From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:58:59


                       PRESBYTERIAN CAUCUS 
                         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 
Theological Center. 
     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 
of adversity. 
     "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   Web page: 


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