A Voice In The Wilderness
October 29, 2012
One day I was out in the South Grove 10 Section and happened to come across a gravestone that caught my eye. The inscription read:
Born A Slave
November 10, 1856
In 1889 He Organized
The Church of the Living God
1 Timothy 3:15
“Somebody Is Wrong About The Bible”
Served As Chief Bishop
Died a Free Man
April 11, 1928
I thought, “How remarkable. Who is this? I’ve never heard of him”. After a searching a bit this is what I found out.
William Christian was born into slavery in 1888 near Wrightsville, Arkansas. Little is known about his early life during the beginnings of the Southern Jim Crow era. However, after founding his church in 1889 he became a leader in the Black Restorationist movement within the African-American Pentecostal churches. He rejected denominationalism outright and aimed to teach only the simple message of Christ. Remarkably, he rejected racial prejudice and promoted racial integration within the church.
By 1900 the denomination included nearly 90 congregations in 11 states. The church is still active and the church membership is currently estimated at around 42,000.
Rev. Christian was clearly a man ahead of his time. In fact he was so far ahead of his time that I’m not sure time has caught up to him yet!
-Dale Schaefer, Historian