Tri-State Defender Religion Stories


Friendship Baptist welcomes “When Momma Speaks” author

By TSD Newsroom

When the topic is the Bible and motherhood, Dr. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder often is part of the conversation. On May 7, Crowder will be in the Klondike community talking about just that. She will be the keynote speaker at Friendship Baptist Church’s Scholarship Fund Program, which begins at 11 a.m. Friendship is located at 1335 Vollintine Ave. After the keynote, Crowder will be the focal point of a reception and book signing. Featured will be her book, “When Mama Speaks,” which is subtitled “The Bible and Motherhood from a Womanist perspective.” The book is right up Crowder’s alley. She is the assistant professor of Theological Field Education and New Testament and Director of the ACTS, Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program at Chicago Theological Seminary. Some may know Crowder from her regular blog posts for The Huffington Post. She also served on the editorial board for the Feasting on the Gospels series by Westminister John Knox Press. “When Momma Speaks” is described as a new study that provides “an engaging womanist reading of mother characters in the Old and New Testaments.” Building upon a brief history of what is described as “womanist biblical interpretation,” Crowder – according to the description – “shows how the stories of several biblical mothers – Hagar, Rizpah, Bathsheba, Mary, the Canaanite Woman and Zebedee’s wife – can be powerful sources for critical reflection, identification and empowerment.” The historical understandings of motherhood in the African-American community also get exploration by Crowder, who then delves into how such understandings “help to inform president-day perspectives.’ The reception and book signing is set for 2 p.m. (For more information, contact the church at 274-3201 or 274-5990.)

A celebration of the woman behind ‘Something Within’

By TSD Newsroom

Mt. Nebo Baptist Church at 555 Vance Ave. will be the venue when the life of Lucie E. Campbell – often called “The Mother of Gospel Music” – is celebrated during the church’s observation of Women’s History Month. The celebration is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 12. Born in Duckhill, Miss. to former slaves in 1885, Campbell spent most of her professional career teaching English and American History at Booker T. Washington High School and as music director for the National Baptist Convention for 40-plus years. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Rust College in 1927. At 66, she got her master’s degree from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College, now Tennessee State University. The featured speaker for the celebration at Mt. Nebo is Dr. Mildred Green, professor emeritus at The LeMoyne-Owen College. Dr. Green has spent more than 10 years researching Memphis’ religious musicians and composers. Campbell stands out amid such research. Soon after her birth, Campbell’s father died while he was working on the Mississippi Central Railroad. Her mother then moved the family to Memphis, where Campbell taught herself to play the piano. In 1916, Campbell was named music director of the National Baptist Convention. With that platform, Campbell became a force. According to her bio at, the position allowed her to “not only promote her own songs but the songs of a new generation of gospel composers, thereby shaping the tastes, style, and repertoire of black congregational and gospel music through much of the twentieth century.” Gospel songbird Deborah Manning Thomas will perform Campbell’s signature song – “Something Within” – during the tribute, with accompaniment by Reginald Gaston. “Something Within” is widely recognized as the first gospel hymn published by an African-American woman. This excerpt from her bio at sets the context: “The story goes that Campbell overheard a group of people on Beale Street provoke a blind guitar evangelist, Connie Rosemond, to ‘get down in the alley’ and play ‘St. Louis Blues,’ to which he replied that ‘something within’ kept him from doing so. “Campbell unveiled the song at the (1919 NBC) convention with its performer who recorded it and three additional Campbell compositions at his 1927 sessions for Victor. Decades later ‘Something Within’ has remained a favorite in black and white gospel circles from Elvis Presley harmonizers the Jordaniares to Take 6 and has inspired both a website on women and faith and the title of a book on African American political activism.” ACER (Action Communication Educational Reform, Inc.), a not-for-profit agency in Duckhill, MS., is sponsoring the event at Mt. Nebo and acknowledging Campbell’s contributions in Memphis. Later this year, Campbell will be honored in Duckhill as Mississippi celebrates its bicentennial and historic Mississippians. Campbell died in 1963. (For more info, contact Dr. Yvonne Robinson Jones at 901-292-5935.)

