Celebrating Black History Month | Charles Octavius Boothe

Charles Octavius Boothe was a 19th-century Black theologian who penned the words:

How they will be stimulated to labor and give and pray for the gathering of every creature in the world into the fold of Christ, when they love God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, ‘with all their heart, and soul, and might, and mind, and strength,’ and really and truly love their neighbor as themselves!

This excerpt is from his Plain Theology for Plain People, which Boothe wrote as a way of taking the lofty doctrines of our faith and putting them into terms we can all grasp. He wrote with both common laypeople and future leaders in mind, reminding us that the gospel isn’t exclusive: It’s not exclusive in who it reaches; it’s not exclusive in where it applies.

Born a slave in Alabama in 1845 and dying during the height of Jim Crow and lynching terror, Boothe didn’t let his circumstances prevent him from pressing into the gospel—and calling others to press into that gospel, too.

At a time where much of the Black Christian tradition was mainly oral and obscured because of racial bias, Boothe did something quietly radical: He positioned himself, not primarily in the Black tradition, but first and foremost, in the broader Christian tradition. Because of that, Boothe’s theological work—simple, clear, and profound—has endured nearly two centuries.

Boothe never lost sight of the gospel implications toward multiethnic unity and cooperation! May we learn from the hope, love, and faithfulness of Charles Octavius Boothe! 

Would we be stirred in worship and unity today:

What a power the believers in Christ will be in this world, where such multitudes are hateful and hating one another, when they all come to abound in deep, pure, fervent love to God and to their neighbors!