Transforming race, class, and gender relationships within the United Methodist Church through Wesleyan theology and Black Church interpretive traditions

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Otto D. Harris III (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Kathleen Casey

Abstract: In this dissertation, I analyze the historic and present social conditions of The United Methodist Church within the context of American culture. I also present strategies for reconciliation among estranged Black and White race groups, socioeconomic class groups, gender erotic predisposition groups, and ethnic groups other than Black and White. I use the theoretical lens of Black church interpretive traditions intersecting with Wesleyan theology. J. Deotis Roberts (1971/2005) proclaims, "The black church, in setting black people free, may make freedom possible for white people as well. Whites are victimized as the sponsors of hate and prejudice which keeps racism alive" (p. 33). The Black church is distinct from mainstream American church in that the Black church offers more upbeat and up-tempo worship, rhythmic preaching, gospel songs and spirituals through choirs with improvisational lead singers, call and response interaction between the preacher and the congregation, sermons that held justice and mercy in tension through hope, and worship experiences that are not constrained by time limits. From the Black experience in America, the Black church offers a profound response for existential predicaments related to "life and death, suffering and sorrow, love and judgment, grace and hope, [and] justice and mercy" (McClain, 1990, p. 46). I draw from the statements of priorities of United Methodist theorists (seminaries and theological schools) and practitioners (annual conferences) to critique collective expressed values and behaviors of United Methodists. Also, from congregations in the Western North Carolina (Annual) Conference of The United Methodist Church, I analyze narratives from personal interviews of pastors of congregations that have a different majority race composition than their own, of pastors of multi-ethnic congregations, and of congregants from multi-ethnic congregations. I suggest that the social history and present social conditions of The United Methodist Church are perplexing, particularly concerning Black and White relations. However, The United Methodist Church has the mandate, heritage, responsibility, organizational structure and spiritual capacity to contribute to substantive and sustainable reconciliation in the Church and in American society.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
Black church, Church and society, Interpretive tradition, Irreconciliation, Social frame, United Methodist
Methodist Church $x Doctrines
Race relations $x Religious aspects
Black theology
African American churches
Church and the world

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