THERE IS A ‘SOMEONENESS’ IN US
By LORETTA FULTON
The only thing missing from the Feb. 27 meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations was an altar call.
Otherwise, it would have been “church,” not a “meeting.” The presentation by Dr. Kelvin J. Kelley, who was a church pastor before he was a professor, was that powerful. Kelley, associate professor of theology in Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology, wove elements of Black History Month into a sermon-like talk on oneness in grace.
“I hope what I am is a man of God, Kelley said, not a “black pastor.”
Kelley previously was pastor of the predominantly black Mt. Zion Baptist Church congregations in both Abilene and Brownwood but more recently was senior pastor of the historically white First Baptist Church in Cisco. Prior to his appointment at HSU, Kelley founded a nonprofit focused on mentoring young men. He also formerly served on the Abilene ISD school board and has other community involvement.
Kelley reminded the audience that God declared all of humanity “good” and that we should mirror that.
“There is a ‘oneness’ in us,” he said. “There is a ‘someoneness’ in us.”
America’s history on race, including slavery, is ugly, Kelley said, but must be remembered, not swept under a rug. Is it ignorance or apathy that causes some Americans to deny or downplay that history, Kelley asked.
“Yes,” he said in answer to his own question.
Yes, some people are apathetc and they ignorant, perhaps willingfully. Ignornance comes from not being involved and not caring.
“When you care,” Kelley said, “it’s going to cost you something.”
It cost Dr. Royce Money and Dr. Eric Bruntmyer when they chose not to be ignorant or apathetic. When Money was president of Abilene Christian University, he made a public apology for the university’s past discriminatory admissions policies. His apology was met with praise from many but also disapproval, even disdain, from others.
Bruntmyer was invested as the 16th president of Hardin-Simmons University in September 2016. In August 2017, he directed that the university’s longstanding Six White Horses program make a change. The women riders historically carried one of the six flags that had flown over Texas, one for each country that had ruled Texas. One was the Confederate States of America flag.
That flag has become controversial and the cause of pain for many because of its ties to slavery. Bruntmyer ordered that the six flags be replaced with three United States flags and three Texas state flags. That move was greeted enthusiastically by some but ignited flames of disapproving passion in others. Facebook was filled with both positive and negative statements, many hate-filled.
“Oh my goodness,” Kelley said during his talk. “You would have thought he had said we’re no longer going to be Baptist.”
Like a good preacher, Kelley reminded the “congregation” that God can be glorified in reconciliation, the kind of reconciliation displayed by Money and Bruntmyer. The command from Jesus was to “love your neighbor,” Kelley reminded, not “don’t hate your neighbor.” Jesus’ command dictates action.
As a young, idealistic man, Kelley wanted to save the world. But then he came to realize that wasn’t his job. Jesus already saved the world.
“My job,” he said, “is to participate in that world.”
Dr. Kelvin Kelley is a religion professor in Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University.