White South Carolina Church Opens Its Doors and Its Heart to Black Congregation

From left, Second Baptist Church Pastor Mark Bradley, the Rev. Robert Crawford of Bethel Baptist Church and Second Baptist Associate Pastor Bob Porterfield stand outside Second Baptist Church near Rock Hill, South Carolina.
From left, Second Baptist Church Pastor Mark Bradley, the Rev. Robert Crawford of Bethel Baptist Church and Second Baptist Associate Pastor Bob Porterfield stand outside Second Baptist Church near Rock Hill, South Carolina.

At Second Baptist Church, the name does not quite fit. Nobody is second at Second. People of all colors come first.

Its sanctuary on S.C. 901 just south of Rock Hill houses two congregations — the predominantly white Second Baptist and the predominantly black Bethel Baptist Church.

When Bethel learned a few years ago that its old sanctuary on Porter Road was too deteriorated and simply unsafe, one of its deacons stopped by to see the Rev. Bob Porterfield at Second Baptist.

Porterfield is a trailblazer.

He ran Winthrop University’s Baptist Student Union for decades. He started the Children’s Attention Home for abused kids of all races and drug treatment programs for still more kids.

Porterfield went to his members and asked whether the church would agree to share space with the Bethel group that desperately needed a roof and home.

The people of Second Baptist Church took a leap of faith that was just that — based on faith.

“It was unanimous to bring Bethel here,” Porterfield said. “All were for it. And it has turned out to be an experience that has enriched us all.”

Bethel was welcomed with open arms and has continued to operate its own ministries in Second Baptist building. The congregation from Bethel was used to its own place, said the Rev. Robert Crawford, but quickly found a home at Second Baptist.

Color, so long an obstacle and dividing line in South Carolina — even among churches — was never a barrier.

“Our experience here has been amazing and wonderful,” Crawford said.

When Porterfield, at age 81, stepped back from so much responsibility last year at Second Baptist, the church interviewed the Rev. Mark Bradley about taking over as senior pastor. Bradley was asked by church members whether he had any concerns with keeping the arrangement with Bethel.

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Source: Tri Valley Central | ANDREW DYS The Herald of Rock Hill

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