The Rev. Ron Higey, of Birmingham International Church, recently wrote a letter to the city’s African-American community. Here is the letter.
On behalf of the church, we want to express our deep sorrow and regret for the sins committed against the African American church and community.
My name is Ron Higey and I am the pastor of the Birmingham International Church. I came to the church in 2004 when it was known as Vestavia Alliance Church. As I served in the church I came to realize that something was holding us back from experiencing all the blessings of God as we were praying for and trusting God for. In 2015, we decided to explore our past to see if there was anything in our past that was hindering our growth today. We hired a consultant whose ministry is helping churches evaluate their past in order to determine its impact on today. This journey took the better part of a year. What we learned was eye-opening.
We discovered that our church used to be called Birmingham Gospel Tabernacle and was located across from the current Greyhound Bus Station. In the 1950’s the pastor and the church took strong stands against corruption in city government. In addition to this, the church was socially involved in supporting various ministries to hurting people. We also discovered that the church was prominent and well known throughout the South as the pastor had a radio ministry.
For reasons unknown to us, with the rise of the civil rights movement, the church gave into a “spirit of fear.” We learned that our church was one of the churches that would not allow Dr. Martin Luther King to attend and worship. From this point on, the church experienced a steady decline that has plagued it ever since.
We know that words will never be enough, but we do ask you to forgive us as a church and pray for us that we never again give into a “spirit of fear.” I was asked, “Why are you doing this?” and the answer to this question is simple. In obedience to God and His Word – Matthew 5:22-23 & James 5:16. We are not motivated by guilt but rather by an understanding that the “sins of the fathers” can have an impact on the future. Confession of sin and reconciliation is what is necessary. Said another way, it is the right thing for us to do.
As a church, we want you to know that we are serious about this. Prior to exploring our past, we set aside our fears and prejudices and became a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic church. We acted to bring about change before we knew our history. But we are not stopping at this, in addition, God has blessed us and we committed to blessing others.
If you are ever in the Vestavia area, we invite you to visit us. You will find a warm welcome and loving acceptance in Christ.
In Christ, Ron Higey, Pastor. Members of the Board: Jacoby Kindred, Marko Requena, Mike McElwain, Joel Dunham, Wu-Hsiung Wu, Titina Requena.