By putting up barriers between the rich and poor, the “church universal” isn’t living up to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a Washington minister said Sunday during a program honoring the slain civil rights leader.
And, black churches, in general, are just as guilty of ignoring the “mandate to bring the good news to the poor,” said the Rev. Samuel W. Ware, pastor of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church of Washington.
“We have fallen asleep,” Ware said following the two-hour program in Nazareth Baptist Church in Washington that proceeded Martin Luther King Day Jr. Sunday.
“We must look out for our neighbor,” said Ware, who competed the same training in community organizing as President Barack Obama at the Gamaliel Foundation in Chicago.
He said many people don’t realize that King, who was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., April 4, 1968, had refused to start his faith-based movement with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He chose to do so instead through the new Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which held among its goals getting black churches more involved with including the oppressed in their theology.
“Doing justice is not an option. It’s a command from God,” Ware said. “King lived his life to bring those living in the margins, the ones who had been beaten, into the mainstream of the United States.”
He said placing such things as highways as borders between the rich and poor “make it easy to ignore the folks on the edge of society. Obviously, some people are not getting the benefits of the American dream or the Martin Luther King dream.”
Ware said King’s work is not done and black churches need to “hold up the blood stains” of those who suffered the greatest in the civil rights movement.
“Otherwise, they died in vain.”