Southern Baptists and Negro Baptists
The Home Field Journal, 1913
THERE ARE evidences of a growing concern among us for the religious uplift of the Negroes. We have had a conscience for our brother in black, but there is opportunity and need for a larger effort to help the Southern Negroes, and Southern Baptists can do it as no one else. We must not forfeit our right of leadership in the service by standing still while others go forward. The following brief interview accorded by Evangelistic Secretary Weston Bruner to the editor of The Home Field is offered as a contribution to the subject.
“What is your estimate of the need and the value of the evangelization work among the Negroes?” we asked Dr. Bruner.
"I think,” he replied, "the greatest field of service before Southern Baptists is the Negro race. I think it’s the greatest because we have 10,000,000 Negroes who are largely Baptists, and the Baptists have a greater influence over them than anybody else and are under a greater obligation to properly train them."
“How did more than half the Negroes come to be Baptists, Dr. Bruner?”
“They were made Baptists in the days in which we let them come and occupy the galleries of our churches and hear the best preaching that the Baptist ministry could give throughout the Southland and then by the teaching that they received from their mistresses in the homes and by mission work among them by our Baptist forbears."
“Do you think that Southern Baptists are doing what they ought for the Negro now?”
“I do not. We are doing very little for them. We spent year before last $10,000 in work among them, last year between $12,000 and $13,000. Until the effort was made to do special work in the Evangelistic Department what work we did was at arms' length. We gave some money over to their Boards and said we would help to support some of their men, but nobody knew how well they did it. We did it at arms’ length."
“What is your estimate of the value of the work you are now doing?"
“I think it is the most far-reaching work that we do. It Is bringing the leading pastors among the white Baptists and the leading colored pastors together and letting them each see the common Interests that they have and it is of supreme importance in the regeneration of the colored race that the leaders should think properly.”
“Have you seen results of better understanding between leading people of the two races in the cities where you have conducted these campaigns?"
“In every city where the campaign has been conducted the unanimous declaration of the white pastors is that it is a greatly needed work and a blessed work and the colored pastors have responded in a way to show their deep gratitude toward the white people for their interest in them and they have given expression to their Joy at knowing that the white ministry and the white Baptist churches are really concerned for their spiritual welfare."
“In your Judgment have not the white Baptists felt more Interest than they have shown?"
"I think that's probably true, but we have been frightened by the bugaboo of social equality until we have been afraid to do what our own consciences in our sober moments have dictated,"
“Do you believe there is any danger of social equality coming out of our showing a deeper interest In the religious life of the Negro?”
"Absolutely none, because as we have a fuller understanding of each other, each will understand his place the better and the Negro leaders themselves as they come in touch with us understand that social equality is out of the question.
"Social equality comes from the debasement of both races. In the debased condition there is social equality. You take the brothel and the saloon and the places like that. That’s where social equality comes in. But if we lift them above that we eliminate all danger of social equality.”
“You believe, then, that the more close our religious fellowship and helpfulness the further we will be from the social equality which some people dread?"
"Social equality in the Southland can never be except where all moral standards and ideals are eliminated. Where these are first social equality is furthest away. There is no other religious denomination that has the opportunity for wide influence among the colored people that the Baptists have, and when we make an effort to reach them religiously they always respond and in this way we can bring them out from under the domination of the politicians and the men who would buy their souls. The Joy and gladness with which the Negroes greet our approach in this evangelistic work is pathetic and touching.
"I believe that no single thing that Southern Baptists have undertaken has in it the prophecy of greater service for the Kingdom of God for the future than this effort to reach the Negroes of the South through our Evangelistic Department, and under God it seems to me that it is the way to save Africa. I am profoundly convinced that from a providential standpoint—and I believe in the hand of God working in all things—God let the Negroes come to this country to be Christianized that they might be the evangels of God to Africa.”
[From Victor L Masters, editor, The Home Field Journal, December 1913, pp. 12-13; via Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives on-line documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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