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 fellowship gathering:
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 confrontational in-your 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.
FORSYTH COUNTY MEMBERS
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