Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Passing of a Preacher

When you enter the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham - one of Alabama's great institutions - you are welcomed by Fred Shuttlesworth. You will be welcomed to this shrine of the Civil Rights Movement by a preacher. Fred bragged that his head was harder than the batons of the Birmingham police. For decades this straight talking, hard headed preacher not only preached but enacted the justice of Jesus Christ. In so doing, Fred was a model for all later generations of preachers in Alabama.

Fred was not known as widely as some Civil Rights activists, mainly because he never stopped being a pastor who daily cared for an active congregation. He was a preacher first, a political activist second, basing his challenges upon his pastoral convictions. We knew him as a man who changed our state for the better by standing up, speaking up, and acting up for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Reading some of the spurrious biblical interpretation that appears on our Conference website in our current discussions about our state's Immigration Law, interpretation that picks out a couple of Bible verses (often from Romans 13) and uses it to justify all sorts of nontheological subserviance to the state, I give thanks that we live in Alabama. That is, we live in a place where, in a time when horribly unjust laws had been duly passed by our government, a few hard headed, straight talking preachers stood up for the higher law of God. What a blessing to serve God in a place where God raised up a faithful witness named Fred.

Will Willimon


foxofbama said...
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foxofbama said...

Bishop Willimon:

Thinking about the national spotlight this last week on Alabama I remembered an interesting conversation my Dad and I had with our friend L.D. Johnson the summer of 1976 at Furman.
Johnson told us of the situation he faced in Roanoke Virginia in the 60's during Textile strike and from the pulpit he looked out one Sunday morning at the President of Dan River Mills and across the aisle a Leading Representative of a National Labor Union.
And also thinking again about Fleming Rutledge great sermon The Enemy Lines are Hard to Find, in your collection of sermons from Duke Chapel. I heard the sermon in person at St. Lukes Episcopal there in Bham within two weeks of its delivery at Duke.
I have personally made sure Robert Parham's oped piece about Southern Baptists leadership silence on the immigration issue, as well as Rachel Johnson's wise piece from the Huffington Post reprinted in the Oct issue of CBF's Baptists Today in addition to your recent blog postings have come to the attention of The Alabama Baptist and the staff of Bama SBC, whose Ex Director Rick Lance is Gov Bentley's former pastor.
I think they are thinking things over.
I am on the margins of conversations among ministers in Dekalb County, hoping you personally if the formal invitation comes your way, will panel with Parham at FUMC in Ft. Payne. Not my invitation to make, but if the Holy Spirit leads them, want to prepare you to say yes.
One bright light was grand scene in Collinsville last night. Youth soccer program there in full throttle and the Civil Rights history of some families present was in the air and in process of redemption as the narrative continues to play out in these interesting times in the state.
I do hope all who take a look at your tribute and remembrance to Rev Shuttlesworth will add to their insight of the times Howell Raines piece in the December 1983 New Republic Farewell to the Bear. Great look at Bryants relationship to George Wallace, and how maybe Bryant coulda done little better in a few instances.\
To that end hope you and the likes of Hugo Black's grandson Stephen may consider a visit with Nick Saban and Senator's Shelby and Sessions in the near coming days.
Remind them of the esteem we all now hold Judge Frank Johnson, as to paraphrase Sinque in Amistad, the ancestors are whispering to us to grab hold of our better natures.


Stephen M. Fox
Collinsville, Alabama