Sharpton serves up sermon laced with lessons and admonitions

By Tony Jones, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a Memphis version of a sermon constructed for Black History Month during his appearance at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church’s main campus last Sunday. Sharpton’s ongoing role as president of the National Action Network (which he founded) and his high-profile media status meld with the essential fact that he is a preacher. All of those elements were in full effect as he visited The Blvd at 70 N. Bellevue Blvd. following an earlier stop at the church’s Southwind campus at 8220 E. Shelby Drive. Drawing from the biblical book of Joshua, Sharpton artfully crafted a message that stirred the crowd that turned out for The Blvd’s Heritage Sunday Black History Month celebration. At points, the balcony shook. “My blessings can’t be Trumped,” he roared in a summation to his early reference to President Donald Trump, whom he labeled “Hurricane Trump”. Declaring that, “We always had to struggle,” Sharpton said, “Some of us got so comfortable under President Obama that many of us said that maybe we were living in a post-racial era. Well, maybe God let Trump win to wake some of us up.” Sharpton’s ties to Memphis include his link to Mississippi Boulevard’s Senior Pastor Rev. J. Lawrence Turner, who serves as secretary of the NAN board. His visit and the Black History Month celebration was accented by the music of Nashville’s renowned Belmont College Chorale. His sermon was laced with lessons and admonitions drawn from experiences, including a televised panel encounter with a self-proclaimed black conservative following the death of Eric Garner in New York City in July 2014. A NYPD police officer applied an illegal chokehold to the unarmed Garner. The medical examiner said he died from a combination of the chokehold, chest compression and poor health. “He (the black conservative) told me, ‘Rev. Al, I don’t know about all this marching and protesting and stuff y’all be doing. Civil rights is alright I suppose, but civil rights didn’t make me. Look at my resume. I went to the right schools. I was a member of the right fraternity. I had the right connections. Read my resume.’” Sharpton recalled looking at the resume and telling the panelist that it was very impressive. “‘You were at the right schools, a member of the right fraternities; had the right connections,” Sharpton said, relating the exchange. “‘Civil rights didn’t right your resume. Civil rights made somebody read your resume. You’re not the first qualified Negro in America, but they didn’t have the options you had.’” Noting that he often meets similar-minded people that he labels “Senior Vice Presidents of Irrelevance,” Sharpton warned, “Don’t you ever forget some unelected, illiterate grandfathers laid down in the gutter … sacrificed and sponsored you. “If you choose not to be active, if you choose not to be involved, at least don’t be ungrateful.”

MTS, Dr. Henry Logan Starks & The 30th

By Special to The New Tri-State Defender

The Dr. Henry Logan Starks Institute on Faith, Race & Social Justice Honors Program yielded this moment for honorees. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley) MTS, Dr. Henry Logan Starks & The 30th Memphis Theological Seminary presented the 30th Annual Dr. Henry Logan Starks Scholarship & Award Celebration at the Guest House at Graceland last week (Feb. 9th). The 2017 honorees: • Alice Faye Duncan Thompson – The Starks Distinguished Service Award. • Kathy Buckman Gibson – President’s Humanitarian Award. • Rev. Dr. Delois Broady – Outstanding African American Alumnae. • Rev. David Louis Adams Sr. – Outstanding African American Alumnus. • Students Uniting Memphis (Khari A. Bowman, Cornesha J. Good, Quintin Griffin, Khamilla A. Johnson, Elton Nichols, Zoey Parker, Malik Rudd, Alexis Sledge, Taylor Williams, Moya Albert), CandleBearer Award. • Dr. Erma L. Clanton – Legacy Award. The Dr. Henry Logan Starks Scholarship & Award Celebration took root 30 years ago. Bishop Bettye Alston and members of Brown’s Chapel AME Church established it in 1987. The namesake is the Rev. Dr. Henry Logan Starks, a member of the seminary’s first integrated cohort of students. He later became the first African American professor at the seminary. He died on July 4, 1985. According to Dr. Daniel J. Earheart-Brown, the seminary has awarded “hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than 500 students” through the Dr. Henry Logan Starks Scholarship Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships for full-time African-American students.

