Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, the Father of Negro History Week (Black History Month), was absolutely correct when he stated: “To know the possibilities of a race an appraisal of its past is necessary.” It is for this reason we have chosen to share with others the rich history behind the Annual National Lectureship held among African American churches of Christ. For one to appreciate the value of where we are now, they must of necessity understand from whence we have come. Although many have passed from this life since its inception in the year 1945, the Annual National Lectureship continues to serve as a vital link for brotherhood fellowship among ministers of the gospel and members of the visible kingdom of Christ across the entire nation.
The dates of the first Lectureship among African American churches of Christ were March 22-24, 1945 with a total of thirty-six (36) ministers in attendance. Due to the tremendous success of the Lectureship encounter, it was recommended that it should be held every year. This suggestion was unanimously agreed upon by those present and it has been held annually since that time. In the year 1948, the Annual National Lectureship was held in Chicago, Illinois and hosted by the Michigan Avenue Church of Christ where Levi Kennedy, Jr., served as Ministering Evangelist. At the behest of J. S. Winston, a registration fee of $7.00 was required for out of town attendees to help defer expenses. During the Chicago gathering, it was agreed that the ministers who actually began the Lectureship would serve as advisors to congregations who would host the Lectureship in future years. It was further agreed that both Levi Kennedy, Jr., and J. S. Winston would assist hosting congregations in making necessary preparations. Levi Kennedy, Jr., was appointed as Chairman of the Lectureship, visiting with all the congregations who served as host and assisting them with their program until his illness in 1969. After the death of Kennedy on December 30, 1970, G. P. Holt was selected as the new Chairman and served in this capacity until 1975. A. C. Christman, Sr., succeeded Holt and served as Chairman until 1988. In the year 1988 at the Lectureship held in St., Louis, Missouri, Dr. Clyde Muse was appointed as Chairman and served as such until his passing in the year 2007. Presently, Dr. Roosevelt C. Wells has assumed the position as Chairman of the Annual National Lectureship Advisory Committee.
According to available statistics, the ministerial attendance for the Annual National Lectureship held among African American churches of Christ has increased from thirty-six (36) in 1945 to well over two-hundred. The total average attendance for all participants of the Lectureship has grown to approximately twenty-five hundred (2500) [contingent upon proximity] with representation from Jamaica, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Nigeria, West Africa.
In the year 1944 at the Bowser Christian Institute Annual School Meeting in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Steward suggested to Hogan, Winston, and Kennedy, that they should begin preparing for the Annual Lectureship, which had been previously discussed in Houston, Texas two years earlier. G. P. Bowser was very inspired by this idea and he also agreed there was a vital need for such an event. Bowser encouraged them to make arrangements for sponsoring a Lectureship the following year. Subsequently, in 1945 Levi
Kennedy Jr., J. S. Winston, R. N. Hogan, and G. E. Steward agreed for the first ever Annual National Lectureship to be held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with the East Seventh Street Church of Christ serving as host. G. E. Steward served as Ministering Evangelist of this congregation. To fully comprehend and appreciate the purpose of the Lectureship, one must understand both the dynamics and circumstances for which it was conceived. During the decade of the early forties, only a few ministers in our
fellowship were able to maintain local congregations and evangelize new areas. G. P. Bowser, John R. Vaughner, Marshall Keeble, Levi Kennedy, Jr., R. N. Hogan. J. S. Winston, G. E. Steward, Paul D. English, Sr., and Luke Miller, were for the most part the only national evangelists at that time. In many instances, new congregations would be established following a gospel meeting without having a formidable leadership.
According to the late Dr. J. S. Winston, the National Lectureship among African American churches of Christ was first suggested by the late Dr. R. N. Hogan in 1942, during his ministry with the Stonewall and Waco Street Church of Christ in Houston, Texas. Winston stated that Hogan called a meeting with the preachers of Texas and recommended to Levi Kennedy, Jr., G. E. Steward and himself the need for a National Lectureship among the African American brethren of the Church of Christ similar to that of the white brethren. It was Hogan’s belief that a Lectureship would help synchronize both our preaching and teaching of New Testament doctrine, along with fostering a means of fellowship for those who would attend.
The fundamental objective of the Lectureship was to resolve this situation by providing the following initiatives:
• To synchronize and unify the speech of ministers, teachers, and church leaders.
• To enhance our spiritual fellowship in the areas of study and worship through the medium of joint participation.
• To offer sound doctrinal teaching against liberalism, digression, and apostasy.
• To encourage and strengthen the work of congregations in whose area the Lectureship would be held.
Inherent within the purpose of the Lectureship was the intention that:
• The Lectureship is never to become an authoritative organization, having elected officers with delegated authority to legislate laws and rules to be bound on local congregations of the churches of Christ.
• The Lectureship is never to become a delegated convention, with chosen men of local congregations who would have voice in policy-making decisions that would be binding upon churches. All local churches of Christ are autonomous in government and they are subject to Christ.
• The Lectureship is never to become a vehicle for settling church confusion and division. Church problems and conflict are the responsibility of the local congregations and can only be meditated and resolved with the local congregation where such originated.