Guest / Limited Access /

Visages of African-American heroes —Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King, Jr.—are taped to the front of the Victory Temple Baptist Church sanctuary where about 30 are gathered on a misty Wednesday night for worship. Stacked on a shelf in the church's foyer are Lottie Moon Christmas-offering envelopes.

The curious observer might wonder what link Moon, a white, nineteenth-century missionary heroine of the Southern Baptist Convention, has to a black Baptist church.

The answer lies in Victory Temple's unique background: In many ways the church is purely Southern black; in others, it is purely Southern Baptist.

Victory Temple is one of about 20 black Southern Baptist churches in Mississippi. Given Baptist history, combining black and Southern Baptist would typically be an oxymoron. Churches like Victory Temple, near the Mississippi River in the Delta town of Greenville, are reversing that.

A PAST STILL PRESENT

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has shown as much desire as any American evangelical institution to rid itself of its racist past.

The SBC was organized 150 years ago this month, when Baptists in the South split from the national Triennial Convention and its extension, the American Baptist Home Mission Society, in a dispute over whether slave owners should become missionaries. Northern abolitionists objected to the idea, while Southern Baptists argued that it was their right.

Although many blacks were initially members of SBC congregations—the churches of their slave masters—following the Emancipation Proclamation and the finish of the Civil War, blacks left the denomination in droves. By 1890, out of more than one million SBC members, there were no African Americans. Black ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedBaptist Pastors Won’t Hear Ben Carson after Young Pastors Object
Baptist Pastors Won’t Hear Ben Carson after Young Pastors Object
Concerns over theology and politics lead likely presidential candidate to back out of major Southern Baptist conference.
TrendingMore Martyrs: ISIS Executes Dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya
More Martyrs: ISIS Executes Dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya
Propaganda video released the same day Justin Welby arrives in Cairo to honor the previous 21 victims.
Editor's PickThe Civil War Is More Than a Historical Fascination
The Civil War Is More Than a Historical Fascination
Why the clash between North and South remains relevant, 150 years later.
Comments
Christianity Today
ARTICLE: Black Southern Baptists
hide thisMay 15 May 15

In the Magazine

May 15, 1995

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.