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The founding pastor, Dr. Joseph Hunter, had distinguished himself during World War II by preaching pacifism and, with his wife, going to the aid of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast who were interned in the swamps of South Arkansas. After the governor denounced the Japanese, the state refused to issue birth certificates for infants born at the Jerome and Rohwer camps and the Arkansas Medical Society urged doctors not to treat Japanese prisoners at the camps who got sick.
The church, many years later, would be one of the first to consecrate same-sex partnerships. Even Pulaski Heights Christian, however, was not fully prepared for the freedom of the pulpit exercised by the Rev. Colbert S. Cartwright on Sunday morning Sept. To understand how a single sermon by a shy, owlish little preacher could threaten the stability of a congregation, it is necessary to remember that in America was still openly, often officially, racist.
The national government had only just begun to dismantle the legal artifact of racial segregation in Southern states.
The problem of de facto segregation and entrenched racism elsewhere was not even recognized in white America outside of a few intellectual redoubts. Little Rock was far from being a hotbed of white supremacy, but any preacher there who espoused racial integration from the pulpit could expect trouble. Integration, it was commonly believed in the American South ofwas a communist plot to destroy the government. The Ladies seeking sex Rohwer Arkansas was a simple story of one sprite of a girl. That transfer was to be the modest beginning of a slow process that would eventually desegregate the entire Little Rock School District.
The plan was sidetracked when Gov. Orval E. Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard and blocked the admission of the nine students. A picture made famous from the news reports of Sept. That was Elizabeth Eckford. He quoted the psalms she had read before leaving home to face the hostile crowd.
He spoke of her dream of becoming a lawyer. He spoke of visiting in her home and of his shame, that week, at being white. Then he declared that the nine black students who were trying to get to Central High were human beings, and that white people who lost sight of that were in danger of losing their own souls.
But a sizable minority were offended. They seized on his last statement. He had questioned their courage, they said. The trouble boiled for a week. The next Sunday, about 30 members, the entirety of one adult Sunday School class, refused to go into the sanctuary for communion. They asked that it be served to them in their classroom.
The request was turned down. Days later, all of them moved their membership to another church. Pulaski Heights Christian had lost 10 percent of its membership overnight, thanks to one sermon. He spoke up beyond the relative safety of his pulpit and became known throughout the city.
The State Police, which kept a close and furtive eye on any person or group that might promote integration, started an investigative file on him. His sermon on Elizabeth Eckford found its way into the file. Plainclothesman watched the church and at least once recorded the auto plate s and identities of people parked there after hours.
While he became a villain among segregationists, he became a hero to those blacks and whites struggling for racial equality. Cartwright never quite understood that. He was never a hero in his own eyes. The idea of popularity unsettled him, went against the grain of his theological training as well as his personal inclination.
He understood the office of pastor to be appointive, not elective. He believed that his authority came from God. He did not seek popularity inside or outside of the church, like some officeholder looking for votes. That some people considered his efforts on the race issue to be remarkable was slightly puzzling to him. He was simply carrying out his duties as a pastor. That was the main thing he aspired to: being a good pastor. Years later, he still suffered from knowing that he had caused hurt in the congregation of Pulaski Heights Christian Church.
If he could not find a way, he felt, then he should at least have figured out how to reach and touch the disaffected members. He remembered parts of the Eckford sermon with embarrassment. It had been a mistake to say that the girl had had more guts than anyone in his church; that had been unnecessary goading.
Hearing their pastor preach the truth on the race issue was problem enough for some members. They did not deserve to be hurt gratuitously. The episode reminded him of his first lesson in pastoring. Part of his childhood had been spent at Chattanooga, Tenn.
But Bert was no Southerner. His father had been a leader in an interracial council at Chattanooga, which had set him and his family apart. They asked me to come in and the young people. And the next thing I knew, they had made me chairman of the group — the newest minister in town. We wanted publicity, and we had a planning session where we asked a local reporter to come, and a photographer. On a Monday morning there was this picture of these black and white youths planning a service in the First Christian Church.
