Stephanie Spellers’s bold, practical wisdom for American Christians

Kenosis, solidarity, and discipleship

Now is the time, writes Stephanie Spellers, for “individuals, congregations, and entire church bodies to follow Jesus, lose the life bound up with empire and domination, and be reborn as disciples who seek God’s community of love.” Bold and challenging statements like this one characterize the new book by the canon for evangelism and reconciliation to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. The Church Cracked Open is a wake-up call for American Christianity to face the reality that it has not followed Jesus as it should.

Spellers uses the story of the woman breaking open the alabaster jar to anoint Jesus (Luke 7:36–39) to symbolize how the American church has been cracked open by the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide racial tension. However, she adds, the American church must rethink Christianity before attempting to reassemble what is broken. Supported by facts and facing the truth of her own denomination’s history, Spellers courageously challenges American Christians to have tough conversations surrounding imperialism, racism, and self-centrism. Moreover, she offers solutions that bring us back to what Jesus intended the church to look like and function.

Spellers begins the book by addressing the current realities involving “dominant American Christianity,” which she defines as “the broad community of majority White, mainline Protestant and evangelical churches.” Her precision in defining various Christianities at the outset is essential, because the book’s central theme is the cultural domination of one group over other groups to advance its own interest in a way that is contrary to the reign of God. Spellers uses her own Episcopal denomination as the core example of how American Christians have elevated Whiteness, Eurocentrism, and social class above the loving community Jesus desired for the church to create.