My Experience with Oxford Baptists and Racism

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.

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2 thoughts on “My Experience with Oxford Baptists and Racism

  1. Frank, thank you for this story, and for your witness at the time. And also thanks be to God for Oxford church admitting their sin in those days. Time does not heal such things anything like does repentance! May God show his grace and glory as they explore the ramifications of their repentance, and how they may be called to live into that.

    In my own case, the small church to which I moved last spring (Hope Episcopal Church, Houston) is an amalgam of two even smaller Episcopal churches, one white and one black. I would have predicted that such an experiment would last a year or so, then one congregation would have survived, and the other disappeared. But not so.

    Ten years in, and we are still a mixed congregation, about 60/40 and don’t ask me which is 60. I don’t know. We have lost members, and we have lots and lots of problems, but they are mostly typical small-church problems (too little money, to much to do with the limited number of hands, etc.) We even have racial problems. But they are above board, out in the open, and instead of being a threat, they are a continuing mark of God’s grace in the midst of our brokenness.

    I am about as socially and politically conservative as I could be, but this witness, along with an evident love of God and His gospel are the things that drew me here over last winter.


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