The Antioch Podcast began as a way to allow for worship leaders with young families at Madison Church to get “continuing education” on best practices for leading multiethnic church congregations in worship. It turned out that we needed to talk about so much more.
Madison Church is a multiethnic church, founded in 1915, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In recent decades it has expanded to three campuses in the Grand Rapids metro area, each continuing the mission of the church to Follow Christ Together as Diverse Communities. As multiethnic congregations, this means that having anti-racist values and principles guiding our policies and community life is essential to living out our mission. Madison Church is aware of the growing body of research showing that majority-white multiethnic congregations tend to be places where people of color often acquiesce to the opinions and preferences of their white brothers and sisters, assimilating to or accommodating the cultural norms of the white majority, as opposed to being spaces where equity and mutual submission characterize the life of the church. The Antioch Podcast is one of many ways Madison Church attempts to change this.
When the Antioch Podcast began in the summer of 2015, racial divisions in American Christianity were intensifying in ways not experienced in recent memory. These tensions revealed themselves more fully in the aftershocks of the presidential election later that fall. 81% of white Christian Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump whose campaign had been marked by the frequent use of racial stereotypes and anti-immigrant fear-mongering (among other problematic behaviors), in large part setting the stage for the parallel rise of white nationalism and racially-motivated hate crimes in the United States. At a minimum, the tolerance for racially-insensitive speech among white Christians seemed to have shifted, and people of color and some white allies recoiled. While these shockwaves affected many churches, they were perhaps most felt in majority-white multiethnic churches, where many people of color began leaving to find other places in which to worship. Madison Church was also affected. The Antioch Podcast realized that unless we could more clearly show how working for all kinds of justice (including racial justice) was an implicit aspect of Christianity, merely talking about best practices in multiethnic worship was meaningless. We needed more than learning how to worship well together – we needed to learn how to listen to and understand one another at a more basic level. We needed to fundamentally share one another’s burdens, and we couldn’t do that if we racially-divided Christians can’t talk at a deep enough level to know specifically what one another’s burdens even are.
So we made a pivot, and made it our mission to try to model how to have conversations about Biblical Anti-Racism. This journey has been imperfect, difficult and deeply rewarding. If you listen, you will hopefully hear us as we challenge one another and grow, because we don’t have all the answers either. We are trying, however, to ask some of the right questions with the context of committed Christian friendship. But we hold on to the hope that if we continue to persevere at “…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15 NIV