From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WILMORE HONORED AT NATIONAL BLACK
05 May 1996 12:58:59
95098 WILMORE HONORED AT NATIONAL BLACK
By Julian Shipp
MEMPHIS, Tenn.--Members of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC)
honored one of their own March 23-26 during an ecumenical symposium
highlighting the life and achievements of Dr. Gayraud (Gay) S. Wilmore.
A noted Presbyterian pastor, theologian, educator and author, Wilmore
has dedicated most of his ministry to the cause of racial justice in the
church and society. His contributions as an "in the dirt" participant
during the civil rights movement of the 1960s continue today through
lectures and the publication of his works and thoughts.
For 10 years Wilmore served as executive director of the Presbyterian
Church's Commission on Church and Race (COCAR). Following the 181st General
Assembly in San Antonio (1969), Wilmore, working with others, helped
establish two multi-ethnic initiatives to help low-income minorities help
themselves. They were the Presbyterian Economic Development Corporation
(PEDCO) and the National Committee on the Self Development of People
Wilmore also served on the faculty of a number of theological
institutions, including Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Boston University
Divinity School, New York Theological Seminary, and the Interdenominational
Several of Wilmore's peers paid tribute to him during the symposium.
They included the Rev. Thelma Adair, former General Assembly moderator and
president of the Northeast Region of the NBPC; Dr. Delores S. Williams,
associate professor of theology and culture at Union Theological Seminary;
Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., presiding bishop of the Fourth Episcopal
District and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Shreveport, La.; Dr.
Renita Weems, assistant professor for Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt Divinity
School in Nashville, Tenn., and Dr. James Cone, Charles A. Briggs
distinguished professor of systematic theology at Union Theological
Seminary in New York City.
Adair described Wilmore as a "firebell in the night" and said he is
living proof one dedicated person can make a difference, even in the midst
"Wilmore brought an inspired vision of what the church could be if it
were willing to give its life," Adair said.
The Rev. Mark Lomax, pastor of First African American Presbyterian
Church in Lithonia, Ga., said Wimore's book "Black Religion and Black
Radicalism" helped him understand what it means to be black in America and
raised his consciousness about African American Christianity's contribution
to the freedom struggle. Lomax recalled Wilmore as a "no-nonsense
theologian" who ensured his pupils learned their lessons well.
"There were times we wondered if [Wilmore] knew the meaning of the
word ‘mercy,'" Lomax said.
Williams said Wilmore introduced many black scholars (including
herself) to significant portions of their history of resistance that
neither schools nor churches taught.
"[Wilmore] put back together the story of our faith in action,"
Williams said. "And that is what we have come to share. The story of our
faith in action moving toward freedom."
"[Wilmore] is and has been a trailblazer for unity throughout the
world," Hoyt said. "His ministry within the ecumenical movement has evolved
around a double-edged question. What is the price of unity without justice
and justice without unity?"
"[Wilmore] is one of the most creative and influential Christian
theological educators of our time," Cone said. "A man of genuine humility
endowed with profound religious insight."
At the climax of the symposium, Wilmore was presented the NBPC's Elder
G. Hawkins Award by Jesse C. Swanigan, the organization's president.
Seated patiently throughout the proceedings, Wilmore said little
during his acceptance speech but praised conference participants for their
hard work and dedication in meeting the needs of the church, the nation and
the global community.
"I can't thank all of the people who are part of my life and have
shared in all the good things that you've heard about me," Wilmore said.
"But we who are your ordained clergy are not here to be celebrated, we are
here to celebrate you. You are the black church and we are your servants."
# # #
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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