Around the country, every February people remember, celebrate, and learn about the various ways African American and black folks have impacted the country and the world. Many of whom have been forgotten about, or simply not given much attention in history books, biographies, and films. The same could be said about the impact that African American and black folks have had on the Church: overlooked and understudied. There have been many black folks who have significantly contributed to the advancement of Christ's church in the world. So as we approach the end of February, I would like to offer you a brief series about the life and works of four influential African American and black Christians.
Born July 18th, 1753 in Connecticut, Haynes was the first black man in the United States to be ordained as a minister. As an indentured servant, Haynes was exposed to the teachings of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and other Calvinists who highly influenced his theology. After his indentured service expired he went on to fight in the Revolutionary War. During this time he wrote extensively about the slave trade, abolition and how slavery denied man's natural right. His theologically Reformed thinking, increased his confidence that by God's hand slavery would be defeated, the races be integrated, and there would be true harmony. He would serve the West Parish Church of Rutland Vermont, a mostly white congregation, for over 30 years. His tombstone reads as such:
"Here lies the dust of a poor hell-deserving sinner who ventured into eternity trusting wholly on the merits of Christ for salvation. In the full belief of the great doctrines he preached while on earth, he invites his children, and all who read this, to trust their eternal interest in the same foundation."
At the end of the day, there are more men who could have made this list and unless by God's providence we find more artifacts of history, there are even more men whom we may never know about. But may prayer is that we may be encouraged by what we do know, and that we may grow in our thanksgiving towards God for the way in which he's used different kinds of people throughout the history of the Church. May we be challenged by these men to persevere in the face of sin and hindrances to live radical, counter-cultural, and theologically driven lives that change our country forever- because we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). You can find part 4 of our Influential Black Theologians series here.