Multiply

Spring 2004

 

Inside this issue:

  

African American Presence 
Gospel in Uniform 
Long Distance Education

The African American presence in the PCA is gaining momentum as a growing group of leaders plant new churches and others pursue seminary education.

  Working Together to Transform North America

 

 

Above: Left to right: Djik Maouyo, ruling elder; Craig Garriott, senior pastor; Wy Plummer, pastor at large; and Stan Long, co-pastor - all of Faith Christian Fellowship in Baltimore. In addition to his part-time position at Faith, Wy is MNA African American movement leader and is helping facilitate an indigenous reformed movement among African Americans. 
Below: Like most PCA churches led by African Americans, Faith Christian's congregation represents a mix of cultures.
On the cover: Students at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri: Tim Jones, Andrae McGary, David Conely, and JB Watkins.

In 1983, when the Delmarva Presbytery (now divided into Potomac and Chesapeake presbyteries) recognized the need for a seminary in the Washington/ Baltimore area, they established one. Their chief goal: to provide graduate theological education in the reformed tradition, as well as practical ministry experience, expressly for those unable to give up full-time employment to pursue a seminary degree. Classes were offered evenings and weekends - a unique concept for seminary education in the 80s. To hold costs to a minimum, there was no investment in facilities - classes were taught in area churches. And rather than employing full-time professors, the presbytery assembled an adjunct faculty of PCA pastors. The new institution was named Chesapeake Theological Seminary.


 

American pastors in the PCA. "The biggest hurdle," he says, "is finding African American church planters who are reformed."
Wy grew up in Harlem, New York, where he was raised in church, but left it far behind when he started college. After graduating from Howard University with a BS in engineering, he earned a master's in the same field at Johns Hopkins. 

Since 1999, Thurman Williams, right, has served as pastor of New Song Community Church in the Sandtown-Winchester section of West Baltimore. The church offers ministries related to housing, healthcare, education, employment, the arts, and drug abuse. Says Thurman, "We believe Jesus Christ is Lord over all, so we preach the Gospel in both word and tangible deed, not merely to our neighbors, but together with our neighbors."

At 34, while pursuing a career at IBM, a manager led Wy to Christ and to reformed theology. A few years later, sensing a call to ministry, he left IBM and enrolled at Chesapeake. About the same time, he moved to the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, and joined the staff at New Song Community Church, an interracial congregation. After graduation in 1995, he was called to serve as New Song's co-pastor with Stephen Smallman, Jr. 

Oog Kang, left, Chesapeake board chairman, is a psychiatrist and a PCA ruling elder; Tai Kim, right, heads day-to-day administration. Both are Korean Americans. In 1999, when the seminary began teaching almost exclusively in the Korean language, English-speaking students had the option of transferring to Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Washington/Baltimore. 

Among other African American PCA pastors who earned seminary degrees at Chesapeake are Thurman Williams, current leader for New Song; Lance Lewis, who is planting Christ Liberation Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Kevin Smith, church planter for Mt. Zion Covenant in Bowie, Maryland, an upscale suburban community nine miles from Washington, DC. "Bowie is predominantly white," Kevin explains, "but our county, Prince Georges, is predominantly African American, including a large number who have the highest incomes in the nation among African Americans.

While the majority of Mt. Zion’s congregation is African American, there are some Latinos and Jamaicans, and a dozen or so Anglo college students from the University of Maryland, members of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Above: Mt. Zion’s congregation is composed primarily of middle-income professionals and includes many young families. Pastor Kevin Smith, below right, is committed to “mentoring young African Americans and promoting reformed theology among our race.” He currently mentors two young men who are preparing for ministry and two others who are praying about answering the call.

When it comes to practical experience, graduates of Chesapeake (now named Chesapeake Reformed Theological Seminary) have high praise for the institution’s emphasis on practical experience, as well as the quality of classroom education. They point out that every course involved a hands-on component in a local church and that all students completed an internship before graduation. Thurman Williams is reminded of an often repeated statement by Bob Lynn, former dean and Thurman’s advisor, “All good theology is practical theology.”

