Is “The Black Church Dead”, or “Alive and Doing well?”

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what_we_love_about_black_churchIt’s a controversial topic that won’t go away – an Op-Ed article in the Huffington Post’s February 24th issue, authored by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Ph.D., titled, “The Black Church is Dead.”.

Glaude, currently the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and Chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton, opened up dialogue in his lead paragraph: “The Black Church, as we’ve known it or imagined it, is dead. Of course, many African Americans still go to church. According to the PEW Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, 87 percent of African Americans identify with a religious group and 79 percent say that religion is very important in their lives. But the idea of this venerable institution as central to black life and as a repository for the social and moral conscience of the nation has all but disappeared.”

Read the complete article at www.huffingtonpost.com

A new Judson Press book, titled, “In What We Love About the Black Church: Can We Get a Witness?”, scheduled to be released in May, was in sharp contrast to “the death knell sounded by Glaude, focusing on the “vitality, gifts, and strength of the black church, which was pointed out in a press release about the book, distributed by www.BlackNews.com

             Local ministers get in on the dialogue. Essays by:

  • Rev. Harold Bailey, Founder and Executive Director, Probation Challenge, the first court mandated program of its kind in the country where clients are forced to help themselves through the channels of education.
  • Rev. Al Sampson, Pastor of Fernwood United Methodist Church in Chicago. Sampson was only one of three Ministers ordained by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1966. He was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College.

William H. Crouch and Joel C. Gregory identify twelve aspects of the black church that highlight its impact and contributions. What makes this resource particularly unique and compelling is that Crouch and Gregory are white pastors and academics who have discovered the benefits of being in the black church without being of it.

The press release stated: In response to Glaude’s so- called obituary, Crouch, president of Georgetown College, reflected on a recent experience which speaks to the health of the black church:

“Recently a newspaper editor visited our campus to examine our diversity program. When he did his exit interview with me, he said he knew that what made our program so rich is the fact that our African American students are coming from within the black church, where they are being encouraged, prayed for, funded and guided by their pastors. We have more than an 80% retention rate with these black church members. I am stunned by Dr. Glaude’s pronouncement and invite him to visit our campus and see the outgrowth from the black church!”

Gregory, professor of preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, confessed to being mystified by Glaude’s conclusion:

“As a white minister who has spoken hundreds of times in black church and conference settings from coast to coast for a dozen years, I see the polar opposite. I do not know any other institution that demonstrates the inherent vitality of the black church. There is no more vital, resilient and energetic institution in America.”

More than two dozen leaders of the African American church contributed to What We Love about the Black Church, including:

* Sheila M. Bailey
* Bryan L. Carter
* Cynthia L. Hale
* Donald Hilliard Jr.
* Major Lewis Jemison
* A. Louis Patterson Jr.
* Melvin V. Wade Sr.
* Ralph Douglas West Sr.
* J. Alfred Smith Sr. (foreword)
* Rhoda McKinney-Jones (afterword)

Their contributions and endorsements recognize the book’s passion for and testimony to both the past and future of the black church, and celebrate its potential to bridge the racial divide and cultural chasm that have segregated the Body of Christ in this country.

What We Love about the Black Church will be available in early May 2010 and can be ordered by calling 800-458-3766 or visiting www.judsonpress.com.
About Judson Press:
Founded in 1824, Judson Press – a publishing ministry of National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA – produces Christ-centered leadership resources for the transformation of persons, congregations, communities and cultures. Judson has been recognized by Publishers Weekly as one of the leading publishers of resources for the black church.

American Baptist Churches USA is a historic Protestant denomination that includes 1.5 million members in 5,600 congregations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Nearly half of its members are African American.
NOTE: (From the Press Release) Glaude’s obituary for the black church has resulted in an undeniably passionate and vocal response on both sides of the issue. Shortly after it appeared, a panel of African American religious scholars responded with “The Black Church is Dead-Long Live the Black Church” on the Religion Dispatches website. On April 16, The New York Times joined the conversation with Samuel G. Freedman’s “Call and Response on the State of the Black Church.” Crouch, Gregory, and various book contributors will be posting their comments on these sites.

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