AP reports churches transcend racial barriers after Mississippi arson — but do they really?


Being a media critic means sometimes asking pesky questions about warm-fuzzy storylines.

Please forgive me for being that guy, especially on the day before Thanksgiving.

And if I'm just being a crank, feel feel to tell me so. In fact, this is one of those rare cases where I'd love to be persuaded that I'm wrong.

But here's the deal: The Associated Press has a story out of Mississippi today with this inspiring headline:

2 Mississippi churches transcend racial barriers after arson

However, after reading the story, my annoying question is this: Are they really transcending racial barriers? 

The lede sets the scene by highlighting the racial divide in many churches nationwide:

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Back in the 1960s, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week in America, a fact that remains true in many communities today.
But three weeks after their church in the Mississippi Delta was mostly destroyed by arson and someone spray-painted "Vote Trump" outside, an African-American congregation has been welcomed into the church of its white neighbors.
The bishop of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, Clarence Green, says the generosity of First Baptist Church of Greenville demonstrates that "unlimited love" transcends social barriers. And his host, First Baptist's senior pastor James Nichols, says their brothers and sisters in Christ are welcome to stay as long as they need a home.
The Hopewell congregation, about 200 strong, is holding services a mile away at 600-member First Baptist. The guests are using the chapel, a space with dark wooden pews and bright stained-glass windows where small weddings and funerals are usually held. It's on the downtown campus of First Baptist, a few steps from the larger main sanctuary.

OK, it sounds like a wonderful thing that the white church is doing by offering its building to the black church. But — unless I'm missing something — the two churches remain divided by race. They're still worshiping as separate groups, albeit under the same roof.

And that's apparently the way they like it:

Nichols says he offered to have the Hopewell flock worship with his members in shared services, but Green hopes his congregation can maintain its identity and sense of community while their home church is rebuilt.
"They opened their doors to us to stay as long as we want and do whatever we need there," Green said. "What God is doing — it's not about race, creed or color.... The God we serve is neither black nor white, Jew nor gentile."

So the services remain segregated (by choice), right?

In that case, is it really accurate to portray this scenario as an example of churches transcending racial barriers and taking aim at the "most segregated time of the week in America?"

Just asking.

Mississippi state flag image via Pixabay.com

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