MARY REICHARD, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: reuniting the church.
Walter Strickland leads the kingdom diversity initiative at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. His research includes African-American religious history and the theology of work.
He speaks across the country about racial reconciliation.
NICK EICHER, HOST: For this week’s Listening In, Warren Smith talks with Strickland about divisions in the church, as well as ways black and white believers can come together.
He emphasized the importance of relationship and understanding. Which includes recognizing the contributions African-American theologians have made to evangelicalism.
That’s something white believers often know very little about.
WALTER STRICKLAND: I’ve been blessed by a number of different voices that I’ve sort of stumbled upon after having been educated in evangelical institutions where you hear a lot about Jonathan Edwards. You hear a lot about Dwight Moody, you hear a whole bunch about, you know, the contemporary theologians: Grudem, Erickson, Horton, and the list goes on. But very rarely do you hear about the wonderful black preaching tradition, which has wonderful figures like Elias Camp Morris, which is the first president of the National Baptist Convention. Then you go forward in time to someone like a Joseph H. Jackson, which is a longtime president as well of the National Baptist Convention, which is the largest historically black convention in the country.
WARREN SMITH: That’s, I was going to say, the Southern Baptist Convention is the, probably the largest Protestant denomination with about 15 million. But the National Baptist Convention has probably 5 or 6 million members. So it’s very large.
STRICKLAND: Which is significant as far as the percentage of population of churchgoing African-Americans. That’s massive. And so there’s a large tradition there. But one thing that I’ve noticed is that oftentimes the, the value of a tradition is sort of gauged by how many written words people have in books on shelves. But if you go all the way back to when Christianity was really sort of catching fire, so to speak, in black America, it was during the great revivals. But during that time it was illegal to teach a black person how to read. Oh, and then it was illegal for, for black folks to really just write and get things to read, I guess, and to teach somebody how to read. I guess I can say that. So there was a great oral tradition. And that oral tradition wasn’t cataloged in like the dominant culture tradition was. So it’s assumed that there’s no tradition there.
EICHER: That’s Walter Strickland speaking with Warren Smith. To hear Warren’s full interview, look for Listening In on your favorite podcast platform starting tomorrow.