Why We Fail to Progress Past Ferguson | J.D. GREEAR

J. D. GreearWith all the developments of Ferguson and now the tragic Eric Garner case, I’ve been trying to process what it means to be a follower of Christ in a moment like this. I am grateful for those who have explained the nuances of both “sides;” particularly for African American friends and fellow pastors who patiently have helped me understand the bigger picture from their perspective. It does seem that despite millions of blogs and endless hours of discussion on cable news networks, we aren’t making that much progress—though I suppose having the discussion itself is significant progress.

I want to suggest that this lack of progress comes from both “sides” failing to heed two of the Bible’s most cherished principles about conflict resolution. They are to listen before, and more than, we speak (James 1:19); and to consider the interests of others (including other communities) to be more important than our own (James 2:1–4). Continue reading →

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One Response to Why We Fail to Progress Past Ferguson | J.D. GREEAR

  1. One of the ironies of Ferguson is that the church which licensed and baptized me to the Gospel ministry is now located there, albeit under another name. I was converted 12-7-57, 57 years ago yesterday on Saturday night after an unusual happening at a Youth for Christ in St. Louis. The next evening, Dec. 8, I went forward at the church where my mother and sister attended, the Calvary Baptist Church in the Walnut Park area of St. Louis. The following Sunday, Dec.115, the pastor, Rev. Nelson Reagan, who had been an Intermediate Youth Leader at Bellevue under Dr. R.G. Lee, baptized me. The church licensed me to the Gospel ministry on Sept. 7, 1958. The same church under the leadership of Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, who had been Associate Pastor to Dr. Lee at Bellevue, ordained me to the ministry, May 20, 1962, at the request of the Pilot Knob Baptist Church of Belle, Mo. At the time Calvary was very much a racist Southern Baptist Church. They would not even admit a Native American, which, if I had known (as some of my ancestors were Cherokees), I would not have joined. Later Dr. Campbell would have an American Indian, a graduate of SWBTS, preach a revival at Calvary. Then the church under his leadership moved to Jennings Station Road to escape the influx of African Americans into the Walnut Park neighborhood. While there, there began to receive African Americans into the membership of the church. One Black member, an engineer at McDonnell Douglas became the chairman of deacons. Later, the church declined, united with another church, and became the Oak Hill Baptist Church now located in Ferguson. They have an African American as chairman of deacons, and two thirds of the membership are African Americans. I did hear a few years ago that the church had called a White pastor. He is still there. Just think: A once racist church is now two thirds black and has a White pastor, and they are located in the city where all of the riots took place. In talking to one of the members I heard about African Americans whose places of business were looted and burned. My training, as a historian, is in African American History or Black History as it was called then. I graduated from a Black University, Lincoln in Mo., in 1967, was recommended by a Black professor at Morehead State in Kentucky to teach at South Carolina State, where I served as an Instructor from 1970-1972 before attending SEBTS. During the Summer of 1971, while attending Columbia University in NYC, I wrote a Prospectus for a Doctoral Dissertation in Black History. In 1975-76 I did my Project for the Doctor of Ministry at SEBTS on the subject, “Christian Love & Race Relations” and received that degree in May, 1976. And this was done without the support of the institution, when it was supposedly liberal and even noted as the most liberal seminary in the Southern Baptist Convention. My project director told me, “You ought to have known better than to select a controversial topic like that. If that church fires you, I will be right there behind them, supporting them.” Being a hoe hand from Arkansas, where you finish the row of cotton regardless of its length or condition (meaning how overgrown with weeds, etc.), I finished the project without getting fired. The real reason for the project would not appear for another 20 years, when one of the deacons and his wife had Black grandsons, the result of their son marrying an African American lady. There is nothing like grandchildren to completely transform peoples outlook on such a subject as race.

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