Tri-State Defender Religion Stories


Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship bishop plans appeal to millennials

By TSD Newsroom

NASHVILLE – With an expected attendance of 10,000 college and university students at its annual College Sunday on November 13, Bishop Joseph W. Walker III – presiding bishop of Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship International – has set out to galvanize Gen Z and Millennials to “elevate” their lives by “taking a courageous stand against injustice and becoming change agents in their communities.” Walker, senior pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, will deliver his message during the 12th annual event for young adults at Tennessee State University’s Gentry Center. Numerous academic institutions from across the South are expected to participate. The heated – and at times overheated – presidential election and continuous unrest in urban communities will form the backdrop for Walker’s College Sunday appeal to you adults, who he says can play a significant role play in moving the country toward racial unity, peace and enfranchisement for all. “We have just witnessed the most tumultuous national election in our lifetimes, which has significantly lowered the substance and tone of our collective dialogue and exacerbated our differences,” Walker said earlier this week. “As the most educated and diverse generation yet, today’s young people have the power to pick us up out of the gutter and elevate our conversation. They have strength in numbers, powerful ideas, and mastery of electronic mediums that can reach millions. They can affect real change. I plan to urge them to do so.” The event, which will begin at 11:15 a.m. at the Gentry Center, 3500 John A. Merritt Boulevard in Nashville, is open to the public. Gospel artist J.J. Hairston, lead singer of J.J. Hairston and the Youthful Praise, will be featured. Students are expected from TSU, Lane College, Xavier College, Austin Peay State University, University of Akron, Central State University, Simmons College and Fisk University.

Meet Marcus Malone: creator of Church Girls Rock

By Nina Allen-Johnson, [email protected]

Marcus Malone, owner and founder of Total Experience School of Music, has gigs from Memphis to London and beyond. He is an artist at Hammond Organ, USA, at Yamaha Corporation of America and at 64 Studio. Last week, he talked to the TSD year about his upcoming project – year four of Church Girls Rock. Nina Allen-Johnson: Marcus, tell me a little bit about your vision and how Church Girls Rock got started. Marcus Malone: Church Girls Rock started four years ago at Greater Works Deliverance Ministries. It started by a lady asking me to come up with something creative for Women’s Month. And it automatically came to me. I said, “Let’s do the Church Girls Rock.” NAJ: Were you a member of that church? MM: Yes. I was the Minister of Music. Not knowing the concepts of it, but as I started planning, it just came to me: We are going to do an all-girls choir; we are going to do an all-girls band. I guess that comes from me being a musician. From there, we decided to make it an awards show. We had different categories – favorite usher, favorite mother, favorite evangelist, favorite first lady. Basically, you nominate these women and there is a voting process. That’s what happened the first couple of years. NAJ: Was it just at that church or was it citywide? MM: It was just at that church, but the nominations were citywide. You could nominate anyone in the city. That was a huge success. The first year, realistically, we had 350 people in attendance. NAJ: How’d you get the word out? MM: We got the word out basically through social media, flyers. We hit the neighborhood. I walked the neighborhoods myself and passed out flyers. NAJ: How did the people vote? MM: They voted online. It was pretty cool. Then the next year, we partnered with the Redwing Group and they came on and did PR for us. We did it at Cummings St. Baptist Church. It was bigger than the first year. We had sponsors like Cigna and Methodist. It was our first time incorporating breast cancer (survivor tributes). We donated our proceeds to The Wings Foundation. And from there it escalated even further in our third year, which was last year’s event. It was the same concept, but we added a few pieces. We added an all-girls children’s choir, which also was a huge success. This year will also be different because it is not an awards show anymore. It is just a night to honor women and empower women. And we have a few surprises. NAJ: So there are no nominations and no voting process this time? MM: No. No nominations and voting. We just want everybody to come out. I’m doing it free this year because I don’t want anyone to have a reason not to come out and participate. NAJ: Has it not been free before? MM: No. It’s never been free. This is the first year that it is free. It’s free to be in the choir. We are recording this year. So we are going to do our first single. Marquee Walker with Key Beats is sponsoring that studio time. He’s one of the biggest producers in the city. NAJ: Awesome! … When is the show again? MM: November 5 at Greater Memphis Pentecostal Assembly, 8941 E. Shelby Drive,. This year we are also excited about the Inaugural Church Girls Rock Fashion Show, which will be November 4. That is going to be at the New Bellevue Ministries, Bishop Tony B. Hastings… 672 N. Trezevant St. NAJ: What does the fashion show consist of? MM: It consists of Church Girls modeling! We have the agency of Bellisimo Modeling Company coordinating it. They are sponsoring their time as well. NAJ: Will they provide the clothing for your models, or how does this work? Will the ladies of Church Girls Rock be in the fashion show? MM: No. It’s a fashion show where we invite the people to come out and enjoy the show. It’s our version of a pre-show party. Past honorees, program participants, sponsors; everyone is invited to attend. Admission is $10. NAJ: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, and we look forward to the Church Girls Rock events this weekend! NOTE: Sherry Mackey of 95.7 Hallelujah FM and Amy Speropolous of Local 24 News will host Church Girls Rock, which is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 5. For VIP seating, call 901-8728 or email [email protected]. On December 3, Church Girls Rock will make its debut at Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla.

