The Christian Post Celebrates Seven Pioneering African American Clergy

During Black History Month, it is common for people to look at the milestones and firsts among the African American community.

As with secular professions, there are many notable milestones for African American clergy in Christian denominations that are historically overwhelmingly white.

While many of these pioneering firsts have happened within the past decade, some took place long before anyone alive today was born.

The following pages highlight the contributions of seven notable black pastors who paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps.

Gowan Pamphlet

In 1772, Gowan Pamphlet became the first African American to be ordained by an American denomination while still being owned as a slave by a widowed tavern keeper.

The ordination came with the permission of his master. Pamphlet helped found a Baptist church in the Williamsburg, Virginia area that remains to this day, known as Historic First Baptist Church.

“1793 proved to be a decisive year for Pamphlet. In rapid succession he survived accusations of helping to plan a slave insurrection, gained admission for his church into the Dover Baptist Association, and was granted his personal freedom,” Colonial Williamsburg, the largest outdoor living museum in the country, explains on its website.

James Augustine Healy

The son of an Irish immigrant and an enslaved woman, James Augustine Healy became the first African American bishop in the Roman Catholic Church in 1875.

His consecration ceremony was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine, with the bishop focusing on helping white minority ethnic groups.

“Being half Irish, he immediately bonded with the many Irish immigrants living in the Munjoy Hill area at that time,” explains.

“Bishop Healy also was fluent in French, and won the trust and admiration of the many French Acadians who moved to Maine after their forced removal from Canada by the British.”

Fred Luter

In 2012, messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana and voted Fred Luter, Jr. as the first African American president of the denomination.

The vote was especially significant given that the SBC was originally founded in 1845 by pro-slavery Baptists who opposed the abolitionist sentiments of their northern peers.

David Crosby, the pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, nominated Luter to the position, giving a speech justifying his decision that was interrupted by applause on multiple occasions.

“We need Pastor Fred at the head of the table, helping us understand our mission field and our mission. It is time to tap the great resource of his experience, wisdom and passion for this wider purpose,” stated Crosby in 2012.

This year, Luter nominated Alabama Pastor Ed Litton to become SBC’s next president.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski