The following post comes from CBF interim executive coordinator, Pat Anderson.
Carolyn and I had the great pleasure and privilege to worship at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We were warmly welcomed, genuinely moved in worship, challenged and ministered to. The two-hour worship service felt too short. I am still choked up by the experience.
But, the inescapable truth is that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is still an extremely segregated hour in America. Although we share almost every aspect of life in America as black and white citizens, and our culture has been enriched beyond measure by the different cultural influences we share together, the historic strengths of black Baptist churches have not migrated into historic white Baptist churches. Oh, we try in our white churches to clap our hands, sway with music, enjoy the movement of the Spirit of God, find respite from the cares of this world, gain insight and challenge for the facing of our days, focus on the social aspects of the Gospel…still, something is missing in the all-white church.
We are too white. Too much white is not a good thing. Salt, for instance. The teaching of Jesus that we followers of his are the salt of the earth notwithstanding, too much salt is not good. My doctor tells me that too much salt contributes to my hypertension and other ailments that can cause strokes and other debilitating events. Perhaps, as with seasoning salt, some pepper in our churches could help us avoid the paralyzing strokes that seem to have occurred in some of our white congregations.
Too much white processed sugar is not a good thing. I love it in my sweet tea, but we all know that the sweet stuff makes us fat, contributes to heart disease, slows us down, clogs our arteries. Perhaps too much white in some of our lethargic, sick churches is part of our problem. Perhaps some golden honey or brown sugar would keep things sweet but help us be healthier.
White bread is not a healthy food. We need whole wheat, maybe some rye or other variety with our sandwiches, rolls, and buns.
We used to be too male in our ministry corps. The sight of women preachers, music ministers, youth ministers…not to mention deacons…used to be completely out of the life experience of most white Baptists. Today, it is less of an anomaly, but still not fully present in our churches.
Here’s what we did in CBF to facilitate an increase number of women in ministry: we sent church search committees resumes of women. When churches contact the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship offices and ask for the names of prospective ministers, we have taken special care to be sure to include women, yes, binders full of women, for churches to consider. It is up to the church to determine whether to take advantage of the gifted women available for service, but from the vantage point of CBF we know how wonderful our ministers both male and female are and a church can expect to learn of the availability of both genders.
I met a young man in Boston recently, a divinity student from Birmingham, Alabama studying at Harvard Divinity School. He studied at Stanford in California, now at Harvard. He sings like an angel, preaches with great fervor, relates to people with charm and humor and humility. Upon completion of his degree he wants to return to the South and minister. The congregation fortunate enough to worship under his leadership will be blessed, white or black or brown or mixed. He is not alone. The devoted and talented young persons of color available to our churches are legion.
When a church is looking for ministers, and ask CBF for help, if we have the resumes of talented persons of color, they will be sent. The next move after that is the church’s. From my vantage point I believe many of our congregations would be revived with some pepper, and honey, and wheat bread.