Do black votes still matter? Yes!

By Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

On Nov. 4, 2014, Allan Turner of the Houston Chronicle wrote an article examining the historical relationship between voting and churches. Turner argued that this relationship is “as old as America.” His opening statement was, “In the beginning, North America was God’s country.” He’s wrong. The earth is the Lord’s. True. But “God’s country” is the phrase white supremacists use as a divination to justify their colonial conquests. However, Turner’s premise is similar to one I posited in my last article. The line of separation between church and state is political not practical. In other words, our constitution sets forth, through the first amendment, a protection against any state-endorsed or federalized faith. We are a country rooted in the freedom of religious expression. This is the political take on religion in America. The practical take is that our faith – for better or worse – guides our personal practices. Since politicians are people, 98 percent of them identifying as religious, the practical reality of church and state is not black and white but many shades of gray. Nevertheless, when it comes to this election cycle many people in the country are feeling blue – pun intended. We feel our choices are always limited to the lesser of two evils. Many of us, in spite of our proclaimed religious convictions, feel helpless and hopeless. I believe our despair is by design. But, I also believe that sentiment is deeply misleading. In such a tense time with some much at stake, both politically and personally, we are reaping the whirlwind of distrust and insecurity due to our basic political, civic and societal ignorance. I’m not trying to be pejorative. I’m seeking to be practical. Politically, our communities, culture, and country are suffering from (among many other things) a basic misunderstanding of civics. This misunderstanding misguides us to seek a mythical “perfect” instead of working towards a meaningful “progress.” (I understand that BOTH of these are relative terms.) Simply put, we really don’t know how politics and society work on a practical level. This makes it more difficult for us to organize around principles and policies – notice I didn’t say candidates – that empower the masses. Instead, we swing like a pendulum, back-and-forth, between a naïve optimism and a pessimistic nihilism. We either suspect that everything will work out fine even if we don’t work for it. Or, we’re skeptical that nothing will work no matter how much effort and intelligence we apply. Therefore, we are conditioned to demonize everyone who seeks to manage the middle ground in a way that is, at all, different from our individual and ideological convictions. This leaves us at a stalemate that maintains an unjust status quo. We have to be more thoughtful and intentional with our practices and proclamations. Our lives, the human condition itself and our political existence is always wrought with complexities. We rarely, if ever, have the luxury of engaging in “all or nothing” arguments and exercises. We have to do better than that. We have to constantly ask ourselves, “What is the next, best move we can make in a series of efforts to obtain our collective liberation in light of the options before us?” Human beings progress by steps not teleportation. We have to live even while we’re learning. We have to work even while we’re weeping. Everybody has to be doing something to contribute to our collective well-being. We have to grow to a place where we affirm every meaningful measure of resistance to our oppression. Education. Politics (including voting). Faith. Family. Economics. All of it matters! Indecision and disengagement in any of these areas only results in continued despair. We must remain involved even when it seems that our odds are insurmountable. We must continue to critique an unjust system even as we work within and outside of it to ensure our needs are met and our experiences are affirmed and represented in places of power. We don’t win by simply taking our ball and going home. We don’t succeed by merely talking about what we’re against and what’s not working. We win by working on and working towards those things we believe matter most. Don’t be deceived. Every vote matters. Every election matters. This year’s ballot is important. And so is the ballot box we punch, click and write-in every day we decide to fight for our freedom. (The Rev. Earle Fisher is senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and co-spokesperson for the Memphis Grassroots Organizations Coalition.)

