BLACK religion in America, conceived against a background of slavery and segregation, gave the black man an opportunity to be free while in chains. (If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31 [b] – 32).
The Word of God presented a gospel of future hope and a theology of the suffering servant. Black religion has been unique to people of color and it ties them to each other in times of stress by a racial bond which cuts across all other variables. A chronology of black religion links it with the coming of Christianity to Egypt, 354-543 A.D., thus to the West Coast of Africa and on to America via the slave ships. Early Colonial law decreed only non-Christians as slaves. When slaves were found to be Christians, the law was changed.
At first, benevolent slave-owners permitted slaves to practice religion, baptizing those who had not been baptized. Slaves generally worshipped in a segregated section of the white church attended by the owner. This pattern of segregation prompted many blacks to organize their own congregations.
During the American Revolution, and prior to the great slave rebellions which later put a ban on the formation of black churches, several large Baptist congregations were established. The first was founded in Silver Bluff, S.C., in 1773. Between 1776-1786, Baptist churches were organized in Va. at Petersburg, Richmond and Williamsburg. Under the pastorship of Andrew Bryan, a slave, the first Baptist church was built for black worshippers in 1796. Negro churches grew out of the expulsion of black worshippers from the white churches. Without schools or social centers, the black churches became focal points for community activities, and from the churches emerged distinguished leaders. Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, James Varick, John Chavis, Lemuel Haynes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young and Benjamin L. Hooks, to name a few.
Many prominent black ministers were educators. Benjamin Mays was President of Morehouse College from 1940 – 1967; Bishop Isaac Lane founded Lane College (TN.), and Daniel Payne was the first Negro President of Wilberforce. But now Dear Ones, “This is the generation of them that seek Him.” (Psalm 24:6a)
We are the ones who are allowed to stand before the Lord and worship the God of Jacob. To God be the glory for all He has done!
Pastor J. Amos Jones