Read This Article: “The World Comes to Georgia, and an Old Church Adapts”
This articles is a must-read, and shows the church – and evangelicals / conservatives no less – at its best (and worst, but mostly best). Here are some quotes to whet your appetites.
Mr. Perrin said he advocated for an international church because the Bible told him to.
In 2004, the Clarkston Baptist Church adopted the changes proposed by elders like Mr. Perrin, and merged with the Filipino and Nigerian congregations. They renamed their church the Clarkston International Bible Church. That change was too much for many of the older members, like Brenda and Robert White. They left after more than 20 years as members.
“I really resented that,” Mrs. White said of the name change. “I know it’s the 21st century and we have to change and do things differently. But I don’t think it’s fair that we had to cater to the foreign people rather than them trying to change to our way of doing things.”
“It just wasn’t Baptist church anymore,” she said.
Merging congregations has meant compromise for everyone. The immigrants who join the main congregation have to give up worshiping in their native languages. Older Southern Baptist parishioners have given up traditional hymns and organ music.
Other areas, like the potluck lunch in the gym every Sunday, have required little adjustment. “Everybody likes everybody else’s food,” Mr. Perrin said.
For many of those who have joined the main congregation, the experience has been life changing. Marcelle Bess, a white American and a lifelong member of the church, said two of her daughters were dating young Filipino men they had met through the church. She hopes they will marry, she said.
Mr. Perrin said the impact of the church on his life hit him when he and his wife were traveling through the Midwest. They stopped to worship at whatever Baptist church they could find.
“Every church that we walked into was pure white Caucasian,” he said. “My wife and I really felt uncomfortable, because, we realized, here in Clarkston is what the world is all about.”
Mr. Kitchin thinks that in the not-so-distant future many more American churches will face the sort of questions his church has. He said he was frequently asked for advice.
“I tell people, ‘America is changing,’ ” he said. “ ‘Get over it.’ ”