PHOTOS: Rite of Reception for Bishop Martin Holley of Catholic Diocese of Memphis

By Photo Journalist: Lee Eric Smith

On the eve of his installation as the Fifth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis, Bishop Martin Holley was welcomed into the community during the “Rite of Reception into the Cathedral Church and Vespers for the Feast of St. Luke.” The ritual was held at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Central Avenue. Holley will be officially installed today at 2 p.m. at the Cook Convention Center. Holley takes over for outgoing Bishop Terry Steib, who has served the Memphis diocese since 1993.

Spreading the Word: Meet the man who created a Spotify for church sermons

By Martin Johnson, The Root

Like many preachers, Nicholas Richards felt a special affinity for the pulpit. “I didn’t choose the church,” he said during a recent interview. “The church chose me.” Don’t take our word for it. Watch him speak on Isaiah 9:1-6 as he interprets the passage, adapting and connecting it to contemporary life and classic literature. Richards, who is in his early 30s, was on the fast track at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, the third-oldest Baptist church in America. So it was a surprise last year when he announced that he was leaving the church. However, his departure had nothing to do with a crisis in spirituality. Quite the opposite, in fact: He was launching a tech startup that would make sermons more readily accessible. Richards has started Roho, a company named after the Swahili word for “spirit,” and it’s an online hub for sermons and discussion about them. In a world where people are lost without their cellphones and more apt to congregate on social media platforms than in pews Sunday morning, it seems like an idea whose time is now. It’s been called the Spotify of the word of God—without, perhaps, the thorny issues of royalties. Another way to look at Roho is that it’s the TED Talks for the spiritually inclined. (Roho also helped Richards earn a spot on The Root 100, our annual list honoring the most influential African Americans ages 24-45.) Richards conceived the idea during his tenure at Abyssinian, both from researching sermons and from congregants who wanted to share his work with others. Richards had some rudimentary computer skills, so he built a test website and held focus groups with several Morehouse and Spelman grads whom he had befriended while attending Emory University, where he majored in philosophy. The primary feedback was that there was a need for more than videos of sermons; the viewers wanted a community, a means to discuss and parse the minister’s words. With this template, Richards began to pursue seed money. The site launched last year with an initial investment of $500,000, raised from an array of African-American investors. Keesha Cash, general partner of the Impact America Fund, was one of the first investors. “We were impressed with how Roho uses technological solutions to advance and build community,” she says. Richards’ goal is to raise $5 million, and an important step toward that goal occurs later this month. Roho is one of 46 companies that are part of the 18th batch of the prestigious 500 Startups business incubator. One of the biggest obstacles that Richards initially faced was getting the sermons, since some ministers feared that a robust online presence would diminish their attendance. However, Richards now proudly boasts a cadre of the leading religious voices in America on his site. Roho features sermons from Noel Jones, Lance Watson, Frederick Haynes, E. Dewey Smith Jr., Gina Stewart and Neichelle Guidry. The site has 25,000 hours of content and 250,000 monthly viewers. Richards’ hope is to generate revenue from both a premium tier and advertising dollars. Casilda James, a New Jersey-based educator, is a frequent visitor to the site. “I like sermons,” she says, and she enjoys the diversity of points of view found on the site. “I often find myself saying, ‘Oh, I hadn’t looked at it that way before.’” The growth of Roho has been validating for Richards, since leaving Abyssinian wasn’t an easy move. But he says that sometimes you don’t recognize your strength until “you step into the unknown.”

