The American Black Church Experience: A conversation with Dr. Julius Bailey of San Francisco Theological Seminary

I loved getting to sit down with Dr. Julius Bailey, the Eugene Farlough-California Chair in African-American Christianity at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and a professor of Religious Studies in the University of Redlands College of Arts & Sciences. It was an honor to hear his wisdom on questions like: 

  • What roles have traditional African religions played in the formation of American Black Churches?
  • How much do you see the Black Church in America as having been influenced by white settler colonial Christianity and to what degree do you see Black American Christianity as an emancipatory, decolonial alternative to white Christianities?
  • For those who grew up in various streams of American Black Christianity and have left the(ir) church, what do you wish they knew about her diverse expressions?
  • For those who aren’t intimately familiar with American Black churches, what do you wish we knew about her spiritual expressions, cultures, and impacts on American history in general?
  • How have new religious movements and parallel religious streams (such as the Nation of Islam, the Five Percenters, and United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors) influenced Black American Christianity and vice-versa?
  • How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted American Black Church culture and praxis?
  • …and more!

You can catch our entire conversation right here:


Please let me know which question(s) stirred you the most in the comments!

And if you’d like the opportunity to study directly with Dr. Bailey and other renowned faculty, check out the San Francisco Theological Seminary at the University of Redlands Graduate School of Theology. As a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), their students have access to over 200 faculty in the largest consortium of graduate theological education in North America, while maintaining a small, personalized learning environment. I really appreciate their educational approach toward critical thinking, rooted in the intersection of spirituality, theology, biblical studies, and social justice. SFTS runs absolutely brilliant online and on-site programs addressing a variety of urgent spiritual, ministerial, developmental, and even entrepreneurial needs, all with small classrooms and an artisanal level of attention on every student. You can learn more here

2 Responses to The American Black Church Experience: A conversation with Dr. Julius Bailey of San Francisco Theological Seminary

  1. MT October 27, 2022 at 8:30 am #

    I wonder what Dr Bailey thinks about what appears to me (I’m not so familiar with the Church in America, I am Catholic in the UK and our history here is very different) to be segregation being practiced in the Catholic Church in the USA? I can see that there may be apparent Church segregation there based on nothing more than regional populations. But regional populations are themselves often shaped by bias and prejudice in a culture where there is not really equal opportunity for every child (USA is not unique in this but life opportunities there do seem hugely varied and to some extent appear effectively determined). I wonder if dr Bailey can throw any light on the Catholic Church and it’s role in bolstering (however ‘unwittingly’) racial prejudice and effective, if not deliberate, segregation? Does Dr Bailey know how Catholic dioceses manage this? Are they (Catholic dioceses) conscious of and working towards minimising segregation and increasing the sense of the Body of Christ being all one with all parts equal and equally valued? Do Catholic bishops put ‘white’ priests in ‘white’ parishes and ‘black’ priests in ‘black’ parishes and ‘Asian’ priests in ‘Asian’ parishes? Or would they consider this to be racist? Are people who are from the original population in the States, black, or Asian or Spanish speaking represented more or less proportionally to their population numbers in the Catholic Church in the USA? If not, why does he think this is?

    Thanks for this really interesting and thought provoking conversation.

  2. Joe Masterleo October 31, 2022 at 7:59 am #

    Hi, Mike. Thanks for this column and the opportunity to comment. Diversity and inclusiveness are the hallmarks of any mature consciousness and/or spirituality, the One having become the many in creation and creative expression. For sure, something to acknowledge, embrace, and celebrate universally. But that’s not new. Seems what’s needed along future-looking lines is a novel third tier or non-dual perspective (consciousness) that only the contemplative tradition can offer, explaining the Teilhardian vision on how the age of nations, tribes, and religions are vestigial en route to extinction. That is, explaining how they’re evolving in the direction of a unitive consciousness that rests on a novel synthesis of science and religion, one harmonizing with all fields of knowledge. We know each raindrop (soul) originates from and returns to its Source (ocean) in choreographies of oneness and separateness. The new paradigm will identify and explain the opposite tension between ocean and raindrop. That is, how the ocean fits into each drop (atom) non-locally at all scales. Such would create the healthiest integral paradigm and tension between the One and its diverse expressions in the many — particularly in religion.The created order along global lines, no matter how distinctive, differentiated, and tiered in complexity, is but terrestrial (or terrestrian). No other distinction is necessary because it’s the plane that all things live, move, and commonly have their being in along material lines. What remains is the advent of identifying the single universal element that’s the substance of ALL their visible forms, explaining how it joins them along transcendental lines. The empirical sciences have yet to “get at” this mysterious incoherent element because it lies in liminal space, beyond the knowing/knowledge they exclude. And the religious have yet name it because it lies in the domain (science) they also tend to exclude, usually for wont of depth or integral knowing. Instead, true to dualistic form, religious tend toward non-unitive pride in defining and defending their distinctive creeds bs other siloed religions and disciplines.

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