According to the news article written this week by Joe Westbury, The Christian Index’s managing editor, Mallary Baptist Association has separated itself from one of its churches on grounds of racism.
For three years Raleigh White Baptist Church in Albany shared its facilities with a growing African American congregation. The Raleigh White church was in a transitional neighborhood and experiencing a steady decline in attendance (averaging approximately 20 in attendance) and was happy to open their facility to church planter Marcus Glass and his small, but growing New Seasons Church.
Since the beginning of 2016 the New Seasons Church has baptized 163 new believers and effectively ministered to the community. However, over the course of time, Raleigh White became less welcoming and the relationship began to deteriorate as the New Seasons Church began to require more of the church’s facilities.
The tipping point occurred on February 18 according to Westbury, who wrote, “Raleigh White planned its annual homecoming and basically disinvited the African American congregation. (Read the story and you will see how the association attempted to resolve the situation with wisdom and grace, before finally making the heartbreaking decision to separate its relationship with the church.)
Butch Butcher, Georgia Baptist Mission Board specialist in church planting, commented, “Marcus Glass, the pastor at New Seasons, has been as patient and gracious as anyone could be in trying to work with the Raleigh White congregation.”
Through the years Southern Baptists have passed at least 18 resolutions on racial reconciliation or racism and Georgia Baptists have passed five such resolutions, but it would be difficult to pinpoint any kind of action that we have taken to actually implement any of those resolutions.
The Mallary Baptist Association under the leadership of Missionary Hans Wunch and Moderator William “Butch” Knight voted with regret to withdraw fellowship from the Raleigh White Baptist Church congregation until they repent of racism, which they declared would lead to immediate reconciliation.
The historic vote came on the eve of the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, on April 4, 1968. King dreamed of a day when his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Dr. King said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never be reality . . . I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
It would be wonderful if the fellowship of kindred hearts on earth was like to that above, but I suppose it will always be a work in progress. However, I find that our Black brothers and sisters in Christ are among the most gracious and respectful people on God’s green earth.
Georgia Baptists have a growing number of Black churches and they are making a vital contribution to our efforts of pushing back the lostness in our state.
On numerous occasions I have preached at Pinehurst Baptist Church in Columbus, where former GBC President Dr. Tony Dickerson is in his 45th year as pastor. The church is a predominately Black church and you will not find a more welcoming and gracious congregation anywhere than Pinehurst. I love that pastor and those dear saints of God.
For several years, Pastor Pozie Redmond has had me preach for special occasions each fall at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. This is one of our Convention’s largest Black congregations and the pure delight I receive from preaching at New Calvary is indescribable. I love the people in that church and I love Pastor Redmond. They know how to worship; and they know how to respond to preaching – even my kind of preaching.
Last month I got an invitation to preach from Pastor Grady Caldwell at New Mercy Baptist Church in Griffin – a wonderful Black congregation; and although my schedule would not permit me to go on the Sunday he requested, I love Brother Grady. He is a great Baptist leader, a wonderful author and a God-anointed preacher.
I could name dozens of wonderful Black pastors in our Georgia Baptist fellowship, but the point is this, if I may borrow some poignant and powerful words from Dr. King, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
I think the words of Dr. King are beginning to become a reality in some places, but it is also evident that we still have some work to do.