There was immediate consternation. He got phone calls from anxious members, so many that he decided to consult the chairman of the board of church officers. At a board meeting later, Cartwright came prepared. He stepped forward carrying his Bible. He turned on a tape recorder, saying he wanted a record of what was said. Then he explained the purpose of the interracial service and said that if his part in it was not in line with the scriptures, he would be happy to have someone point it out.
No one took the Bible to challenge him. The meeting ended quickly. It would have been better to get the matter into the open at that point. As for the Bible and the tape recorder, he said, that was Ladies seeking sex Rohwer Arkansas attempt to intimidate the board members. I was trying to win my points. Furthermore, he had fallen into the trap of thinking that a pastor can administer the church as he sees fit. The members, believing that Ladies seeking sex Rohwer Arkansas church belonged to them, thought he should have asked permission to use the sanctuary for an outside group.
And each minister in various kinds of ways learns it. It may be that he decides to move a communion table six inches to the right, and someone will tell him that that is not his privilege. But his earliest career aspirations ran toward journalism, an interest he never abandoned. He wrote articles for both religious and secular publications until his retirement and beyond.
Both his parents had family connections to the Disciples of Christ in 19th century Ohio and Iowa. Cartwright, was the pastor of a church in Coffeyville, Kan. That was a bold move at a time when the Klan controlled the politics of numerous local governments in the Middle West.
In later years he could name a of other people beyond his family who had influenced him in the clergy. There was an older minister named Joseph Hunter, the founder of Pulaski Heights Christian Church — the man who had stirred up Arkansas chauvinism by going to the aid of interned Japanese-Americans. One thing that he came to appreciate from his Little Rock and Lynchburg experiences was another lesson from Professor Niebuhr: that the church must not be captive to culture, but instead must work to transform culture while it transforms and converts human beings.
Cartwright deliberately regarded himself as a stranger each time he moved to a new pastorate. One advantage in being an outsider was the fresh eye. Another advantage in remaining a little apart from the culture he lived in was that he was not tempted to court popularity. He felt no need to curry favor with his neighbors. He was often out of step with fellow ministers. Having survived and grappled with the racism of Little Rock, he had looked forward to a respite after moving to Youngstown, Ohio, in He was not especially surprised to learn that Youngstown had a strong Mafia.
What startled him was that it also had a strain of racism as virulent as any he had seen in the South. The town had once been a Ku Klux Klan stronghold. His frail body shuddered as he sat in his Fort Worth home 22 years later and recalled something that had happened in Youngstown on April 4,the day Martin Luther King was assassinated.
He had been in the church that evening while the choir was practicing. Someone phoned to tell him the news. He was stunned. One consequence was a slowly dawning awareness that there was more evil in the world than he had known, and that not all of it would be neatly cleared up through the efforts of well-intentioned people.
Coupled with his personal pessimism was a growing pessimism about the role of the church and the ministry in bringing about social change. He saw God more at work in the world and Ladies seeking sex Rohwer Arkansas at work in the church. That was a little shocking to him. He had always believed that Christian ministers should be effective.
Then he saw that that was not always possible. My whole self-understanding of the church and the world and God was shaken.
He never gave up what he called the hard teachings of the church: turning the other cheek, giving to the poor, the social gospel. One thing that slightly annoyed him about being a hero of the civil rights movement was the presumption that he spent all his days fighting for racial justice. The truth was Ladies seeking sex Rohwer Arkansas he spent most of his days visiting the sick, counseling people with problems, writing and preaching sermons, encouraging faith, caring for the flock — trying to be a good pastor.
On the same day that he went to Central High and saw the mob assail Elizabeth Eckford, he went to the hospital and visited sick members of his congregation. She recalled a pastoral visit that he made to her home.
The distraught sister showed the letter to the pastor. He handed it back to her, and then he took her hand. He just sat there. He was always nagged by the theological question of what a minister should do about the evils of society beyond the walls of the church. He concluded early that God is in history, that is, that He is involved in the world as well as in the church.
He is at work in your community and in mine, seeking to redeem and transform, through judgment and grace, our race relations. He asked the ministers to consider the role of the pastor in changing communities. It is not enough, he said, to take the pietistic view that a clergyman should confine himself to curing the sin-sick soul.Ladies seeking sex Rohwer Arkansas
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A reluctant hero