Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | APRIL/MAY 2018 11 — about 30 in all — cut their rally short when a crowd of 800 to 1,000 counterprotesters showed up. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 900 hate groups now operate in the U.S. But First Presbyterian Church, a predominantly Caucasian congregation, and Antioch Primitive Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American congregation, had already begun an initia- tive to overcome racial barriers — a pulpit exchange. A pulpit exchange, or pulpit swap, is an opportunity for pastors to exchange positions for varying lengths of time to span racial, socioeconomic or denominational differ- ences between Christians. The Rev. John Hinkle Jr. of First Presbyterian Church and elder Bobby Russell of Antioch Primitive Baptist Church exchanged pulpits for the first time last August. Each entrusted his congregation to a man with a differ- ent color of skin but the same love for Christ. "How can you love your neighbor if you don't know their name?" Hinkle asked. "It was life-changing," said Joe Rich, a member of Antioch Primitive Baptist Church who helped organize the exchange. During World War II, Protestant Christian ministers and rabbis exchanged positions. During the civil rights movement, black and white religious leaders exchanged pulpits. Pulpit exchanges gradually waned, however, as the need for civil rights action seemingly lessened. Today, though, the need has returned. When exploring a pulpit exchange, Hinkle advises, "Don't rush." "Clergy and congregations should know what to expect and should have been introduced beforehand," he said. Consider swapping pulpits with a congregation that is different in one aspect, such as denomination, but which shares a commonality, he added. First Presbyterian Church and Antioch Primitive Baptist, for example, are on the same street, but were far apart relationally. They're now closing the distance. As Russell said, "Change has to begin in the church." —Lauren Brandon Those benefits, however, were eclipsed by the fact that Sarah could never fully be herself. She also saw the tragedy of students expelled for openly declaring their sexual orientation. Later, she and Elizabeth experienced this same exclusion at other churches, where they were barred from working with children and found closed doors to positions of meaningful leadership. Everything changed when they came to Northwood. "Everyone here listened to the fullness of our stories, and the acceptance was like coming home. We have had people say to us, 'I wasn't sure where I stood on marriage equality, but after experiencing you and Elizabeth, I have come to embrace it, and now I am sharing the message with my friends,' " Sarah said. Since joining Northwood, the Clapps have celebrated the baptism of their daughter, Samantha, and Sarah's ordination as a ruling elder. She is now leading the membership and evangelism team, strategizing ways to welcome all people into a community of love and acceptance. "The longer we are here," she said, "the more we see how our continual presence is working its way through the hearts of so many people." —Krin J. Van Tatenhove Pulpit swap bridges racial divide Last fall, First Presbyterian Church of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, sat amid what looked like a scene from the American civil rights movement. Helicopters, K-9 units and officers with sniper rifles patrolled a "White Lives Matter" rally on the town square. Although the rally was only 30 minutes and ulti- mately nonviolent, it was a wake-up call. In response to the rally, local faith leaders were the among the first to join a counter-campaign called "Murfreesboro Loves: A Community Action Against Hate." A citywide, inter- denominational prayer vigil was held the day prior to the rally. On the day of the rally, the white nationalists A pulpit swap helps two congregations bridge a racial divide. Pictured from left: elder Bobby Russell, the Rev. John Hinkle Jr., Leila Hinkle and Paulette Russell. How can you love your neighbor if you don't know their name? — The Rev. John Hinkle Jr., First Presbyterian Church, who swapped pulpits with Antioch Primitive Baptist Church JOE RICH

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