By the late 90s, Chesapeake’s enrollment included about 100 students, the majority first-generation Koreans who were taught in the Korean language. When a change in leadership took place in 1999, the seminary began teaching almost exclusively in the Korean language. English-speaking students had the option of transferring to RTS in Washington/Baltimore, which began operating about the same time.

Today, RTS has a diverse enrollment in that location of about 250 students representing different denominations — some earning degrees in preparation for full-time ministry and others taking selected courses. The seminary’s main campus is in Jackson, Mississippi; additional campuses are in Orlando, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Atlanta, Georgia.

 

 

African American PCA leaders are planting new chuches and serving a diversity of cultures in urban and suburban settings

Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, is the national seminary of the PCA and is clearly committed to educating African Americans, as well as others of non-Anglo origin. In fact, six of the men mentioned in this issue of Multiply earned degrees at Covenant, including Craig Garriot, Dale Weldon, Howard Brown, Giorgio Hiatt, Adiel lins Araujo, and Mike Higgins. What’s more, Wy Plummer is a current member of Covenant’s Advisory Board and is, therefore, in an excellent position to recruit and encourage African Americans called by God to come into the PCA as pastors.

Covenant graduate Howard Brown in Charlotte, North Carolina, exemplifies a number of new African American leaders in the PCA. Howard is church planter for Christ Central, a multiethnic church in an urban location. A daughter church of Uptown Christ Covenant, the congregation began public worship earlier this year. The staff is already multiethnic: Giorgio Hiatt, associate pastor, is of Italian and Hawaiian descent, and Adiel lins Araujo, administrative assistant, is Brazilian. Seeking to minister to an eclectic community of young urbanites, the church meets in an area that includes many middle-class residents, as well as people of lower income.

Like other PCA churches led by African Americans, Christ Central serves people of varied cultures and demographics. For instance, in Homewood, Alabama, church planter Joel Miller started Providence Presbyterian last fall with the aim of developing a transcultural church embracing a variety of cultures and backgrounds. The congregation is composed of African Americans, Anglos, and Asians.
Pastor Joel Miller leads a transcultural church of mostly young, middle and upper-income families in Homewood, a Birmingham suburb. Established when the city was much smaller, Homewood today is a growing, upscale community with a predominately Anglo population. Pictured with Joel is wife Michelle and daughter Jewel, one of his three children.


"What we're doing is unprecedented in terms of location," Joel points out. "Rather than focusing on diversity, we focus on what we have in common - recognizing that we are all called to be reconciled to Christ." He stresses that their approach can be duplicated in other places and welcomes the opportunity to assist others who desire to reach communities of diverse populations.
Raymond Causey leads South Atlanta Community Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, which began with a vision of being ethnically diverse, but according to Raymond, "will likely become a majority African American congregation."
Raymond Causey, left, started a PCA church last fall in a neighborhood now under construction in Jonesboro, Georgia, where the majority of residents are middle income. Pictured with him are Bob Orner, center, pastor of Christ Church Newnan (Georgia) and Dale Weldon, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian, Fayetteville, Georgia, who meet regularly with Raymond for encouragement and prayer.

Although he has many years of ministry experience, Raymond has never before planted a church. He sensed the Lord leading him to start this new work while serving as national director for Urban Family Ministry, an outreach of Campus Crusade for Christ. He was introduced to the PCA through his association with Redemption Fellowship, a mostly African American congregation in nearby Fayetteville. 
"Planting a church, particularly an African American church, is a tremendous challenge, and prayer is a critical issue," Raymond says. "It is so critical that if we don't have people praying for us, we might as well pack our bags and go home."

Without a doubt, starting PCA churches to reach people of diverse ethnic groups and developing academic sources to serve a multicultural population represents an extraordinary charge. But significant progress has been made and the momentum will grow in the years to come. In time, the PCA will more clearly reflect "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb."

