Ministers' Conference of Winston-Salem And Vicinity
The Ministers' Conference Of Winston-Salem And Vicinity's mission is to maintain closer Christian fellowship with each other, to find the best solution for common problems and the most workable approach to worthy concerns, and to advance the general interest of the cause of Christ through the ministers and pastors of area churches. Across denominations, cultures, races and socioeconomic classes, we are united to one another by common beliefs, goals and purpose. Together, we utilize organizational resources and networks to promote social, economic and educational change or stasis in our communities. The Ministers' Conference Of Winston-Salem And Vicinity's Leaders are a compelling, active and well respected force in the Piedmont Triad Area.
On May 5, 1930 - at 11:00 AM - the late Dr. R. M. Pitts, Sr., Pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church - called together all of the Baptist ministers and local preachers for the purpose of organizing a Baptist Ministers Conference. The first meeting was designed to promote Christian fellowship among the community's Baptist ministers.
The following ministers were present at that first
Rev. R.M. Pitts, Pastor - Shiloh Baptist Church, Rev. J.C. White, Pastor - First Baptist Church, Rev. J.H. Hamlin, Pastor - New Bethel Baptist Church, Rev. R.L. Files, Pastor - Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Rev. T.C. Phillips, Pastor - First Calvary Baptist Church, Rev. Edward Gholson, Pastor - First Institutional Baptist Church, Rev. Chandler, Pastor - Second Calvary Baptist Church, Rev. P. Joyce, Pastor - Waughtown Baptist Church, Rev. Bass, Pastor - Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Rev. J. W. Jones, Associate Minister - First Baptist Church and Rev. B. M. Summers, Pastor - Boxwood Baptist Church.
On May 12th, the following Monday, the first Meeting was held. Rev. Edward Gholson was chosen to preach the first sermon. He chose for his text, Mark 7:24..., "And from thence He arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into a house, and would have no man know it; but he could not be hid." His subject was, "THE UNHIDEABLE CHRIST," The three points were: (1) He could not be hid because of His Love. (2) He could not be hid because of Who He Was. (3) He could not be hid because of What He Did. The first elected officers were: Rev. R. M. Pitts, President; Rev. R. L. Files, Vice President/Treasurer and Rev. Bass, Temporary Secretary.
Initially, the Minister's
Conference was organized for Christian fellowship, however,
during the nineteen 40's, 50's, 60's, and part of the 70's,
the Ministers Conference was thrust in the role of Community
Leadership due to racial injustice and widespread
improprieties towards African-Americans. The Civil Rights
struggle was underway. The preachers were the only group
that was not beholden to the white power structure and did
not have to worry about any economic, political, or job
related backlash. Now it must be mentioned that the
Minister's Conference, along with the NAACP, was the main
leadership source during the Civil Rights struggle. This was
because the NAACP's Executive Board was comprised of more
than 2/3 ministers and was headed for many years by Rev.
J.T. MacMillan. The Conference had an integral part in
leading the desegregation of the police and fire departments
in Forsyth County. The Conference met with the Downtown
Merchants Association to lead the way in enabling African
Americans to try on clothes in the stores where they
shopped. They were able to persuade the Merchants
Association because the Merchants knew that the preachers
could call on their congregations to boycott any store that
did not comply. The Conference did a lot of tearing down
"Jim Crow" in closed or Backroom meetings with the power
brokers of that time period. Often when the people on the
front picket lines or at lunch counter sit-ins where
arrested, the Ministers Conference raised money for their
release by asking for offerings in the church services. This
was not only done on the local level, but the state and
national level during the freedom struggle. One of the
Conference's most cherished deeds was sponsoring Martin
Luther King's visit at Goler AME in the sixties.
In 1969, Dr. A. H. McDaniel introduced Four Churches worship service to break down religious barriers. The organizing ministers were D. W. Browning of St. John CME, Dr. Sir Walter Mack, Sr. of Emmanuel Baptist Church and Dr. Jerry Drayton of New Bethel Baptist Church. Today the Minister's Conference is ecumenical, representing a number of different Christian churches. During the 80's, Dr. Serenus Churn of Mt. Zion Baptist Church served as President of the Minister's Conference. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, breakfast and scholarship were added to their programs. Pictured Above is the Minister's Conference around 1940 and below is Dr. Serenus Churn (graphics courtesy of Mt. Zion Baptist Church from the book Winston-Salem's African American Legacy by Cheryl Streeter Harry).
In the mid Seventies the leadership style began to evolve
from a closed-door/backroom style to a more
face/this-is-where-we-stand approach. The Conference changed
the name to Ministers Conference and Vicinity. This was done
to be more inclusive of the entire community. It also voted
to allow lay persons to become members The Conference is and
has been vigilant to ensure that right and just actions are
applied to all persons regardless of race, creed, color or
socio-economic class. During the early 80's, Winston-Salem
was taken by storm by two northern preaches that came to
town - Dr. Carlton Eversley of Dellabrook Presbyterian
Church and Dr. John Mendez of Emmanuel Baptist Church. These
well-known social justice ministers worked together and in
The Conference for freedom, justice and equality. In the
past, The Winston-Salem Minister's Conference played an
impactful part in the following deeds:
- The collection of over $10,000 for the defense of Darryl Hunt. He is now free after being found innocent of the crime he was accused of committing, but this may have saved his life.
- The anti-apartheid effort by Dr. Eversley and Dr. Mendez led to their arrest at the South African Embassy.
- The job restoration of a local TV announcer. Defense of a Domestic who was accused of stealing from her employer.
- Made sure minority candidates were considered when vacancies opened in the Forsyth County School system.
- Creation of a citizen review board.
- Collecting, packaging, and shipping over 50,000 gallons of water to the country of Rwanda.
- Championing for the replacement of Dr. Fields at Latham Elementary with his assistant Dr. Johnson.
- Assisting in keeping a lady from getting her house condemned by the city.
These are but a few of the things the Ministers Conference does to make a difference in the community. The Conference still fosters fellowship amongst the ministers as intended by Rev. Pitts by preaching the word of God at almost every meeting then breaking bread together in Jesus' Holy name.