Faith group reaches for millennials, minorities with national vote push

By Special to The New Tri-State Defender

NASHVILLE – Determined to get its members to the voting booths on Nov. 8, the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship has started Fellowship Unite, a PAC aiming to register and turn out millennial and minority voters in the 2016 election and beyond. The organization is moving to unite church congregations with a common goal: energize 100,000 unengaged voters to get out to the voting booth. Making use of a provocative online video, Fellowship Unite is focused on turning community “outrage to action.” “It’s time to turn our anger about discrimination, police violence, and other issues of the day into meaningful, political action,” said Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, one of the group’s leaders. “Fellowship Unite is organized to shift us from protest to power, to shift us from apathy to action. This election is too important to stay home.” Walker, based in Nashville at Mount Zion Baptist Church, is the Presiding Bishop in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, a global network of Baptist pastors and churches. Walker graduated with a Ph.D. in Theology from Princeton University and has grown the Mount Zion congregation from 175 members to more than 30,000 since taking over in 1992. “I believe that part of developing your own destiny is engaging in civic responsibility. Too many people have paid too high of a price for us to sit home and do nothing. The stakes are too high. I want people to join us as we encourage all churches nationwide to register to vote and get folks to the polls,” said Walker. “We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to make it happen. Let’s be a part of our own destiny.” Another driving force of the organization is Bishop K. Edwin Bryant, who began working under Walker in 1992 at Mount Zion and eventually worked his way up to chief operating officer. Bryant now presides over Mount Pisgah Church in Dayton, Ohio. “Our country is at a critical point in our history, and it would be a shame for the black community to shy away from its obligation to become engaged in the political process,” said Bryant. “We must let our voices be heard in deciding the direction of this country.” The Fellowship Unite effort dovetails with multi-front pushes to get more African Americans registered. The National Newspaper Publishers Association recently launched Project Black Voter Turnout 2016: 20 Million Black Voters to the Polls. NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. said that initiative would involve working with several national civic, civil rights and activist-minded organizations, along with the National Baptist Convention, Progressive National Baptist Convention, AME, AME Zion, COGIC, UCC and the National Council of Churches. Through its “Trinity Pledge” commitment, Fellowship Unite is asking its churches’ members to pledge to register to vote, vote early and get three other non-registered people to register and vote. Events such as “Faith Day at the Polls,” a national day where churchgoers meet their pastor at polling locations, and “Souls to the Polls,” a program providing rides in church buses to the polls, will be used by the PAC to ensure members get to the ballot box. Fellowship Unite is focusing its GOTV efforts in swing states such as Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. The organization is non-partisan and does not promote a particular candidate or ideology. To view the video: (For more information, visit Email Amanda Washington at [email protected]; call 615-329-9559 or 615-478-3308.)

