Two Charlotte pastors – but no clergy of color – are among 16 religious leaders who have penned prayers for North Carolina in the December edition of Our State magazine.
The Rev. David Chadwick of Forest Hill Church, one of Charlotte’s multi-campus megachurches, counts among “the goodnesses of the the Lord” North Carolina’s weather, its faith, its schools and its people.
The 6-foot-7 Chadwick, who was once a member of the Tar Heel basketball team (1967-71), also manages to slip in thankful references to former Coach Dean Smith and Carolina blue.
He writes in his prayer that North Carolinians admire Smith for integrating the ACC in the 1960s by adding Charlie Scott, an African-American, to his team.
And Chadwick writes this: “God must love the Tar Heel State, for he made its sky Carolina blue! Lord, you are good!”
A few pages later, the Rev. John Cleghorn of Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian relates the history of his own growing, diverse church to the hope Christians embrace during this season of Advent.
Once the Belk family’s neighborhood church in Elizabeth, Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian had dwindled from a flock of 1,100 in its heyday to about 12 elderly members in 2006.
I’ll let Cleghorn tell the rest of the story, which he does in his prayer: “This sturdy remnant clung to its faith, believing the end for Caldwell Presbyterian Church had yet to arrive. They were right. In the fall of 2006, the old, white, traditional Presbyterians were joined by a group of people who looked very different but shared the same fundamental faith. Caldwell Presbyterian came back to life as a place of hope for others.”
You can read all 16 prayer essays – including one from Charlotte-born Billy Graham – here. You can also listen to Chadwick, Cleghorn and all of the others (except Graham) read their own prayers. And you’ll find some breathtaking pictures of North Carolina.
The Greensboro-based magazine, which was launched in 1933 and publishes 220,000 copies per month, managed geographical diversity in its choice of ministers. The clergy-writers live all over the state.
But the religious diversity isn’t there – within Christianity, yes, there’s Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Quaker, Moravian, Episcopalian and nondenominational evangelical. But other than one Jewish rabbi, there are no non-Christians. No Muslims, no Buddhists, no Hindus.
And shockingly, all 16 of the clergy-writers are white (and only two are women).
Certainly one of the great blessings of North Carolina is its diversity. And its robust faith community includes not only African-American churches, but also an increasing number of Latino and Asian congregations.
Our State editor-in-chief Elizabeth Hudson told me the omission of clergy of color was not intentional. She said she invited 23 people to write prayers, including three African-Americans. She got 16 submissions, none of them from the black ministers.
She also said this in an email: “While the response to the message of our story has been largely positive, I have to say I concur with the criticism about our lack of diversity in this story. We can and will do better in reflecting North Carolina going forward.”
-- Tim Funk