The press is reporting this week about the First Baptist Church of Oxford, Mississippi apologizing for a 1968 ban on black members (Oxford Baptists apologize for 1968 vote banning black members | Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal). This is certainly a long overdue step and I applaud the church for taking this step. When I read the article I was reminded of my experience dealing with a church in Oxford about this issue.
It was back in the 1990′s. I was serving as pastor of a wonderful church in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was asked to consider meeting with a church that wanted to discuss the possibility of me serving as their pastor. I told them that I was happy where I was. After a few more inquiries, I decided that I would meet with them.
I made the trip to Oxford and met with the committee from the church. As we talked about all kinds of things related to the church and my ministry, I finally asked the question.
Me: “If I became your pastor, would I be free to invite anybody to this church?”
Lady on Committee: “You mean black people?”
Me: “Yes, that is what I mean.”
Man on Committee: “Well, they have their own churches.”
Another Committee Member: “We do have black football players from Ole Miss come to a service with the rest of the football team.”
Me: “Are they able to attend on their own at other times and become members?”
Man: “Like I said, they have their own churches.”
Me: “Ok, that answers my question.”
I remained at my church in Little Rock that gladly welcomed people from every nation, every kindred and every tribe.