support this coup? What if they called the self-professing Christian white supremacists to live in line with the gospel? Would my mother have had to say, “there was no opportunity for me in Wilmington”? When I told her about this book a few days ago, she replied with utter surprise. She had never heard of this coup and massacre that drastically changed the course of her hometown only 39 years before her birth!

Why is the coup hidden? Shame. The uncovering of it, and facing the impact of the ripples that wash through the dynamics of the city, lie at the doorsteps of the church. This is because the church is a pillar and buttress of the truth. She upholds it for the world to see the way of Jesus and his power to reunite what is divided. The fear of dealing with the shamefulness of this history and its impact on contemporary life hinders the church from bearing witness to our communities that the love of Jesus Christ drives away our fear of confronting the shame of our past. It proclaims to our communities that Jesus’s church does not do cover ups. It’s the fear of shame and guilt that causes white Christians to run first to the cry of cultural Marxism or Social Justice Warrior before welcoming the need to experience the pain of that history and empathize with the people who have lived in those bitter waters. Dr. Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt hit this nail on the head in her 2018 Covenant College commencement address when she said,

“Sometimes we believe that dignity is a pie to be divvied up among us. We worry that if we grant dignity to one group’s suffering or accounting of history then there is less available for us. But this is foolish. We make God small when the reverse should be the case. For, after all, if Jesus is coming back to make all the sad things untrue, then the more sad things we know, the bigger Jesus must be to undo them. The cracks are already there. Calling out the brokenness does not diminish Jesus’s power. It magnifies it.”

Here is a closing and central truth to consider. These words we find in Scripture—renewed, reconciled, united—tell the story of reversing the fractures, divides, breaks and partitions of life in this world before God and one another. This reversal is promised and desperately needed. We are stamped from the beginning by God for unity and union, wholeness and shalom.

In fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. It was a culturally scandalous encounter for a Jewish rabbi and a Samaritan woman to be speaking together in public in the middle of the day. There was bad blood between the people of Israel and the Samaritans, and a history of hostility. Yet, when this woman meets with the one who is able to give her living water, she runs to her people and says, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29). This was a statement of joy even though Jesus had told her hard to hear truths about herself. Oh, that the church in the United States would be willing to plead with her Savior, “Please tell us everything we’ve ever done!” And that this plea would be made with a joyful expectation that as more and more of the shameful aspects of our history are revealed, the power of Jesus for healing and reunion would be magnified among us.


Rev. Dr. Irwyn Ince serves as a pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church of Washington, DC and as executive director of the Grace DC Institute for Cross-Cultural Mission. Dr. Ince and his wife, Kim, have been married 28 years and have four children. He is the author of the forthcoming book with InterVarsity Press, The Beautiful Community: Unity, Diversity and the Church at Its Best.

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At the time Vincent Bacote wrote “The Results of a Theological Failure,” I was fully steeped in the Afrocentric movement and a devotee of Louis Farrakhan. I was not interested in joining the Nation of Islam, but I was captivated by Farrakhan’s messages. In fact, for a period of time I would go to sleep every night while watching the video of his 1985 speech at Madison Square Garden. To me, in those days, Christianity was indeed “the white man’s religion.” I had rejected the Christian faith of my upbringing to embrace a Black nationalistic worldview that seemed to provide a better, more militant response to injustice and racism. In many respects I was the object of Dr. Bacote’s concerns.

Obviously, my story did not end with my anti-Christian and Black nationalism views. I was brought into the story of the victory of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That victory guarantees that God is going to unite all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). God’s victory in Christ is an animating charge for his people to pursue the unity in diversity that is sure to come when he returns to set all things right. It also means that we must, as Dr. Bacote says, face the truth around the racial divisions that continue to permeate the church in America. A unity devoid of truth is fragile and unstable. The truth is that the “lamentable history of white Bible-believing Christians on the question of race in the United States” is not simply a matter of historical reflection. Dr. Bacote is right to argue that this theological-ethical failure has not been overcome. It still has legs and manifests itself in the current conversation around race in the church.

The importance of engaging this truth with a thorough biblical apologetic remains a priority. I depart slightly from Dr. Bacote here on his point that Farrakhan does not have the same level of prominence or public influence. This may be true as it relates to what or who is on the radar of white Christians in the United States. The Nation of Islam still finds significant resonance among many black people in the urban context, and it is common for Farrakhan to gain a hearing many urban black churches. Indeed, there are other movements, like the Black Hebrew-Israelites, invisible to most white Christians, who are promoting answers to the question of race in the United States.

If the church in the United States is going to pursue unity in our diversity, it is imperative that she reckon with the history (and contemporary truth) of her complicity in racial inequity. Let me posit why this seems to be so difficult for white Bible-believing Christians. The shamefulness of it and the desire to distance ourselves from that shame is powerful. Dr. Bacote wrote,

While facing the truth will likely lead to sadness and guilt, the more important aspect is the cultivation of a willingness to cultivate and craft approaches to theology and church life that facilitate genuine community and mission among Bible-believing Christians of different ethnic backgrounds in general and between whites and African-Americans in particular.

