Christian Chronicle

Once-segregated Christian university targets racism with launch of new research center

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Founding director urges churches to speak out against ‘situations that carry the foul scent of racial injustice.’

Third Place, Theme Issue, Section or Series, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ABILENE, Texas — In 1960, a professor named Carl Spain delivered an explosive Bible Lectureship sermon that reverberated far beyond what was known then as Abilene Christian College.

In stark terms, Spain called out the racism of Abilene Christian and other colleges associated with Churches of Christ nationally that maintained whites-only admissions policies.

“God forbid that Churches of Christ and schools operated by Christians shall be the last stronghold of refuge for socially sick people who have Nazi illusions about the master race,” declared Spain, who taught Bible at Abilene Christian as well as serving as the minister for the Hillcrest Church of Christ in this West Texas city.

“Our moral attitudes are so mixed up that we use the story of Philemon and Onesimus to justify refusing a Negro admission to study Bible in our graduate school of Bible,” the professor complained, later asking, “Why are we afraid? … Are we moral cowards on this issue?”

Nearly six decades after Spain’s stinging rebuke hastened the integration of what is now Abilene Christian University, another Bible professor — this one an African-American named Jerry Taylor — stepped to the same wooden podium.

Taylor spoke during ACU’s recent 112th annual Bible lecture series — now called Summit — as the university marked the opening of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action, which will conduct academic research on historical and contemporary racism in the church and Christian institutions.

The center’s name honors the legacy of Spain, who faced “social rejection, religious ostracism, tribal rage and racial retribution” as a result of his Feb. 24, 1960, address, Taylor told thousands of students and guests who filled ACU’s Moody Coliseum.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the November 2018 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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