A longtime pastor in Alabama is coming under fire for telling blacks to get out of white churches. Rev. Michael R. Jordan, of New Era Baptist Church, calls an area church racist and “hypocritical” alleging that their motives behind planting a church plant in the city to help fight crime are not “pure.” The pastor of the Birmingham church says white people do not want to live in African-American neighborhoods or worship with the likes so why would they want to put a church in that locality.
Jordan is strongly opposed to Alabama’s well-known megachurch, Church of the Highlands, putting a campus in the inner city. The pastor said God told him to put the messages on his West End church’s sign. One side of the sign reads, “Black Folks Need to Stay Out of White Churches” and the other side states, “White Folks Refused to Be Our Neighbors.” Jordan feels if this church, under the leadership of Chris Hodges, wants to minister to their community, they should not be afraid to be neighbors. The pastor told blacks to get out of which churches and added:
… Changes in society will not start with blacks attending white churches. The white church has been down through the years a racist hypocritical organization because they didn’t preach against lynching, they didn’t preach against slavery, the white church elected a racist president, Donald Trump.
I want to say something to every African American that attends a white church. Leave now. Come to your mainstream black church. Your focus is different, our cultures are different. Again, the white institutional church is under watch because they elected a promiscuous, racist president that’s building walls.
While Jordan is being slammed from whites and blacks alike, there are some that understand his viewpoint on the issue. The black church has long offered a cultural and spiritual heritage for its members allowing them to be educated, empowered and enriched. This has also been, for many worshipers, the only safe place to express concerns that do not receive affirmation in the broader culture.
One of the biggest issues plaguing this country is race relations. As opposed to attempting to understand why the pastor feels this way, many white Christians have slammed him for keeping racism alive. This is exactly the theory that hinders diversity on a deeper level. Jordan’s views surely do not help cure the disease of racism, but to deny that prejudice is not an active and vibrant part of America’s current reality is to lie to oneself. Ben Lee, a media director and student at the Southside Assembly of God church, said:
I admit the brother is pretty angry, but he has a point. The white churches left the area because they didn’t want to be with black people now they want to come back. We face a similar situation at our church. We were in the area way before all the white people moved and we are still in the area and now the majority of people are black. We have respect because we never left and our church demographics have changed. We minister to everybody and anybody. The Church of the Highlands is going about this the wrong way. They should be consulting local pastors and engaging them to understand their viewpoint. We have suburban churches come in all the time wanting to help but when they realize how hard inner city ministry is they give up and go back to comfort. So I can understand how this brother is insulted because the Church of the Highlands is basically saying what you are doing in Alabama is not good enough so we as megachurch will come in and take over and save you from yourselves. If you don’t have trust you don’t have anything.
As it stands, the pastor is telling blacks to get out of white churches. His views may be a result of hurt and biased thinking, however, this is really just an opportunity for the church at large to show love, not attack him. Many African-Americans would love to have a blended service, but it seems they are always the ones who must forfeit valued parts of their culture, history, and identity in order to be fully accepted.
In order to truly become a multicultural body, churches need to build bridges and hire those who are willing to learn to relate to people of different contexts and cultures. The church needs leaders who value diversity and reconciliation. Any leader that does not “see color” is not qualified to lead a diverse congregation. If a person refuses to see color, they also cannot see the experiences or challenges that accompany the racism divide.
This is the worst climate, in terms of race relations, America has experienced since the Civil Rights era. Churches are not exempt from the racial disparity in the world, they are, however, the perfect place to help heal race relations. Leading a multiracial church in America is not an easy job. Yet, this is a great opportunity for both pastors, Chris Hodges and Michael Jordan, to have a “Come let us reason together” moment of clarity.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
WVTM 13: Birmingham pastor sends message to Church of the Highlands with controversial sign
Christianity Today: Challenges to Becoming a Multicultural Church
The Washington Post: What happened when a black and white church merged in Florida
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Inline Image Courtesy of Randolph Woodfin’s Twitter Page
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