Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Church forum explores racism

Goal is to promote unity

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FAIRFIELD - Racism in the church will be the focus of a three-day national summit expected to draw hundreds of clergy and lay people to the Tristate, starting on Wednesday.

The forum will be held at Tri-County Assembly of God in Fairfield. It will offer workshops, exhibits and speakers such as Bishop T.D. Jakes, Dr. Frederick Price and Rev. Bill Hybels. The summit will explore the history of racism in the church and seeks to promote co-operation among area churches.

What: National Summit on Racism in the Church
When: June 11-13
Where: Tri-County Assembly of God, 7350 Dixie Highway in Fairfield
Event schedule: Speeches and workshops are 9 a.m.-noon and 1:30-3:30 daily. Evening service is from 7-10 daily.
Cost: Registration is $99 for the three-day conference and $35 for one day. The 7 p.m. services are free and open to the public and are based on seating availability. Admission to the Middle Passage Museum is free.
Information: (800) 388-0727 or www.cincinnatiareapastors.com
Organizers said Cincinnati is the appropriate place to begin such a dialogue considering the riots, boycotts and strained police-community relations the past two years.

"Eleven o'clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week in our nation," said Rev. Ray McMillan, senior pastor of Faith Christian Center in Forest Park and a member of Cincinnati Area Pastors, chief sponsor of the summit. "Racism on the part of whites and animosity on the part of blacks is rampant in the Christian church.

"How can the church be an example to the world when it is also riddled with racism and hatred?" he said. "The Bible says 'Judgment comes first to the House of God.' The summit is the first step to judge ourselves before God judges us."

Cincinnati Area Pastors is committed to fighting racism in the church. The group began planning the summit about two years ago.

The summit will include the Middle Passage Museum, an exhibit of 15,000 slavery artifacts such as shackles, branding irons, whips and tintype photos.

The display will be free and open to the public from 4 to 6:45 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

McMillan said the racial divide in the church dates to the end of slavery when many newly freed blacks wanted to join and participate in white churches but were turned away. He said even though many churches did not promote slavery, they did promote racism.

"Blacks were given no place to sit, no place to pray, no place to worship, simply because of the color of their skin, so they started their own churches," he said. "What the fathers did then is still inherent in the children today."

McMillan said even in congregations where blacks and whites worship together, many times blacks aren't appointed to leadership positions in the church.

"If racism is in the foundation, then it doesn't matter what you build on that foundation, because racism is going to seep into it," said Rev. Bennie Fluellen, pastor of Overflow Ministries.

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com

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