Donnie McClurkin tells Christians to stop protesting Trump

By theGrio

Pastor Donnie McClurkin believes that Christians should not be protesting against Donald Trump. “We need to know what our vote really means and how to utilize it. But I don’t want us to get caught up in this protest,” McClurkin insisted on Get Up! Mornings With Erica Campbell. “The protests do nothing but rile [people] up. It causes people’s anger to rise up and it gives us a false sense of involvement.” Campbell disagreed, speaking in favor of protests and the change they can bring about. “It stops their progress. It makes the police have to respond and they have to spend money, they have to clear the streets and they have to organize,” she said. “So it makes them pay a little more attention…” McClurkin disagreed, however. He said that he did not vote for Trump because of his “lack of policy, misogynistic ideals, [and] racism,” but he still insisted that protesting was not the way to go. “Now is our time to pray for him. This is the job of the church,” he said. “Let the world protest but the job of the church now is to go into prayer and pray that, number one, he succeeds, because if he fails, we have to deal with the consequences as a nation.”

IRIS Orchestra to perform at Clayborn Temple

By TSD Newsroom

IRIS Orchestra and Clayborn Temple will co-present “Celebrating the Past: Creating a Future,” a free, community-inclusive family concert in honor of Black History Month at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the historic church in downtown Memphis. IRIS’s newest initiative, IRIS Artist Fellows C3Strings, features a multicultural string trio including Ashley Vines, viola; Ajibola Rivers, cello: and Mariama Alcântara, violin. The trio will join a host of local schools for the concert in celebration of diversity. Shelby County Schools participants include Kingsbury Overton high schools, as well as Art for Life’s Sake and Carpenter Art Garden. The event’s narrator will be Kenon Walker, an actor who has helped develop guided tours for the National Civil Rights Museum and the Stax Museum and the events manager at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. (For more information, visit

Government warns of scam targeting vulnerable black churchgoers

By Nigel Roberts, NewsOne

Thieves are picking the pockets of vulnerable African-American churchgoers through a scheme that claims the government has a program to help manage bill payments, reports the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. Federal Trade Commission attorney Sana Chriss said the agency received reports that people are approaching some Black church communities about the fake program. “And, because it comes up in church, the scam might seem like it could be legit,” Chriss stated. “But take it from me — and the FTC: There is no federal program that pays your monthly bills in exchange for payment of any kind.” The crooks collect information about creditors and account numbers. They also ask for bank account information for bill payment transfers, with the promise that the government would help them manage their debts. What should be a red flag is that the con artists ask for an up-front processing fee. Many of the victims reported seeing scheduled payments in their bank account. However, the scammers redirect the payments before they reach the creditor. In addition to having their money stolen, the victims often accumulate late fees and get their identity stolen. Chriss said there are legitimate government programs to help the elderly or disabled with financial hardships manage their monthly expenses, as well as resources including credit counseling. Legitimate government programs do not require a fee, Chriss stated.

