By Joan C. McKinney, director of university communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. –African-Americans in Baptist history was the focus of about 85 persons who attended the convention of the Baptist History & Heritage Society June 7-9 on the campus of Campbellsville University.
“We’re pleased that the BH&HS chose to hold its annual meeting here as the final event in our Centennial Celebration,” said John Chowning, CU vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president.
“The theme of the meeting, African-Americans in Baptist History, is very relevant to what we are seeking to do at CU.”
Campbellsville University has marked her 100th year celebration with special outreach to African-American churches by adding new minority scholarships, having covenant partnerships in place with Simmons College of Kentucky and the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky and by ensuring an ongoing commitment to diversity across the University community, according to Chowning.
Those focuses were evident as several of the leaders in African-American Baptist life attended and spoke at the convention which attracted people from Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Iowa, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Indiana and other states as well as Kentucky.
Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of CU, said his mentor was Rosa Parks who was a champion of the African-American cause who was committed to the rights of blacks.
He said CU has adopted the approach of reaching out to everyone, and “You will find that an undergirding philosophy of the university.”
“We are committed to the underrepresented,” Carter said. “Our strategic plan is designed to keep diversity in the forefront.”
He said CU has “champions” with whom he works including Chowning and Cosby.
He passed out a statement on CU’s outreach to African-American Baptist and other minorities. He said the Rev. Walter Johnson, a Campbellsville pastor who attended the meeting, was the second African-American to attend CU which began admitting blacks in the 1960s.
He also pointed out that Campbellsville University was the recipient of the 2002 Racial Harmony Award from the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) for the work being done in promoting racial reconciliation and diversity.
Dr. William Crouch, president of Georgetown College, also spoke on his college’s efforts in the field of racial diversity.
The keynote speaker at the closing session was Dr. Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky, with whom CU has a partnership, and who also pastors St. Stephens Baptist Church in Louisville and a church he planted a few years ago in Jeffersonville, Ind.
“One of the greatest problems Americans have, is understanding the pathologies of many African-Americans,” Cosby said. “There is a tendency to concentrate only on the effects of a situation, while totally divorcing oneself from the possible causes. The reason this happens is because to look at the possible causes would mean having to accept responsibility for those causes.”
Cosby said, “If whites could overcome white supremacy, the problem with African-Americans would disappear. Racism however, has not only distorted the minds of white America about themselves, but it has also the distorted the minds of black Americans about themselves.
“Thus, the African American community suffers not only from ‘anti-black whites,’ but it also suffers from ‘anti-black blacks.’ This is why the late psychologist Bobby Wright suggested that racism must be treated as a mental disorder. He referred to the disease as “mentacide.’”
Cosby, whose church at St. Stephens has grown from 500 to 10,000, talked about slavery and said, “What made western slavery unique and more barbaric than most slavery was its attempt to create a new person. Proud people do not make good slaves. Therefore the spirit of the Africans had to be broken.”
Cosby said, “In 1995, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention, the convention issued forth a statement of apology and repentance for their role in the development of slavery. They further called for ways in which bridges of reconciliation could be built. The problem however, is that reconciliation assumes blacks and whites once had a conciliatory relationship. The stark but sad reality is, there is nothing in the past that blacks want to return to, with whites!”
He said a “cultural reawakening” is needed. “What is really needed is repentance. We need reparation not reconciliation. Things need to be made right,” Cosby said.
“Today, many African-Americans still live according to the slave-maker’s definition of who they are, because their true identity has been kept guarded in the ‘forbidden zone’ (a reference to a place in the movie “Planet of the Apes” which was off limits to everyone).
“The history books have been written, excluding the tremendous accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans. This is primarily because history is written to inform and inspire. It identifies and interprets events to glamorize the past or the writer. History is never value neutral. It usually glamorizes the history of the person writing it. The tragedy is that African-American history is a forbidden history. Most black Baptists don’t know their history.”
Cosby said that black youth are socially isolated. He said when a population becomes over 7 percent black, whites are uncomfortable.
He said African-American churches have strayed from their historic church mission of personal salvation, social justice and group empowerment. “Our black churches have lost their sense of mission,” he said.
Quinton Dixie, assistant professor of philosophy and religious student program coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Ind., spoke at the June 7 session on “African-Americans in Baptist History” and said most history of blacks is “under their beds.”
He said he found a private, handwritten, unpublished journal of E.C. Morris, who was born a slave in 1855 and grew up to earn a doctorate and found Arkansas Baptist College and was elected president of the National Baptist Convention. Morris also established a cooperative relationship with the American Baptist Missionary Union and with the Southern Baptist Convention.
He urged those attending to do “anything you can do to preserve Black history.” He said people do not like to have their pictures leave their homes and he recommended scanners be brought to their homes for preserving images.
Dixie also said, “We are a product of our own history. We are a product of our stories.”
The Rev. Emmanuel McCall, moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and retired pastor of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in College Park, Ga., gave the devotion citing Psalms 68:31 which says “Princes shall come out of Eqypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.”
McCall said, “God is God and is the creator, sustainer and forgiver, and we should celebrate His greatness.”
McCall said, “God is still raising up men of color” such as the Rev. Russell Awkard, pastor of Louisville’s New Zion Baptist Church and moderator of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, and Cosby.
“If the gospel is spread to the ends of the earth, we have to do it together,” said McCall. “When we see God, color won’t matter.”
Dr. Brent Jones, a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., delivered the BH&HS winning sermon. Jones said, “We are one in Christ” and “We are all imperfect creatures.”
He said, “We are all one in the family of Jesus Christ. Let’s live and worship like we believe it.”
Charles W. Deweese, executive director-treasurer of the BH&HS, said, “The Baptist History & Heritage Society was thrilled to hold its 2007 annual meeting at Campbellsville University and to focus on the topic ‘African-Americans in Baptist History.’”
Other speakers during the three-day meeting were: Pamela A. Smoot, “African American Baptist Women: Making a Way Out of No Way,” assistant professor of Black American Studies, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Ill.;
William D. Booth, “Crusader for Freedom: The Emancipation of African American Baptists from an Imperial Presidency,” director of Religious Studies Program and assistant professor of ethics, Hampton University, Hampton, Va.;
Gary Burton, “Caesar: The Life and Work of Central Alabama’s Nineteenth-Century Slave Evangelist,” pastor of Pintlala Baptist Church, Hope Hull, Ala.;
Kendal P. Mobley, “What a Chasm There Is Between Us”: Charlotte Hawkins Brown and White Protestant Progressives, 1901-1952,” pastor, Enon Baptist Church, Salisbury, N.C.;
Bonnie J. Oliver, “Howard Thurman: Mind, Ministry, and Mysticism,” student, Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tenn.;
James M. Porch, “Relations between Black and White Baptists in Mississippi, 1862-1890,” executive director, Tennessee Baptist Convention, Brentwood, Tenn.;
Benjamin Ross, “The Challenges, Responsibilities, and Rewards of Preserving the John Jasper Legacy,” church historian, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, Richmond, Va.;
Avis E. Williams, “Nelson H. Smith, Jr.: Twentieth-Century Baptist Leader,” student, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.; and
Lawrence H. Williams, “Righteous Discontent”: Mary Virginia Cook and Black Baptist Women, professor of Africana studies and history, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.
For information about this or other events at Campbellsville University contact Chowning at (270) 789-5520.
Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,310 students who represent 100 Kentucky counties, 32 states and 28 foreign nations. Listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” 14 consecutive years as one of the leading Southern master’s colleges and universities, Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his eighth year as president.