‘The Blvd.’ to host, toast beloved former pastor and first lady

By TSD Newsroom

After 43 years of pastoral ministry, Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson and his wife, Ernestine (Tina) Jackson, will retire. And they are coming “home” to Memphis to share the transition. From 1979 to 1997, the Rev. Jackson held the reins of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church (The Blvd.). And on Sept. 30, a lot of people who are grateful that he did will show up in force to say, “Thank you!” Dr. Jackson was, says a release announcing the gathering, “that extraordinary pastor who enriched our lives, expanded our vision, reminded us that we have been blessed to be a blessing and helped us to ‘claim the city for Christ’” The Blvd.’s senior pastor, the Rev. J. Lawrence Turner, and first lady Bridgett Turner, quickly embraced the opportunity for an outpouring of appreciation after learning the Jackson’s were interested in saying “thanks for the support” to The Blvd. family and the many other Memphis-area friends they made during their sojourn here. The celebration of mutual respect is set to begin at 7 p.m. at the church at 70 North Bellevue Boulevard. The event is free, with a reception to follow in the Fellowship Hall. Taking to Facebook, Dr. Jackson posted, “Dear Friends, Tina and I look forward to seeing many of you…. This is a celebration for a cause….” A significant portion of the proceeds from the celebration will be contributed to the Clyde Cullen and Queen Esther Mace Jackson Scholarship Fund (named after Pastor Jackson’s parents) at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., where Pastor Jackson serves on the board of trustees. The evening will feature many friends of the Jacksons in various roles. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. William Barber II, who had a "drop the mike" moment at the Democratic National Convention along. Others expected to be present are Bishop T. Garrott Benjamin Jr., the Rev. Dr. Delores Carpenter, the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes and the Rev. Dr. Frank A. Thomas. The MBCC Reunion Choir directed by Dr. Leo Davis is set to enrich the evening, along with other nationally recognized musicians who served with Dr. Jackson – Gale Jones Murphy, Anthony Walker, Pamela Davis and Fred Yonnet. “A Night to Remember! To God be the glory!,” the Rev. Jackson posted. Since leaving Memphis, Dr. Jackson has served as senior pastor of National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. and now serves as senior pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church in New York, N.Y.. Tina Jackson is a former educator in the Memphis City Schools system and served as principal of the MBCC Academy. She also served as principal of Alexander Robertson School (the oldest Presbyterian School in New York city) and taught at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, N.Y. A celebration in New York with the Jackson’s current congregation will precede the benediction celebration in Memphis. Bonnie Thornton Dill will MC the Memphis program. (For more information regarding, contact Eva H. Anderson at 901-729-6222, or e-mail [email protected].)


By Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

I’ve been in public ministry for almost 15 years now. I’ve been a senior pastor for about five. I am a student of black liberation theology. I am, unashamedly, a scholar-pastor and a movement minister – I am intentional about being informed and involved in The Movement for Black Lives. It’s what Jesus would do. The Movement has made my preaching, teaching, pastoral care and civic engagement richer and more righteous. What has impacted me the most is the way The Movement demands that I balance academic theories, traditional church trainings and social activism in a very practical way. I have come to see all of these different areas of my formation as necessary if who I am and what I do is going to have a positive impact on my community, church and personal life. I must admit, this is not easy. It’s a constant struggle to live at the intersection of being a scholar, spiritual leader and social activist. The strain is not rooted in the incompatibility of what I do (and who I am) with what the world needs or what God is requiring of us. The source of the tension is in the fact that 21st century churches (and most people in The Movement) have come to assess and expect the church to be irrelevant and unnecessary with regards to issues of social consciousness, social justice and political empowerment. As a result, the church continues to hemorrhage in both membership and influence. A recent pew research poll indicts the church for losing its ability to aid in solving social problems. According to statistics, while about 38 percent of U.S. adults still believe churches, synagogues and other houses of worship contribute “some” to solving important social problems, the number of people who are “yet holding on” is dwindling. The same poll says numbers have “declined sharply in recent years, from 65 percent in 2012 and 75 percent as recently as 2008.” That’s a 37 percent drop in about 8 years. Lord, help us! So many churches are out of tune and out of touch with The Movement because we are wed more to an ahistorical and antiquated tradition than we are committed to a sincere and impactful spirituality. In 1972, the Rev. Albert Cleage Jr., prescribed, “Only if we can rediscover the historic roots of Christianity and strip from them the mystical distortions...will we be able to bring the Black Christian Church into the Liberation Struggle and make it relevant to the lives of Black people.” In spite of the abysmal figures, I still believe there are certain things only the Black Church can do. The Black Church is still, for-better-or-worse, the most autonomous black institution in our communities. Therefore, what we need to do is leverage these institutions to work towards the liberation of black people and away from our continued oppression. A transition must take place. I believe it has already begun but we have a long way to go. Black faith must be – and do – more than the mere recitation of cheap church tropes and bad theology that makes folks shout and dance but ignores structural inequities and damnable living conditions. The standard of ministry for the past several decades has been one of profit over people, church budgets instead of communal benevolence and social club cache as opposed to social justice in Jesus Christ. That residue remains. This forces faith leaders in The Movement to have to navigate friendly fire from both sides of the social justice struggle. But yet, we march on. Pastors all over the city are brainstorming about how to coalesce and get more actively involved in The Movement. Although that is commendable, it is not time for a victory lap. The only way pastors can engage effectively (and subsequently get their congregations involved as well) is through the raising of our collective social consciousness in a way that makes social justice theology a righteous requirement and not an ecclesiastical elective. In other words, faith leaders would have to adopt and embrace a revolutionary theology – or dare I say a #BlackLivesMatter theology. I know that requires some heavy lifting, so I’ll save my reflections on what that looks like for a future article. Meanwhile, stay tuned and #StayWoke. (The Rev. Earle Fisher is senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and co-spokesperson for the Memphis Grassroots Organizations Coalition.)