Annual Prayer Breakfast links Dr. King, LeMoyne-Owen, Black America and hope

By Paula Anderson, Special to

The LeMoyne-Owen College Alumni Association-Memphis Chapter hosted the 26th Annual Prayer Breakfast honoring the legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis on Monday. Katrina Edwards, Memphis Chapter president said, “This year’s theme – ‘Prayerfully Pursuing the Dream’ – gives recognition to a man who influenced the lives of so many people through his non-violent approaches to injustice, and a pathway to equality.” LOC alumni, local government officials and community supporters gathered on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jr. for the breakfast, which is held to honor Dr. King and raise money for scholarships to benefit The LeMoyne-Owen College. The Rev. Stoney Butler Jr. MLK Committee co-chair, said, “I am honored to serve this great institution by upholding and remembering Dr. King’s Dream.” Ninth District Congressman Steve Cohen, Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Lutrell Jr., Mayor Jim Strickland and LOC President Dr. Andrea Lewis-Miller extended greetings to a crowd of 300-plus supporters. Each spoke about the significance of the event and the impact of Dr. King’s life. City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove (Super District 8, Position 2) served as mistress of ceremonies to the obvious delight of the audience. Local pastors prayed for justice, peace, the community and the college. The Rev. Willie B. E. Boyd Jr., pastor of Martin Memorial Temple C.M.E. Church, delivered a message that some later termed timely and relevant. “God has brought us through a winding way, but yet there are some pathologies and some problems among us that we need to discuss,” said Boyd, painting a picture of the state of Black America. “What I want to discuss with us today is some family business, but we need to discuss it because our communities are dysfunctional.” He talked about a generation (Baby Boomers) that raised children who did not endure their parents’ struggles and hardships. He called the dropout rate alarming and touched on the overall appearance that job seekers must radiate when completing applications for employment. Boyd’s message referenced the book “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” authored by Eugene Robinson, who asserted that there is “no one black agenda” and four Black Americas. Guided by Robinson’s book, Boyd talked about those four Black Americas: Mainstream Black America – “(T)hey are the Mercedes and Lexus crowd…they are the skilled labor…trained minds…” Abandon Segment – “(T)hat crowd from Katrina in New Orleans…parts of South Memphis that has been marginalized and pushed aside” and forgotten by the “larger culture”… blacks in the mainstream never think about those folks in the margins.” Transcendent Crowd – “This group’s influence transcends the African-American Community.” It includes Oprah, Tiger, Jay Z and Beyoncé and others called by their first names. Emerging Crowd – “…Nigerians and Liberians who come here with Terminal degrees and get the best jobs and they come here from the West Indies and from the Caribbean Islands and take over in our communities and we are left with nothing but empty lots…poor schools…substandard health care, and we are satisfied with that!” The differences notwithstanding, Boyd shared that he was hopeful, buffeting that view with lines from James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which often is called the Black National Anthem. Bobby L. White Jr., founder/CEO of Frayser Community Schools, took note of Boyd’s explanations about how past generations have shaped the character for many of us, adding that Boyd’s “voice and style are eerily close to Dr. King.” Jeffrey Higgs, LeMoyne-Owen College’s National Alumni President, said, “Rev. Boyd made it very clear that we as people have much work to do to continue the legacy of helping people…help themselves.” And, said Higgs, “Rev. Boyd reminded us all of the essence of commitment and how that commitment should translate for us as alumni, friends and supporters of LeMoyne-Owen College.”

