Rev. Calvin O. Butts III Gives Keynote Lecture at Duke Divinity School’s Annual Gardner C. Taylor Lecture Series, Says There Is ‘Power In Churches of All Sizes’

The Herald-Sun | Bernard Thomas Rev. Calvin Butts gives the Gardner C. Taylor annual lecture of the Office of Black Church Studies at the Duke Divinity School.
The Herald-Sun | Bernard Thomas
Rev. Calvin Butts gives the Gardner C. Taylor annual lecture of the Office of Black Church Studies at the Duke Divinity School.

The size of a pastor’s congregation is not a measure of his or her power, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III said during Duke Divinity School’s Office of Black Church Studies annual Gardner C. Taylor Lecture Series.

Butts gave the keynote lecture of the event this week in Goodson Chapel at Duke Divinity. He is pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury.

“We are called to be faithful wherever God places us,” Butts said, and encouraged young clergy and seminary students to serve faithfully regardless of whether the church has dozens or thousands of congregants.

The lecture also coincided with African-American Alumni Day. The Taylor series has brought African-American preachers to Duke since 1975 and is named for the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, who is pastor emeritus of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, New York, and lives in Durham.

The Rev. Eboni Marshall Turman, director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity, was the assistant minister at Abyssinian Baptist for a decade until she came to Duke about a year ago. She introduced Butts as her pastor and “father in ministry.”

Butts said that “as pastor of a very old and stable congregation and president of a young and rapidly growing university,” his mantra is that education and faith are the Tigris and Euphrates – the twin rivers “at the source of our liberation.”

Butts described his calling to the black church and how he was shaped growing up. His call to ministry came as an undergraduate student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and reading about black theology.

“We’re not the black church because we wanted to be; we are because we had to be,” he said. His church, Abyssinian, is 206 years old and came to be out of segregation, Butts said. He talked about churches being the first place of social cohesion.

“We talked about more than God in church on Sunday morning,” he said. It was a place where congregation members discussed what was happening in their families, he said.

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SOURCE: The Herald Sun
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan