Archive for the ‘Baptists’ Category

You Baptists…

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Thought I’d poke fun at my Baptist friends today here on the blog. That’s right: Baptists. You know the ones who open their mouths and say things like, “I’m Baptist. What religion are you?” Don’t get upset: I’m married to a Baptist so you Baptists can’t be all that bad. In fact, every now and then you Baptists actually get it right. You actually act like Christians. LOL.

Take the Baptist church in DC where I spoke earlier this week. Okay, I confess: I preached a revival there. I spoke the choirfor their two Sunday morning services  and again on Monday and Tuesday nights. Baptists got me to do a revival. Something I rarely, rarely do at this age. I haven’t preached a revival in y-e-a-r-s.  Only a special Baptist church could get me to get me to do a revival. And Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, DC is a very special church. For one thing, it has a husband and wife  co-pastor team: Rev. Dr. Dennis and Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley, pastors, scholars, progressive theologians, and activists. Dennis has a Ph.D. in theology (specializing in liberation theology) from Union Seminary in New York and Christine has a D.Min in pastoral counselling from Garrett Evangelical Seminary. It was beautiful to behold the two of them ministering together. Equal authority. Equal burden. Equal pay. That’s what I’m talking about.

But having a husband and wife co-pastor team is not the only thing that makes Covenant special. The church is an open and welcoming congregation to all peoples, regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Of the seven houses of worship in Washington with predominantly African-American congregations that are welcoming to lesbians and gays, Covenant is the only Baptist church that welcomes and affirms gay and lesbian congregants. Gotta admit that the church went through a difficult patch a few years back when the pastors officiated at a union ceremony for a homosexual couple. Hundreds of members left the church because they  unable and/or unwilling to embrace a theology that embraced same-sex loving couples. Three years later the church is growing and rebuilding and a serves as a testimony to God’s love for all people. Now I like to think I’m pretty progressive and have worshipped in some pretty progressive environments, but I must say I was delightfully surprised to step up onto the pulpit this past Sunday morning where I was to speak for the Women’s Day service and find that the worship leader was a transgender woman in a man’s suit . “Alrighty Jesus,” I said to myself as I took her hand and smiled. I looked out at a  congregation  which on one hand looked like any other black Baptist church I’ve visited: young and old, DC natives and transplants from the south, male and female, poor and not-so-poor, young and old. And others. Lesbian and gays, some were couples with children, and some were not. And a sprinkling of white faces. “Perhaps I’m glimpsing what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like…” I thought to myself as I sat there singing and clapping with the rest of the Covenant congregation.

Finally, special shout out to St. Paul Baptist Church in Philadelphia for breaking with tradition and calling a woman Rev. Dr. Leslie Callahan to be the 5th pastor in the church’s 119 years of existence. Dr. Callahan is Assistant Professor of Modern Church History and African American Religion at New York Theological Seminary. Kudos to St. Paul Church and Pastoral Search Committee for their courage and vision. Those of you in the Philadelphia area should drop by St. Paul on Sunday, May 31st should go over and support my friend Leslie on her first Sunday there in the pulpit.  (Can’s join her on Sunday, leave her a message on her blog.) Leslie joins a small, but growing number of black Baptist churches across the country who have had the courage and good sense to call women to be their pastors.

Ah yes, you Baptists aren’t so bad afterall. I like Baptists today.  Even the one I’m married to.

(By the way, you Baptists: Christianity is a religion, a world religion in fact; and the Baptist tradition is one of many denominations, sects, subgroups within Christianity like Catholicism, Methodism, Episcopalianism, Pentecostalism, etc.)

Rev. Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell (1917-2008)

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Perhaps you didn’t know nor even notice. But a branch of our tree fell to the ground recently.

Dr. Ella Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell transitioned from time into eternity on Thursday, November 20, 2008, following complications of a stroke back in September. Dr. Ella, as she was called by many of us, was a teacher, preacher, wife, mother and outstanding author. She was hailed by many as the “Dean of Black Women Preachers.” for her multi-volume collection of sermons by black women preachers.

Dr. Ella was the first woman Dean of Sisters Chapel at Spelman College and also taught at the American Baptist Seminary of the West and the School of Theology at Claremont. Dr. Mitchell was editor of a five volume collection of black women sermons, Those Preaching Women, and with her husband of over 60 years a volume of their sermons Fire in the Well, as well as a joint autobiography of their years together as partners in marriage, ministry, and the movement for justice Together For Good,

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Dr. Ella was the third of four daughters of the late Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Joseph R. Pearson. She completed her secondary school education at the nearby Avery Institute and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama. Dr. Ella graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1943.  The second African-American woman to graduate from Union Seminary, Dr. Ella was licensed into the ministry in 1943 by the Church of the Master in New York City, where she served as Minister of Education for two years. She met and married her husband, Dr. Henry H. Mitchell while they were both students at Union.

In the early 1950s, after taking off six years for childbearing, Ella Mitchell resumed her career as an instructor in religious education at Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (now American Baptist Seminary of the West). From there she went on to Fresno State College, where she studied and taught early childhood education. From 1959 to 1973, she served on the Board of Educational Ministries of American Baptists, four years as its president. In the late 1960s, she was instructor of early childhood education at Compton College and at Santa Monica City College.

In 1974 Dr. Ella received the Doctor of Ministry degree from the School of Theology in Claremont, and four years later—after a ministry that spanned 35 years—she was finally ordained at Allen Temple Baptist Church, in Oakland, California.  Dr. Henry and Dr. Ella Mitchell served for many years as co-mentors in the Doctor of Ministry Program at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH and were founders of the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies in Los Angeles.

The last time I saw Dr. Ella was back in April in Fort Worth at the Brite Seminary Black Church Conference where she spoke, along with her husband of over 60 years, Dr. Henry Mitchell, about their long term marriage and co-ministry together. Her mind was as sharp as a tack and her recollections about those early years of ministry as a woman and marriage back in the day to an ambitious man were poignant and telling. Before Fort Worth she was in New Orleans holding court from her wheelchair there at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Church Conference revelling in the love and respect heaped on her by friends and admirers for all her years  as a trailblazer for black women in ministry and black women in the academy. Like another wheelchair bound trailblazer and contemporary of hers Dr. Dorothy Height, Dr. Ella refused to let old age and frail health keep her from meetings and events where the young needed reminding that the struggle did not begin with their generation.

Dr. Ella Mitchell was 91 years old at the time of her death and had been married for 64 years to Dr. Henry Mitchell. In addition to her husband, Rev. Dr. Ella P. Mitchell is survived by their two daughters, one son, and six grandchildren. The funeral will be held Tuesday, December 2nd at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA where Dr. Ella and Dr. Henry Mitchell have been members for many years.

Well done. Well done, Dr. Ella. Now rest from your labors.  We will not forget the model you left us nor the lessons you taught us.

Those who knew Dr. Ella and/or her work, feel free to share your memories.

Follow Up to “Them Baptists”

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Thanks Rev. Charlene Hill both for granting me permission to post here on the blog the response she got back from the folks at LifeWay after she wrote inquiring about their decision to pull from their shelves the Gospel Today issue featuring women pastors on its cover.  Let me warn you now that the letter says nothing new. But kudos to Charlene and the many others of you who made public your disagreement with LifeWay.  This is how community organizing starts and how change begins. One letter at a time.

Dear Charlene,

Thank you for your email of September 25, asking us for a response the article about LifeWay Christian Stores
removing the current issue of Gospel Today from the shelves.  I am pleased to respond.

Thank you for asking about this.  Many of the news media reports were not entirely accurate.
Simply put, we removed the September/October issue of Gospel Today magazine from the shelves
of LifeWay Christian Stores because the cover story, featuring female senior pastors, clearly advocated
a position contrary to our denomination’ s statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message.
We certainly understand that some customers have different positions on the issues and do not agree
with every point.  We also recognize that some customers like to read a variety of views on subjects
such as these to stay engaged in the culture.  For that reason, we have continued to make the magazine
available upon request to accommodate those needs as best we could.  To the extent possible, we try
to serve all Evangelical Christians with the products we carry in our stores.  If you
like, you may find The Baptist Faith & Message available as a free download

Thank you again for taking the time to write and ask about this article and for giving us the opportunity
to respond.  I sincerely hope this information will be helpful to you.


Jim Shull
LifeWay Christian Stores


Heck y’all, I’m grateful to folks like Jim Shull.

In fact, there’s a lesson in all of this.  Maybe God is showing us something in all that we’ve seen and witnessed over the past months. Something important. Something that’s supposed to open the eyes of those of us who’ve been shy about  questioning authority and afraid to challenge the way Scripture has been interpreted by those in charge.

Power comes from lying. Lying big, and gettin’ the whole  world to play along with you. Once you got everybody agreeing with what they know in their hearts ain’t true, you rule and you win.

Thanks John McCain, Lifeway Stores, and “Them Baptists.”  You’ve taught women like me a lot about power, politics, and truth over these last few months.

I’ll never be afraid again to see the world differently, nor will I ever again be made to feel guilty about using my influence to persuade others to see the world as I do.

Blessings to you too Jim, et al.

Them Baptists…(Southern Baptists, that is)

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Here I was scrambling to find something to close the week out on when my dear friend Claudette sends me a link to a story that appeared yesterday in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. It seems like those Baptists are up to it again, this time it’s the Southern Baptists. Miscreants! Plebeians! Barbarians! Jackals! Toads! Knaves! (Sorry folks, I’ve been up all night prepping my daughter for her 10th grade Wester Civ exam on “The Middle Ages.”)

The Southern Baptist Church has ordered all copies of this month’s issue of Gospel Today, which has women pastors on the cover, pulled from the shelves of its Lifeway Bookstores.

The title of the AJC article reads:
“Gospel Today magazine pulled from Christian bookstores’ shelves.”

Women Pastors

You can go to AJC and read the article for yourself. But here are bits and pieces of the story:

Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores’ owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth — church pastors.
Southern Baptist polity says that’s a role reserved for men.

Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, whose glossy pages feature upbeat articles about health, living, music and ministry, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been demoted to the realm of the risque.

“It’s really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church,” Hairston said. “I was pretty shocked.”

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “It is contrary to what we believe.”

Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Gospel Today (too…too…too much pablum and too struck on church”stars,” for my tastes), but I support the publisher Theresa Hairston’s attempt this month to highlight women’s climb into church pulpits and the daring churches that have welcomed them as their pastors.

It’s just too bad that the best repartee Hairston could come up with in response to the SBC’s move against her magazine was:

“We weren’t trying to pick a fight,” Hairston said. “We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”

I’ll say it for her:
Miscreants! Plebeians! Barbarians! Jackals! Toads! Knaves!

Here’s how we can help Hairston and Gospel Today.

Forward this blog post to everyone on your mailing list who would care about this issue. LET’S ALL GO OUT AND FIND A COPY OF THIS MONTH’S Gospel Today in support of Hairston and to make certain that the magazine doesn’t go belly up because of the SBC’s effort to stamp out the notion that God calls women to ministry and to the pastorate.