Guest / Limited Access /

The church of the Messiah in Nashville, Tennessee, is a friendly and energetic Southern black congregation. In a tiny sanctuary that neighbors the city's housing projects, its 300 members soulfully sing the Lord's praises each Sunday, some clapping and dancing with their arms outstretched, others crying out their prayers with their eyes closed and heads thrown back, and still others weeping as the worship sweeps them up.

The animated scene hardly evokes the conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In fact, there is no sign anywhere of the church's SBC affiliation. Churchgoers use hymnals from the National Baptist Convention USA, and Pastor Bryan Williams removed any reference to the denomination from the church's name some time ago.

But the sermon on one recent Sunday was vintage Southern Baptist. Williams preached on the story of Elijah, who condemned an Israelite king for worshipping both God and a false god. His application—that only a strict following of Scripture is acceptable—is in keeping with the denomination's belief that the Bible is inerrant, in both historical detail and spiritual teaching.

This is how one black congregation, and many others, are finding common ground with Southern Baptists in spite of the racial, cultural, political, and historical differences that long had separated them from the nation's largest Protestant denomination. Today the SBC is seeing dramatic growth in its number of African American congregations, adding 1,600 in the '90s to total more than 2,700 by 2002. By comparison, the historically black National Baptist Convention USA has more than 5,000 congregations, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention counts 1,800 congregations in its ranks. This makes the SBC one of the ...

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

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

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Unintelligent Debate
It's time to cool the rhetoric in the Intelligent Design dispute.
Current IssueI Found the Gospel in Communist Romania
I Found the Gospel in Communist Romania
And then I shared it with the man the government sent to kill me.
RecommendedClinton, Trump, or Neither? 3 Views on the 2016 Presidential Election
Subscriber Access Only Clinton, Trump, or Neither? 3 Views on the 2016 Presidential Election
Ron Sider, James Dobson, and Sho Baraka make the best Christian case for each choice.
TrendingWhy Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
Why Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
In the face of a candidate’s antics, ‘America’s Pastor’ speaks out.
Editor's PickHow the Ten Commandments Stop Us from Cheating
How the Ten Commandments Stop Us from Cheating
Dishonesty is nearly universal—unless you use this one weird trick.
Christianity Today
Southern Baptist Surprise!
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2004

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