Thursday, October 14, 2010

From the Archives of IBC History ...

While cleaning out some things in the home of one of Immanuel's first African-American members, one of our staff members found this article from the March 13, 1972 edition of the local paper. We cannot determine if it was from the daily or evening paper. As I read it, I marveled at a few things. First, it is amazing how times have changed for the better: some of the language used in this article to describe those of different ethnicities strikes us today as highly insensitive, and that is an indicator of positive change in my opinion. Also, it is a positive shift among churches today that few if any would admit to being intentionally ethnically exclusive. But then there are some things that disappoint me as we look at this article from almost 40 years of hindsight. For one, the state of our churches have not changed as much as was anticipated then. The "they-can-come-if-they-want-to" attitude that Dr. Early touches on in the article is still the most widely prevalent notion of what it means to be integrated. More disappointing is that intentional segregation is still occurring and is taught as a core value among church growth and church planting leaders, it is just not called that anymore. It is now called "targeting." Dr. Early's comments near the articles end hit that subject hard. Finally, I read this article with great joy as I see how my dear predecessor Dr. Early was a faithful forerunner in the effort to cross cultural ethnic bridges and bring people together under the Lordship of Jesus. Most impressive is that he did so from a foundation of biblical faithfulness. I read the article I have copied below with great interest, and I trust that you will too.



The pastor of the city's first church to actively seek an integrated congregation said today more and more of Greensboro's traditionally white churches finally seem to be opening their doors to blacks.

"This movement I believe will accelerate even more in the future, I am confident of this," said the Rev. Paul early of Immanuel Baptist church on High Point Road. He was interviewed before addressing Greensboro Optimist Club this afternoon at McClures Restaurant.

He said this forthcoming acceleration will be due to the increasing acceptance of blacks into the mainstream of society. Immanuel Baptist, founded in 1945, began seeking out Lumbee Indians as members in 1965 and blacks two years later. Today the church has 13 black members and about 30 Indians. The church's board of deacons includes one black and two Indians.

The Rev. Mr. Early said today his church became aware of the need for black members when it literally opened the back to door to the church and looked outside.

"We suddenly realized we have blacks living behind our building," he explained. "We came to the conviction that it was hypocritical for us to have missionaries in Africa and at the same time ignore the people three doors down from us. It was our responsibility to open ourselves to brother Christians."

Asked why other churches have been slow to seek blacks, the Rev. Mr. Early said said, "I believe the ministry (at these churches) simple never read the Bible with enough openness of mind to realize that the New Testament requires this type of ministry.

"The Bible clearly rules out the 'they-can-come-if-they-want-to' attitude displayed by many churches. The Bible requires the church to be active integrationists. In Christ Jesus there is no racial distinction."

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