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Chaplain Mike Higgins "loves pastoring as well as soldiering." He and his wife Renee, pictured with him, have two daughters at Covenant College. "I live with three women who are all very supportive," says Mike. "Their upbeat attitudes really help me." Renee is also his secretary.

Pulling Double Duty: When PCA Reserve Army chaplain (LTC) Mike Higgins was called to report for active duty at Fort MacPherson in metro Atlanta, he didn't even have to leave home. So there was no need to give up his pastorate at Redemption Fellowship in Fayetteville, Georgia. And because Fort MacPherson is Forces Command Headquarters, there there was little chance of immediate deployment. The job of Forces Command (FORSCOM in Army lingo) is to support the troops from the states. Mike was mobilized in support of Operation Noble Eagle, which is concerned with homeland defense and 

formed as a result of 9/11. 


As a chaplain (the only African American Army chaplain in the PCA), Mike handles the usual pastoral duties and finds that the problems soldiers face are nothing new. "Soldiers have always dealt with fear and stress, worried about separation from loved ones, and puzzled about the meaning of life," he says. "When it comes to individual counseling, the only difficult role for me is to maintain a military bearing as a staff officer and dole out tough love when necessary."

 

When Mike graduated from Missouri University, he was commissioned as an officer and began an eleven-year career in the active Army as a field artillery officer. In his early 20s, he received the Lord, and was later called to ministry. 

 

Since May of 2003, Mike has served full-time with the Army, while managing to stay involved daily with all aspects of pastoring, including fellowship with the children. One Sunday a month, he fills the pulpit at his unit's chapel services, but makes it back in time to preach at Redemption's 11:00 service.
"Long before I knew about the PCA," Mike says, "I read the Bible in a reformed way." Resigning his field artillery commission in the early 90s, he enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary and, after graduation in 1996, joined the staff at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, an interracial, inner-city church.


"When God sent me to the PCA," he explains, "there were some black pastors who thought I was deserting the black church. They couldn't understand why I would join a predominantly white denomination. To change this kind of thinking, we must learn more about each other and deepen our understanding. We must educate African Americans and Anglo Americans about racial reconciliation and church culture as it impacts the PCA, and find ways to serve God together. And we must develop many more African American leaders."


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Long Distance Education

 

The concept of online study and distance education is a growing trend at reformed seminaries today. And, certainly, it has become a critical option for training future pastors, especially those of diverse ethnic groups, many of whom must continue full-time employment and cannot move away for on-campus study. Even more important, particularly when these men are already involved in God's work, it's important to maintain continuity with their community and culture while in training. 
Through Covenant Theological Seminary ACCESS, students may earn a degree from anywhere in the world with the assistance of on-campus mentors. They also come to campus for three one-week periods to interact with professors and fellow students. Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) offers virtual education from its main Jackson, Mississippi, campus, and provides programs at satellite campuses in Washington/Baltimore; Orlando, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Atlanta, Georgia, where they offer evening and weekend classes. 
Considering the growing need for non-Anglos to train for ministry without leaving home, PCA churches and presbyteries are challenged to develop the means for local education, as did Delmarva Presbytery when it formed Chesapeake Theological Seminary, as well as to provide mentoring and on-the-job opportunities for future pastors.

Students studying at RTS in Washington/Baltimore have varied objectives - from preparing for ministry to expanding theological knowledge. Left to right: Derrick Collins, intern at Kingsway Bible Baptist Church, Baltimore, Maryland; Willard Hill, attorney/lobbyist; Irwyn Ince, intern at Mt. Zion Covenant, Bowie, Maryland; and Virgil Jones, staff member at Grace Evangelical Presbyterian, Edgewater, Maryland. After graduation, Virgil plans to be a missionary in Senegal, West Africa. Ultimately, he hopes to lead a church that reaches the diverse groups in Washington, DC.


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Address comments to Fred Marsh, Managing Editor / Photographer. Assistant Editor:   Jennifer Musselman.  Design: Studio Supplee. Copy Editor/Writer: Joan Quillen. Material in Multiply may be reproduced with permission.