The Great Divide


Recently an article on the holiness tradition of women in ministry, printed six years ago in Christianity Today, was brought to my attention.  It’s a really good article, but there was one paragraph that grabbed my attention.  As we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this week, I thought it was a great example of the struggles of those who have been oppressed by racism and sexism.  And I began to wonder why, over 100 years since this woman minister wrote this, the church is still the most racially segregated entity in our country.  I think that we should all think more about that, and what role communication plays in perpetuating the divide or tearing down the walls.

African Methodist Episcopal preacher, singer, missionary, and orphans’ home founder Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915)…though highly esteemed in holiness circles, still felt frequently the sting of racism. She wrote at one point in her autobiography, “I think some people would understand the quintessence of sanctifying grace if they could be black about twenty-four hours.”

Here’s the challenge to those who preside over the pulpit: you can’t change your race, gender, or circumstances for 24 hours, but you can spend time with people of different races, genders, and circumstances.  You cannot begin to speak to people if you have not begun to hear people.  If the only people who are influencing you look like you, talk like you, and live like you, then how can you hope to influence people who do not?

(There is obviously a lot more to this topic than a question of communication.  I encourage you to read the article and comment on your thoughts.)

Woodruff Tait, J. (2004). I received my commission from Him, brother: How women preacher built up the holiness movement. Christianity Today, 82.  Retrieved from


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