Religion & Race: Southern Presbyterians, 1946-1983

Religion & Race: Southern Presbyterians, 1946-1983

Religion & Race: Southern Presbyterians, 1946-1983

Religion & Race: Southern Presbyterians, 1946-1983

Synopsis

Joel Alvis focuses on the relationships and tensions in the Presbyterian Church, U. S., whose ecclesiastical boundaries never expanded significantly beyond its original territory in the Confederacy and border South. By the time of the civil rights movement, the church was actively involved in ecumenical activities despite its regional isolation... that involvement created unease in some quarters of the denomination. This institutional history describes how the church shaped and was shaped by its regional culture and explores the denomination's own culture as it struggled to determine what role racial issues and realities would have in the definition of being "Presbyterian."

Excerpt

The present book is an institutional history. It explores how one institution, the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), shaped and was shaped by its culture. It explores the denomination's own culture as it struggled to determine what role racial issues would have in the definition of being a Presbyterian.

This book should not be read as a chronicle of the black experience within Presbyterianism. There are others more capable of telling that story. Nor is it only an account of civil rights activity by a group of white religious liberals. Rather, this is an account of how one denomination bounded by its tradition and geography and controlled by white men moved from paternalism toward a more inclusive posture. the journey was not fully completed, but significant events occurred along the way. I hope this work is a legacy for the present, not a polemic from the past. This is not the full story of race relations in the Presbyterian denominations nor among Southerners, black and white. But it is a part of that story that deserves to be heard.

I would like to thank Michelle Francis of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Department of History, Montreat, North Carolina; William Peterson, executive director of the Mountain Retreat Association; the session of the First Presbyterian Church in Auburn, Alabama; the Southern Historical Collection, Library of the University of North Carolina; and the Library and Archives of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Non-Violent Social Change for the use of records in their organizations and/or collections.

I must express my thanks to Margaret Calhoun, who has permitted the photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr., to be used. She has provided welcomed encouragement and support.

Other individuals have also encouraged and shepherded me along my journey. Special thanks are due to my colleagues from 1982 to 1986 at the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Montreat, North Carolina, now a component of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Department of History. These included the late Jerrold . . .

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