In order to cultivate and craft approaches to the Christian life that facilitate genuine unity in diversity, we cannot be afraid to face the shame head-on. This is hard. Indeed, this is impossible apart from the Spirit of Christ working in, through and among us.

My mother’s side of my family is from Wilmington, NC. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY because the Great American Migration is a part of my family’s history. This is the mass exodus of black Americans from the southern states from 1900-1970. My grandmother left Wilmington for Harlem, U.S.A. in 1947 to pursue a better life and more opportunities for she and her children. Her six children remained in the Wilmington area with family until she could bring them up to be with her. I remember a conversation with my grandmother one Saturday morning at the kitchen table when I was an adolescent. Nana said that when she lived in Wilmington, there were days she woke up in the morning not knowing how she was going to feed her children that night. “But God always provided,” she said.

My mother saved her money and purchased a one-way train ticket to New York City in 1952. She was 15 years old. She finished high school in Manhattan, attended nursing school in upstate New York and went on to have a full and rewarding career as a nurse anesthetist and nursing school administrator. A few years ago, mom told me that she wanted to be a nurse for as far back as she could recall. Then she said, “But I knew there was no opportunity for me there in North Carolina.” She was ready to leave, be with her mother and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

Here’s why I’m including this personal story. I’m currently reading David Zucchino’s new book Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy. The short story is this. In 1898 Wilmington, NC was the largest city in the state and was 56% black. There were black elected officials, police officers and a thriving black middle (and some upper) class. This condition was intolerable to white supremacists. Those overt white supremacists (they called themselves the "white supremacy campaign”), plotted a government coup and massacre of blacks over the course of several months. They amassed weapons and ammunition during those months. They rigged the 1898 election through threats, physical violence and fake news. Two days after the election they began the slaughter of black men in Wilmington, also burning the building of the city’s black newspaper, The Record. The white church was not simply complicit in this coup, it was active in participating. White pastors were included in the white supremacist movement.

This story is unknown. My grandmother was born 18 years after the coup, in 1916. My mother was born in 1937. What if the white church refused to support this coup? What if they called the self-professing Christian white supremacists to live in line with the gospel? Would my mother have had to say, “there was no opportunity for me in Wilmington”? When I told her about this book a few days ago, she replied with utter surprise. She had never heard of this coup and massacre that drastically changed the course of her hometown only 39 years before her birth!

Why is the coup hidden? Shame. The uncovering of it, and facing the impact of the ripples that wash through the dynamics of the city, lie at the doorsteps of the church. This is because the church is a pillar and buttress of the truth. She upholds it for the world to see the way of Jesus and his power to reunite what is divided. The fear of dealing with the shamefulness of this history and its impact on contemporary life hinders the church from bearing witness to our communities that the love of Jesus Christ drives away our fear of confronting the shame of our past. It proclaims to our communities that Jesus’s church does not do cover ups. It’s the fear of shame and guilt that causes white Christians to run first to the cry of cultural Marxism or Social Justice Warrior before welcoming the need to experience the pain of that history and empathize with the people who have lived in those bitter waters. Dr. Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt hit this nail on the head in her 2018 Covenant College commencement address when she said,

“Sometimes we believe that dignity is a pie to be divvied up among us. We worry that if we grant dignity to one group’s suffering or accounting of history then there is less available for us. But this is foolish. We make God small when the reverse should be the case. For, after all, if Jesus is coming back to make all the sad things untrue, then the more sad things we know, the bigger Jesus must be to undo them. The cracks are already there. Calling out the brokenness does not diminish Jesus’s power. It magnifies it.”

Here is a closing and central truth to consider. These words we find in Scripture—renewed, reconciled, united—tell the story of reversing the fractures, divides, breaks and partitions of life in this world before God and one another. This reversal is promised and desperately needed. We are stamped from the beginning by God for unity and union, wholeness and shalom.

In fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. It was a culturally scandalous encounter for a Jewish rabbi and a Samaritan woman to be speaking together in public in the middle of the day. There was bad blood between the people of Israel and the Samaritans, and a history of hostility. Yet, when this woman meets with the one who is able to give her living water, she runs to her people and says, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29). This was a statement of joy even though Jesus had told her hard to hear truths about herself. Oh, that the church in the United States would be willing to plead with her Savior, “Please tell us everything we’ve ever done!” And that this plea would be made with a joyful expectation that as more and more of the shameful aspects of our history are revealed, the power of Jesus for healing and reunion would be magnified among us.


Rev. Dr. Irwyn Ince serves as a pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church of Washington, DC and as executive director of the Grace DC Institute for Cross-Cultural Mission. Dr. Ince and his wife, Kim, have been married 28 years and have four children. He is the author of the forthcoming book with InterVarsity Press, The Beautiful Community: Unity, Diversity and the Church at Its Best.

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