The Silencing of the Black Church: A Legacy Lost?

This editorial was written by Michelle R. Peele, a freelance writer and founder of the grassroots organization P.A.S.T.O.R.S.; an entity that focuses on preserving and protecting the legacy of our Shepherds and their Faith Communities. Follow her on Twitter, here.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to sit in the presence of an incredibly anointed and educated man of God. A scholar and theologian in his own right, this Bishop could exegete and expound on scriptural text like no one I had ever heard or seen. To say the least, his teachings left an indelible mark on me.

A decade or more must have passed when suddenly I started to think about the Bishop and his teachings. With what little information I could remember, I Google\’d his name and the name of his church with the hope of being able to purchase a few DVDs and or CDs for my library. You can imagine the surprise I received when I learned that this man of God had passed away and his churches website no longer existed. In fact, I later discovered that the name of the church had been changed all together. Nevertheless, unwilling to accept my find, I scoured the Internet for hours searching for a portal where I could purchase his messages to no avail. I was devastated. Not only had the man of God passed and I was unaware but there was a great possibility that I would never hear that voice of wisdom again.

After a host of unsuccessful searches, I finally accepted the grim reality that I would never find the teachings of this man of God. I resolved to throw in the towel and move on. Yet as I was preparing to end my campaign, just for kicks, I decided to Google the names of a few other well-known evangelists and teachers; names such as Smith Wigglesworth, Kathryn Kuhlman and John G. Lake. Not only did I find their teachings online in great supply but they were also available in some of the world\’s largest bookstore chains and online bookstores. Something was clearly wrong. Are the preached messages of Oral Roberts, Gene Scott and Vicki Jamison-Peterson more relevant than the teachings of Dr. E.V. Hill of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church and Archbishop Wilbert S. McKinnley of Elim International Fellowship? Absolutely not!

As my anger began to kindle concerning yet another injustice plaguing the Black Church, I quickly realized that I was incorrect in my thinking. This was not about race but rather about assuming responsibility for our actions—our legacy. It is unjust, unfair and should not be expected that another should take up our cause but rather that burden must rest upon our shoulders. As Jesus commanded the man lying by the pool of Bethesda in John 5:8; we must “arise, take up our beds and walk.”

On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached what would be his last sermon; a sermon that some 43 years later can still be heard from coast to coast and continent to continent. Yet has anyone, other than those who were in attendance, heard the last message preached by the late Bishop Walter Hawkins? Pastor Timothy Wright? Dr. Zachery Tims? Does anyone know what final truths they proclaimed; what wisdom they shared? What was their final message from God to the masses?

For the most part, one does not know when they will sing their last song or preach their last sermon. However, we can be proactive in ensuring that their messages of truth are made available to the masses upon their transition. Just as we continue to read the Gospels, the Epistles and the writings of the Major and Minor prophets, the teachings and preached messages of our modern day Shepherds should also be readily available for future generations to glean upon.

The legacy of the Black Church does not have to be lost or silenced. Like other “mainstream” ministries, our messages are equally as important because they were born from a pain and passion that can only be preached, taught and understood from an “experienced perspective.” For this reason alone, we should resolve to band together as one body making sure that the truths that God has spoken through our vessels of honor be perpetuated for generations and decades to come; rendering to them a roadmap of promise of better days and the encouragement to journey on.

Amos 8:11 reads “Behold the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine of bread nor of thirst for water but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Tragically, I fear those days are among us. The famine does not persist because God has stopped speaking. The famine exists and persists because the mouthpieces He is speaking through are slowly being silenced. A blame and a fault that rests not with others but ourselves. A blame and a fault that will continue to rest until we, the Body of Christ, disturb it!