Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity, By Edward Gilbreath

Reconciliation Blues

A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity

by Edward Gilbreath

Reconciliation Blues
  • Length: 207 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: May 21, 2008
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 3362
  • ISBN: 9780830833627

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Merit Award, 2007 Christianity Today Christianity and Culture Book

What is the state of racial reconciliation in evangelical churches today? Are we truly united?

In Reconciliation Blues journalist Edward Gilbreath gives an insightful, honest picture of both the history and the present state of racial reconciliation in evangelical churches. In his thoughtful overview he looks at a wide range of figures, such as Howard O. Jones, Tom Skinner, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson and John Perkins.

Charting progress as well as setbacks, his words offer encouragement for black evangelicals feeling alone, clarity for white evangelicals who want to understand more deeply, and fresh vision for all who want to move forward toward Christ's prayer "that all of them may be one."

Now in paper!

"Ed Gilbreath is one of those prophets who comes out of nowhere with a message from the heart of God. His words make us uncomfortable, but that is the mission of a prophet. . . . Some of what he is saying to us about race and culture is painful to hear, but we must listen."

J. Lee Grady, editor, Charisma magazine

"This is a gifted writer's firsthand account of the black evangelical experience in America . . . a beautifully written chronicle of the strange dilemma of being a black evangelical in a predominately white movement. Gilbreath has written a tough account of his experience as a black evangelical, and he wraps the brick in soft velvet. This reads easily, but it is deeply disturbing after all these years. Oh well . . ."

William Pannell, senior professor of preaching, Fuller Theological Seminary

"What Gilbreath has done in his well-researched and very personal book is not only to call out the black Christian experience as what it's always been--unique, pain-filled, rich and diverse--but he's given many African American Christians clear validation for not wanting to or having to assimilate into today's version of evangelicalism. Gilbreath has also given people like me--an Asian American Christian who's also felt like the 'token' nonwhite on historically white evangelical boards--more of a basis for our lingering sense of misgiving and even episodes of outrage. I am going to insist not only that my own church staff and leaders read this book; I'm also going to recommend highly that white Christian organizations with the stated goal of racial righteousness study and discuss it. This book clearly stands out among the many other great books on this subject because of the commitment and courage of the author."

Ken Fong, Senior Pastor, Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles

"This is must reading for anyone committed to racial reconciliation, but especially to white folks like me who have a long way to go in understanding our African American brothers and sisters."

Tony Campolo, speaker and author of Speaking My Mind

"Edward Gilbreath is a gentle prophet. He forces us to take another look at an issue that many wish would go away, but he does so in a way that encourages us to live up to what we believe. This book both prods us to racial reconciliation and models how to get there."

Philip Yancey, author of What's So Amazing About Grace?

"We've needed a book like this for a long time: strong writing, honest observations and hopeful assessments of a complex but nonnegotiable issue for Christians. By providing both a personal and social perspective of racial tensions within evangelical contexts, Ed Gilbreath has done us a great service--especially if we pay attention."

Jo Kadlecek, author and assistant professor of creative writing, Gordon College

"A fair and balanced, yet frank and honest, assessment of the state of evangelicalism in terms of racism and reconciliation. Gilbreath has lived and worked in the Euro evangelical community for much of his life. He is an appreciative, yet frustrated evangelical. . . . Edward Gilbreath writes with knowledge, sensitivity and insight in a way that will benefit both the Afro and the Euro reader."

Lowell Noble, Resident Professor, John M. Perkins Foundation

"This is a fine piece of work. Evangelical Christians need to hear it and take heed. I highly recommend this book."

John Perkins, Founder, John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development, Inc.

"Both loving and angry, but always true, Edward Gilbreath's brave exploration of 'white Christianity' takes a daring look at racial disconnection in the evangelical world, then challenges believers to do something redemptive to heal the problem. Bold, topical and urgently on time."

Patricia Raybon, author of I Told the Mountain to Move and My First White Friend

"Amazingly authentic! A must-read for anyone who wants insight about blacks who must dance on the evangelical floor of multiculturalism."

Dr. David Anderson, senior pastor, Bridgeway Community Church, and president, BridgeLeader Network

"Edward Gilbreath is one of the nation's foremost journalists on Christianity and race. Reconciliation Blues is a spellbinding first-person look into his world as he has navigated white evangelicalism. In the process, we are provided with both a powerful teaching tool and an eye-opening journey into what is white about American Christianity. People of all backgrounds will learn much by reading this engaging book."

Michael O. Emerson, Cline Professor of Sociology at Rice University and author of Divided by Faith

"While a powerful read for those already in the throes of the reconciliation movement, I would also highly recommend Reconciliation Blues for those who have not yet entered. While the issue of racism--especially in the church--is never an easy one, Gilbreath addresses the issue much with gentleness and grace. His vulnerability is a sigh of relief for other nonwhite believers who share his experience of isolation, and a challenge to those of us who too often forget how much we have to learn."

The Link Between, July 5, 2008

"[A] refreshing combination of truth telling and rebuke when necessary. Students of Christian history and ecclesiastical officials both within and outside the Evangelical tradition will be challenged by this frank and balanced assessment."

Lewis Brogdon in Religious Studies Review, July 2007

"[The author] paints a vivid picture of the Evangelical Church today as it pertains to racial reconciliation. Without sounding glib, Gilbreath helps us to understand that unity among people can only be achieved by reliance on God. When we trust in God's sovereignty to bring about reconciliation, we discover a divine grace that brings reconciliation and harmony among people."

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship website, July 11, 2007

"Congregations, sessions, Presbyteries and individuals interested in exploring how to go beyond superficial statements of inclusivity will find this easy-to-read but profound and provocative book an eye-opener."

Presbyterians Today Online, November 2007

"This could be one of the most powerful books you will read this year, one that explores a delicate topic without being so offensive or unreasonable that few will listen."

Ken Walker, Charisma, March 2007


Prologue: Singing the "Reconciliation Blues"
1: Living in Two Worlds
2: "Evangelical"--There's Just Something About That Name
3: "Why Do All the Black Students Sit Together?"
4: A Prophet Out of Harlem: The Legacy of Tom Skinner
5: The First Shall Be Last--On Being the "First Black"
6: When Blacks Quit Evangelical Institutions
7: Waking Up to the Dream--Evangelicals and Martin Luther King Jr.
8: Is Jesse Jackson an Evangelical?
9: "God Is Not a Democrat or a Republican"
10: The "Other" Others
11: Let All Creation Sing
12: Getting Preachy
Epilogue: Do We Still Need Racial Reconciliation?
Discussion Guide


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Edward Gilbreath

Edward Gilbreath is an award-winning editor, journalist, and author, who currently serves as the vice president of strategic partnerships at Christianity Today. He has served as the executive director of communications for the Evangelical Covenant Church, an editor of numerous magazines, the founding editor of Urban Ministries Inc.'s, and an executive editor at InterVarsity Press. His books include Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's Inside View of White Christianity and Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Epic Challenge to the Church.