Bishop Eddie Long dies from an ‘aggressive cancer’ at 63

By Angela Bronner Helm, NewsOne

Bishop Eddie Long, the embattled pastor of Georgia megachurch, New Birth Missionary Baptist, has died from an “aggressive form of cancer” according to the church. He was 63 years old. New Birth issued a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sunday, confirming his death. Long made his last public appearance two weeks ago; the senior pastor had lost a significant amount of weight, prompting more than a few comments on social media about his thin, gaunt appearance, prognoses about the state of his health, and even rumors of hospice care. As Long praise danced at the altar, he looked almost unrecognizable—his thick hair gone, replaced with a shiny bald head; his portly appearance now replaced by a shadow of his former self. Long had been fielding concerns about this health for some time, and in September Long released a statement saying in part that he is recovering from an unnamed health issue. “I am recovering from a health challenge that I trust God to deliver me from. It is unrelated to the eating for life diet consisting of mostly raw vegetables that I am continuing, as part of a holistic approach to good health.” Long, the long-celebrated pastor of the 25,000-member congregation, faced serious controversy throughout his tenure—from financial impropriety to sexual misconduct with young men from his congregation (he was staunchly against homosexuality and advocated and sponsored “Sexual Reorientation” classes to supposedly convert homosexuals to heterosexuals.) About six years ago, four young men said that he coerced them into sexual relationships. Long categorically denied the allegations in a court filing, saying he was only a mentor to the men who filed civil lawsuits against him. The men, who were 17 and 18 at the time, say Long abused his spiritual authority to lure them into trysts with cars, jewelry and cash. He often traveled with the young men, sometimes as far as New Zealand, and admitted in four separate documents that he often encouraged his New Birth Missionary Church members to call him “daddy”—as a sign of respect. There were no criminal charges filed in the cases because Georgia’s age of consent is 16. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on May 27, 2011, that the lawsuits were settled out of court; terms were undisclosed. His second wife, Vanessa Griffin, filed for divorce in December of that year. In September 2012, Vanessa Long stated that she chose to return to her marriage and to the New Birth family. Bishop Long was born May 12, 1953, in Huntersville, N.C., to the Rev. Floyd M. Long, Jr. and Hattie Long. Eddie Long attended North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1977. He became pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist ten years later and reportedly grew the church from 300 to 25,000 members. In 2006, the church was chosen by the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to host and officiate the funeral for matriarch Coretta Scott King. The service was attended by four U.S. Presidents—Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. As pastor of the high profile church, Long saw his personal and professional profile soar, and in 2008 he donated $1 million to North Carolina Central to establish a professorship in his name, saying, “I am making (the donation) from my own personal income,” which comes from various real estate ventures and also as royalties from his books. (Long authored seven books.) In 2007, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced an investigation into the tax-exempt status of six megachurches including New Birth by the U.S. Committee on Finance. Long refused to cooperate with the investigation and there were no charges filed nor any penalties levied. Long is survived by his wife Vanessa and children Edward, Eric, Jared, and Taylor Long. Long married Dabara S. Houston in 1981; they were divorced soon afterwards, and she is mother to his oldest son. Read the entire statement from New Birth below: NEW BIRTH CELEBRATES THE LIFE OF BISHOP EDDIE L. LONG FOLLOWING HIS TRANSITION TO OUR HEAVENLY FATHER LITHONIA, GA – Sunday, January 15 New Birth Missionary Baptist Church celebrates the life and legacy of Bishop Eddie L. Long who is now spiritually healed and home with the Lord. Bishop Long, Senior Pastor of New Birth, transitioned from this life early Sunday morning after a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer. As a man of God with unyielding faith, Bishop Long maintained his commitment to our Heavenly Father as he proclaimed that cancer would not kill his faith nor his spirit. First Lady Elder Vanessa Long, Bishop Long’s wife of 27 years offered the following. “I am confidant through my belief in God that my husband is now resting in a better place. Although, his transition leaves a void for those of us who loved him dearly, we can celebrate and be happy for him, knowing he’s at peace.” Deeply committed to his church, even in his last days, Bishop Long delivered his final message to New Birth as we ushered in 2017. He told the church that God was already working in our favor and what we have been praying for was already manifested. In his departure, we receive that and as faithful members of New Birth, we praise God for the life of Bishop Long. Bishop Long was known as one of the most influential faith leaders in the world. He stood strong as a Kingdom Builder, pioneering leader, and revolutionary mind changer. Long was a family man and spiritual leader who was well respected and loved for his passion to unapologetically and courageously preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Long inspired thousands of believers around the world through his global ministry that literally changed lives. Through his earthly battle, Bishop Long believed that God was once again using him to help others see the power of the Holy Spirit through the love New Birth displayed to him and the countless prayers sent up by others from every corner of the earth.Bishop Eddie L. Long was 63 years old. He is survived by his beautiful wife, First Lady Elder Vanessa Long, 4 children Eric, Edward, Jared and Taylor and 3 grandchildren. The Long family thanks you for your prayers, condolences and messages of love. The family appreciates your support and respect of their privacy, as they prepare along with New Birth, for the homegoing service to honor Bishop Long. The date and other details will be announced in the near future.