Most Reverend Martin Holley named 5th Bishop of Memphis Diocese

By TSD Newsroom

With the Catholic Diocese of Memphis in need of a new bishop and Pope Francis’ confidence in the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC., the Most Reverend Martin David Holley has been appointed to succeed Bishop J. Terry Steib. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, announced Holley’s appointment as the fifth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis today in Washington. Bishop Steib submitted his letter of resignation in May 2015. “I am deeply humbled in my appointment as the Fifth Bishop of Memphis by His Holiness, Pope Francis and I thank him for expressing his confidence in me through this new assignment at this time in my life,” said Holley, who has served as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC since July 2, 2004. “I eagerly look forward to meeting the priest, deacons, religious, seminarians and faithful laity of the Memphis Diocese in the next several months. I want to express my deepest gratitude and thanks to my predecessor Bishop J. Terry Steib for his warm and generous welcome of me to the Diocese of Memphis, and I laud him for his incredible Episcopal ministry for over 23 years. I look forward to his continued presence as a blessing in our diocese for many more years.” The installation ceremony for Bishop Holley will be held at the Cook Convention Center on October 19 at 2 p.m. Bishop Steib’s legacy of activity as the fourth bishop of the local diocese began with his installation on May 5, 1993. “It has been a blessing for me to serve the people of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee. Following our mission to proclaim the Good News spiritually, educationally and socially, we have expanded the role of the Church in its evangelization efforts, said Steib. “We have praised and worshiped our God together; we have made education in the faith a priority for our children and adults; we have been good Samaritans in the ‘Land between the Rivers’ in our service to the less fortunate among us. “It has been such a blessing to see the miracles happening and the blessings received. I pray the people of this diocese will continue in their spiritual journey saying, ‘God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.’” Bishop Designate Holley was born on Dec. 31, 1954 in Pensacola, Fla. He is one of 14 children born to Sylvester Thomas Sr., and Mary Elizabeth Holley. While attending Tate High School he was recognized for his talent in basketball and was entered into the school’s Hall of Fame. He earned an associate degree from Faulkner State Junior College and, after entering Alabama State University, he earned a Bachelor of Science in management in 1977. He attended the Theological College in Washington DC, then completed a Master of Divinity from St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla. in 1987. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee on May 8, 1987. He served as associate pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Fort Walton Beach and St. Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola and as pastor of Little Flower Catholic Church in Pensacola. Bishop Designate Holley has held a variety of leadership positions in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, including serving as the Vicar General. He has been a member of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus since 1983. For the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he has served on several committees including: Cultural Diversity, Communications, Pro-Life. He has also served on the following subcommittees: Africa; African-American Catholics; Bishop’s Ministry and Life; Laity, Women, Children and Youth; and Migration. He has been on the Boards of Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. He is the immediate past Chaplain of the Knights of St. Peter Claver.

