Diverse and intricately woven, the histories of the black church and American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) have been intertwined for nearly two centuries. The journey has stretched from the ancient shores of Africa, the Caribbean and Haiti to American slavery, through the tumultuous 1960s and early ’70s, to the 1,200 black American Baptist churches across the United States that reflect the changing face of the black church today.
ABHMS’ forerunners fought diligently for the abolition of slavery and dedicated themselves to educating those who had been held captive. After the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, approximately 3.5 million slaves were freed with no prospect for improved livelihood, training or formal education, but members of the American Baptist Home Mission Society and the Women’s American Baptist Home Mission Society worked tirelessly to establish schools and colleges to help educate them. Eventually, the American Baptist Home Mission Society founded 27 institutions of higher learning for freed people, including Morehouse College, Spelman College, Benedict College, Shaw University, Virginia Union University and Florida Memorial College.
The Civil Rights Movement gave shape, voice and focus to the black churches that considered American Baptist Churches USA their home. With the meteoric rise of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a growing, insurgent movement, individuals sought a workable, Christian solution to the complex problems of the day, and black ministers looked to the denomination.
The histories of the black church and ABHMS provide a rich legacy of faithful witness to the Gospel and call us to even greater things in present-day mission. The emerging American Baptist black church of the 21st century is more ethnically diverse. It is comprised of churches that are African, African-American, Caribbean and Haitian and makes up more than 40 percent of our worshipping community. ABHMS and black churches are poised for the work ahead. The possibilities for growth are endless, and our ability to make a difference in the lives of the faithful is incalculable.
Snapshot of the Ethnic Church
Call to Engagement
ABHMS-supported ESL program: One student inspired its founding, another keeps it going
Were it not for the determination of one student—Eric Francois from Haiti—rain or heavy wind might mean cancelling English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Eglise Evangelique De L’Union Chretienne in Brockton, Mass.
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Going Home to Help in Haiti
Where do you go when there’s no food or water, the world around you lies in ruins, and rescue is only a hopeful rumor? After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, many Haitians were faced with this dilemma. For some, the answer was “home,” back to their villages. By the end of February, 59 families had returned to one of these struggling communities―Grande Saline―on the northern edge of Port au Prince. Read the full story