Greg Garrison, Alabama Living, May 15, 2018
A Birmingham pastor known for posting controversial church signs has targeted Alabama’s largest church with a sign that says, “Black Folks Need to Stay Out of White Churches.”
The Rev. Michael R. Jordan, pastor of New Era Baptist Church in Birmingham’s West End, said the sign expresses his opposition to the Church of the Highlands starting a church in his neighborhood.
Rev. Michael R. Jordan posted messages on both sides of the New Era Baptist Church sign.
The flip side of the sign says, “White Folks Refused to Be Our Neighbors.”
The Church of the Highlands, which has 16 branch locations that attract more than 40,000 worshippers weekly to hear sermons by founding Pastor Chris Hodges, recently announced a plan to open a church in a high-crime neighborhood of Birmingham.
Hodges announced that a black minister on the Highlands staff, former Auburn University football player Mayo Sowell, would be the pastor.
“It’s a slavemaster church,” Jordan said in an interview with AL.com. “I call it plantation religion, slavemaster religion. The white rich folks start a church and put a black pastor in charge of it.”
Responding to the sign at New Era Baptist Church, Mayor Randall Woodfin posted the church sign on social media with a message.
“There is a spirit over this city that has to be brought down,” Woodfin wrote. “A spirit of racism and division. We have to change the conversation to what we need it to evolve into.”
Jordan said he also worries that the Church of the Highlands will get City of Birmingham funding for its project, at the expense of black organizations including neighborhood associations.
“Now you’re supporting the white church coming into a black neighborhood?” Jordan said. “I think our young mayor is oblivious to what’s going on here.”
“Because of white flight and societal change where whites left the city, they did not want to be our neighbors, did not want their kids to go to school with our children,” Jordan said. “They left the churches too. They sold the churches to us. White folks don’t want to be our neighbors. If you don’t want to be our neighbor, why do you feel comfortable putting a white church in the inner city? Their response is we will have a black pastor. He’ll be a token. They’ll still control the sermons, they’ll still control the choir, the white administrative leadership will still run the church.”
“Blacks have flooded white churches and moved into white neighborhoods,” Jordan said. “It’s for status reasons. It’s a sense of self-worth. But 99 percent of whites won’t go to a black church.”
“The main campus has gotten fed up with blacks joining their church, so they decided, ‘Let’s put you a church over there,'” Jordan said.
“Putting that church in West End, you’re bringing white spirituality in a black environment,” Jordan said. “Our music is different. Our experiences are different. We’re more active in worship.”
“If you’re concerned about crime and drugs, why did you leave the city and start your own school systems?” Jordan said. “It’s very hypocritical. Chris Hodges won’t move next door to us. He won’t let his famiy go to school with us. If you want to help with crime, you have wealthy entrepeneurs, give these black boys a job, not just cleaning up. Start some job programs and fund it through the black church.”