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Alabama church integrates America’s ‘most segregated hour’


Members of the Central Church of Christ in Huntsville, Ala. (Photo via www.centralfamily.org)

In a recent blog post we asked, “What strides are Churches of Christ in the U.S. making toward racial integration?”
The Huntsville (Ala.) Times features the Central Church of Christ, a diverse congregation that devoted itself to intentional outreach across racial barriers in the late 1970s, according to elder Richard Brown:

“We looked into the Bible,” Brown said. “And what we found is that, over and over, with God, there is no favoritism.”
The elders recruited Tom and Gail Bogle, a white couple who had been working in campus ministries at the University of Florida. The Bogles said to recruit Ed and Delois Smith, a black couple who had been helping them.
“We packed up, and came without jobs,” remembered Delois Smith. Smith, an educational psychologist, is now vice-president for diversity at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and remains, with her husband, Ed., an active member of Central. They were among the first African Americans to join the church.
A church elder provided a house to live in, rent-free for a few months, while they found jobs – Delois with the Girl Scouts, Ed, who has a degree in finance, driving a truck. Each evening, after work, the Smiths would head up to campus to give Bible studies and talk with students. Their genuine friendship with the Bogles helped show, by example, what relationships can look like across racial lines.
Slowly, at Central, the hour Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously described as America’s “most segregated,” began to become America’s most integrated hour.

Read the full story.

  • Feedback
    I appreciate the fact that members of the Lords’ church of different backgrounds and skin tones being able to worship in the same building. I applaud and am thankful for that congregation. praise God!
    Nevertheless I don’t think God is as interested in people of different skin tones assembling in the same building as He is in people of ‘all nations’ being gathered in the same body/church.
    When saints have to ‘work’ at trying to prove to the world we are all one becuase we gather in the same building on Sunday, I believe we have a heart problem. False religion folks of different skin tones gather in the same building on Sundays.
    Jesus gave us the only method that will prove to the world that we are one (Jn. 13: 34-35). Folks gathered in the same building does not prove ‘fervent love.’ amen.
    Keep up the good work central church of Christ!
    robert brooks
    January, 20 2011

    That world mission must begin with one congregation doing the right thing – one at a time. The first congregations was the most ethnically diverse church ever (Acts 2:9-11), and yet they were of one heart and one soul. Isn’t it interesting that so many sermons are preached on Jerusalem as a model church, and yet this point is seldom made?
    As a church we have failed to understand that there is such a thing as “sins against humanity.” Most of our emphasis is on personal acts of deviation.
    Years ago when I first started preaching, I noticed two brothers standing at the back door during the entire service.When I inquired of the elders why they were doing that, I was told that they were there to keep some people out (African Americans) who would presumably “cause some trouble.”
    When preachers have spoken out, many have lost their jobs. Consider what happened to one Herald of Truth speaker when he preached a series of sermons in the 1960s. After Dr. King was assassinated, a preacher was fired on Monday for speaking out against such violence.
    Where are the preachers today speaking out against the rhetoric of gun violence coming from a certain brand of politicians?
    Harold Williams
    January, 21 2011

    I am really suprised that it took more than 2000 years for the christian church to realize that God is no reapect of person when the Scripture is full of examples and sayings.
    If it has taken 2000 years to come this far how are we expected to ever reach perfection(maturity).
    I am from Florence, Alabama an am 82 years old and when I was growing-up the church in general and the Church of Christ in particular was my worse enemy. So it is very difficult for me to understand what the big deal is in Huntsville when they are doing something that should have been done at least 200 years ago in this country.
    We that are Christians must correct the worst thing that has come out of christanity and with christanity. It seem to be that from the demise of the Roman Empire to the first Europeans coming to America is when Christanity invented racism.
    Robert Sneed
    January, 22 2011

    It should not be a shock to anyone living in a america,that we as a nation have wrestled we the issue of race.The fact that we continue to celebrate our small long overdue milestones is a testament to how pervasive the disease of racism had become.So,I join the celebration with my bretheren in Alabama because I am old enough to rememder Birmingham in the sixties.I do indeed believe in miracles!Or should I say AMERICALES!
    Willie Rollins
    January, 24 2011

    Attitudes of *********, be they from whites or blacks should have no place in the Lord’s body. While service to ALL God’s people should be our focus, the reality is that Christians will always struggle with their sinful nature. America is no different.
    I applaud the Christian Chronicle for its commitment to embrace diversity and perhaps more churches will be encouraged to expand their comfort zone and shrink their preconceived notions.
    Lance Watkins
    January, 25 2011

    These five paragraphs are totally out of context unless you read the entire article. My initial reaction was that it is somehow unique for an Alabama congregation to be integrated. Being from Alabama I know this is not true. You have to read it in context to learn that this story began in the ’70’s.
    BTW, Mr. Sneed, Christians did not invent racism. Have you read the Old Testament?
    patricia
    January, 26 2011

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