Reformation Profiles of African Americans February 2, 2017

2. February 2017 11:58 by Edward L. Smith in   //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Reformation Profiles 

Reformation Profiles of African Americans February 2, 2017

The Minister of Justice Francis J. Grimke' October 4, 1850 - November 11, 1937

Francis J. Grimké was born on a rice plantation near Charleston, SC known as the Cane Acres. His mother's name was Nancy Weston, a black slave; his father was the slave master. Francis was born in slavery and eventually ran away and joined the Confederate Army until emancipation. Francis then rejoined with family and that's where his life of ministry really begins. 

Francis Grimké began his quest in the study of law at Lincoln where he graduated at the head of his undergraduate class in 1870, he then went on to attend Howard University in 1874. However he then begin to realize his call from God to the ministry and re-enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary where he graduated in 1878. Grimké began ministering at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. & would marry Charlotte L. Forten a Philadelphia native. Francis and Charlotte had only one child, Theodora Cornelia, that died in infancy. From 1885 to 1889, Grimké served the Laura Street Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida. However Grimké then returned & remained at 15th Street Presbyterian Church until 1928.

During these fifty years God would use Francis Grimké in a mighty way. Grimké preached and taught the congregation where they would be recognized as "one of the most accomplished African-American congregations in America". Grimké preached to them and a national audience "to agitate for civil rights “until justice is done"". In many respects he was not known for his activism outside the Church yet he was personally very active. Grimké participated in the creation of organizations such as the American Negro Academy, which nurtured African-American development. 

In 1923 Grimké would create a fury of controversy. The controversy was caused by his Howard University School of Religion convocation address called, “What Is the Trouble with Christianity Today?” in this address he "denounced groups like the YMCA and the “federation of white churches” for their racist policies while challenging the sincerity of the faith of many political leaders." 

His pulpit ministry was one of rarity. "The members (of his congregation) expected and received sermons that addressed issues of faith and morals with ethical insight, literary grace, and prophetic zeal. He practiced what he preached, earning himself the sobriquet "Black Puritan.""


The Minister of Justice 

God used Grimké in a time when they needed a resilient prophet of perseverance & a builder of men and women. Here are some quotes from his sermons. 

Grimké believed in the believer having a genuine personal relationship with God. This quote comes from a follow up sermon called The Ideal Woman (Proverbs 31) Listen as he address a religious man on January 24, 1904: "And this is true of the religious man; he has a living faith in the reality of God. One of the things that particularly impress one in reading the Old Testament is the reality of God to the patriarchs and prophets. They go to Him with everything; they speak to Him as one man speaks to another. He is just as real to them as they are to each other."

Grimké preached for several weeks on the "Ideal Woman" and a woman came up to him and asked, "the woman you have been describing exist anywhere outside the Bible"? I'm sure he chuckled then gently replied to her "It may be that she does not; but I thank God that she has an existence there, at least...She is there and God has put her there, in order that all women, - single women and married women, women who are wives, and women who are mothers, might have the opportunity of looking on her; of studying her character and life. He has put her there as an ideal, as a model for them in hope that they might be inspired, stimulated by her noble example to make the effort, at least, to be like her. 

And when it came to dealing with everyday life issues Grimké remained bold as ever. 

"The Negro is an American citizen, and he never will be eliminated as a political factor with his consent. He has been terrorized and kept from the polls by bloody ruffians, but he has never felt that it was right; he has never acquiesced in it, and never will, as long as he lives. As long as there is one manly, self respecting Negro in this country, the agitation will go on, will never cease until right is triumphant. It is one thing to compel the Negro by force to stay away from the polls; it is a very different thing for the Negro himself, freely of his own accord, to relinquish his political rights. The one he may be constrained to do; the other he will not do." - November 20,1898

March 7, 1909 Grimké gave a bold sermon entitled "Equality of Right for All Citizens, Black and White, Alike" that some directly to the bitter States that were in rebellion. Grimké said, "The secession of the Southern States in 1860 was a small matter with the secession of the Union itself from the great principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, in the Golden Rule, in the Ten Commandments, in the Sermon on the Mount. Unless we hold, and hold firmly to these great fundamental principles of righteousness, of social, political, and economic wisdom, our Union, as Mr. Garrison expressed it, will be 'only a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.' If it continues to exist it will be a curse, and not a blessing."

December 24, 1918 Grimké lead God's people in rejoicing on "the aims and objectives of the recently ended World War as well as its potential impact on the darker races of the world." One particular quote stands out to me.

"Thank God, it is over; and it is meet, and proper that we should rejoice, as we have been doing. On the afternoon and evening of the clay when the announcement was officially made by the President to both houses of Congress, what a note of gladness ran all through the city. In every possible way the people sought to express their joy white and black, rich and poor, high and low all classes, conditions, races, colors, had a part, in the Jubilation. For once there was no division or separation, but all seemed to be moved by one common sentiment, as all ought to be, in all matters of public interest.  We are all American citizens, and have an equal interest in the closing of this bloody conflict."

There's SO much more to be learned from Francis J. Grimké & you can't help but be courageously emboldened to serve God in every aspect of your life but this is just a profile. I'm going to end with this quote because it is a word in season for us today. 

"It is only what is written upon the soul of man that will survive the wreck of time."


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About Edward L. Smith

My ministry philosophy would consist of these essentials—a High View of God, the absolute authority of Scripture, Expository Preaching, Sound Doctrine, Personal Holiness, and a Biblical view of spiritual authority. All ministries must be God-Honoring, Christ-Centered, & Gospel Saturated. (1 Corinthians 10:31)


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