Southern Baptist Perspectives
In the previous chapter, we contrasted narratives of congregational poverty relief articulated by pastors from two small Methodist churches in rural Mississippi. We examined how aid provision practices are connected to notions of congregational identity (“Who we are”). Narratives of identity, in turn, yielded divergent visions of these churches’ respective destinies (“Where we are going”) with regard to forging charitable choice partnerships on the heels of welfare reform. In this chapter, we continue to examine the ways in which narratives of congregational identity influence pastoral perceptions of poverty relief and orientations toward charitable choice. And we again undertake a comparative analysis of congregational narratives emanating from two churches with different racial constituencies. However, in several noteworthy ways, the focus of this comparative investigation is different from that of chapter 4. In this chapter, we turn our attention away from small rural churches to focus instead on two large congregations located in a more urbanized milieu. Moreover, instead of analyzing pastoral imaginings of the future, we fix our attention on religious leaders’ typifications of the past. Consequently, we explore how congregationally specific collective memories are produced through religious discourse while analyzing the relationship between the past experience and current congregational orientations toward aid provision and charitable choice partnerships.
While both the churches featured here share the same township in east central Mississippi, each is associated with a different denomination.1 The first of the churches featured here is Temple Zion Church of God in Christ (COGIC). A predominantly African American Christian