The Downtown Church settles into Clayborn Temple

By Tony Jones, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

There were no ringing bells, grand processions, resounding introductions of dignitaries and no jostling media pack to mark the Downtown Church’s first official Sunday service in its new home in the recently re-opened Clayborn Temple on New Year’s Day. None were needed to take note of a significant step forward in the city’s history. The church had held a Christmas Eve service in the building. And in one of those instances some would call providence, New Year’s Day 2017 had fallen on a Sunday, aligning with the church’s role in renovating the venerable civil rights site. Clayborn Temple was the key meeting site for the sanitation workers during the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis. It’s where he gave one of his final public speeches before he was gunned down while standing on the balcony of the old Lorraine Hotel late in the afternoon on April 4, 1968. As the years passed, deterioration set in, along with a wounded sense of insult for many. Then, late last year, came word that the crumbling edifice had been purchased by the locally based non-profit group Clayborn Reborn. And that the Downtown Church would serve as the anchor tenant for the planned renovation of the venerable site in the same way an anchor tenant serves for a shopping mall. On New Year’s Day, Downtown Church Pastor the Rev. Richard Rieves stood on plywood as he presided over the service. A tremendous amount of work still must be done. With faith abundant, the New Year’s Day service could be read as a signal of acceleration for the project. “I’m a native Memphian, so it was extremely significant to me,” Rieves said. “When I came back home in June, 2008, having pastored churches in Mississippi and Colorado, I felt it was a God-given passion to see Dr. King’s “Beloved Community” materialized through the gospel and reach across racial lines and socio economic lines to see a radical community that was very diverse come together and live as a family in Christ in a church community.” Clayborn Temple sits at the line of 38103 (downtown) and 38126, one of the poorest zip codes in the country, Rieves said, adding context. “We wanted to reach people in that community (38126), as well as 38103. Because of Clayborn Temple’s history in the civil rights movement, it’s history as a Second Presbyterian church, it was very significant to be in a building that so tangibly evidences what we feel God is calling us to do.” The city’s on-going racial divide perplexes him. “I think more than anything we have been paralyzed since Dr. King’s assassination. I don’t think there has been a major unifying moment since his death. It’s been a cloud over the city.” With discernible hesitancy and a somewhat regretful tone, he said, “There are so many events that intentionally oppressed African Americans in Memphis. Like the work that the University of Memphis is doing on the Memphis Massacre, the lynchings in Memphis, the Crump era. “We have as a city remained segregated, intentionally, I think,” he said. “Dr. King said that 11 on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, and I think it’s still the truth. As a minister, I think I am responsible to help change that and to leverage any relational resources I may have to see it happen.” Downtown Church member Frank Smith, part of the renovation team that achieved the relocation and is driving the renovation, expressed profound relief over the Downtown Church’s milestone move. The church had rented space in various locations over the years, with the planned renovation of Grand Central Station necessitating another such move. “The pastor came to me about a year and a half ago to show me a piece of property that someone was willing to give us. But my response to that was…we could not afford it, and…Memphis doesn’t need another church,” he said. “So we brainstormed, and one of the ideas that came out the conversation was this old run down church over by the FedExForum, and that started about a 15-month ordeal.” The African Methodist Episcopal Church’s leadership deserves a large share of the credit for getting the property transferred for sale, he said. Bishop Jeffrey Nathaniel Leath anchors the AMEC’s Thirteenth District from Nashville. “We’re overjoyed to know that it’s become not only a place of community service and cultural preservation, but also a place of worship,” Leath said. “We are encouraged by the diversity of interests, the commitment to the heritage of the facility and it’s history as both a place of AME history and Presbyterian history, and the city of Memphis. We’re glad that it will not only be restoring the architectural and structural grandeur and youthfulness to the facility, but also recapturing the spirit of service to the community.” So as Memphians and Shelby Countians, people throughout the country and in various parts of the world make the turn toward the commemoration of 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s death here, there is widespread gratitude that Clayborn Temple will be open to receive those coming to pay homage. “This is a sacred place,” Smith said. “A safe place where we can gather again, where we can deal with difficult topics. We must honor the historical significance of this place. “And we must worship in this place. We must see this as a safe place for gathering and a safe place for dangerous conversation.”