Progressive Baptist Council steps up to challenge ‘unjust killing’ by ‘rogue’ officers

By TSD Newsroom

Members of the Tennessee Progressive Baptist Council (TPBC) last Sunday took to the pulpit of Monumental Baptist Church to call for an end to the “unjust killing” of unarmed people of color by law enforcement. During an afternoon press conference, the TPBC addressed concerns related to police brutality and other issues challenging African-American communities in various parts of the nation, including Memphis. On his “Black Thought” television show the next day, the Rev. Dr. Noel G. Hutchinson Jr., the TPBC president, said, “Heretofore, you’ve not really heard from the church (on these issues). “If you think about it, our major contribution, shamefully said, in the last few weeks and months has been ‘Blue Sunday’ (a salute to law enforcement). We went in two weeks from protesters on the bridge to having a blue Sunday.” The TPBC is made up of Memphis churches, the only churches the Progressive Baptists denomination has active in the state. The collective statement presented Sunday represents “the beginning of how we will address these issues,” Hutchinson said on Monday. The press conference was a collaborative effort, said Hutchinson. “We got together and decided that enough is enough. We said that since our denomination is the denominational home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that we would have to take the progressive out of our name if we didn’t stand up for justice.” During the approximately 20-minute conference, Hutchinson read the TPBC statement. It tied recent fatal shootings to a practice going back decades. It also made reference to last year’s police killing of unarmed Memphis teen Darrius Stewart and noted that none of the 24 instances of Memphis Police Department shooting over a 5-year period had resulted in an indictment. Reading from the statement, Hutchinson said that set of facts “raises questions of the unjust application of appropriate force when law enforcement encounters people of color.” With rare exceptions, the voice of the church has been noticeably silent, he continued, adding that TPBC has decided to speak. The TPBC demands the “end of African Americans being tried by the gun of a rogue police officer rather than by a jury of 12…The murder of unarmed citizens is never acceptable. We also demand fair and equal treatment from the judicial system when involving cases of people of color.” The council pledged to “work with federal, state and local legislators to shape the policy which has allowed the culture of unjust treatment to exist. We will also continue to work, as we have been, in addressing the violence in our community, which is a separate issue. The TPBC affirmed the work of law enforcement. “In our churches are police officers some of whom, past and present, have been of high rank in the police force,” said Hutchinson said. “Recently, misguided individuals have taken on the task of killing police officers. The unjust killing and shooting of African Americans and the assassination of innocent police officers is unacceptable.” Some in the African American community have rushed to support the police while ignoring the issue that was first present, said Hutchinson, reading the statement. That issue is “the unarmed, unjust killing of people of color by law enforcement…We feel that if we address the worth of black lives all the other issues will fall into place. The council issued a call for clergy, the faith community and others of good will across d ethnicities to “stand with us in affirming the value of black lives and the issue of blatant, selective police brutality. In doing so we affirm the worth of all humanity.” The churches and pastors involved are: Dr. Noel G. Hutchinson Jr., First Baptist Church Lauderdale; the Rev. Wade C. Bryant, Monumental Baptist Church; the Rev. Anthony D. Henderson, Beulah Baptist Church; the Rev. Dr. Reginald Porter, Metropolitan Baptist Church; the Rev. Wendell Coward, Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church; the Rev. Dr. James Netters and the Rev. Melvin Watkins, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church-Westwood; the Rev. Alvin Fleming, Morning View Baptist Church; the Rev. William McKinley, Greater Middle Baptist Church; the Rev. Dr. Harvey Jackson, Mt. Moriah-Baptist Church Carnes; the Rev. Dr. James Delaney, St. John Baptist Church, Pendleton; the Rev. Stanford L. Hunt, Salem-Gilfield Baptist Church; the Rev. Victor Benitez, Serenity Baptist Church; The Rev. Dr. Andre Johnson, Gift of Life Ministries; and the Rev. Roger Brown, Greater Whitestone Baptist Church.