On Oct. 24, Gregory Alan Bush shot and killed two African-American shoppers in a Kroger Supermarket in Jefferson, Kentucky. Surveillance video later showed that Bush had tried another location first: the First Baptist Church of Jefferson, a historically black church with a policy of keeping its doors firmly locked after the Charleston, South Carolina shooting in 2015.
The close call and subsequent Kroger shooting sent fear through the congregation and caused one major change in the church: First Baptist’s pastor, Rev. Kevin L. Nelson, asked members who work in law enforcement or have permits to carry weapons to bring their guns with them to mass and Bible study.
In response to a more violent and racist climate, are more historically black churches arming themselves against potential threats? Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Jim Braude and Margery on Boston Public Radio to discuss what one church’s response means for churches across the country.
“One church in Kentucky does not mean all black churches,” Price said. “The majority of black churches around the nation are moving towards increased vigilance in terms of safety, but that does not mean guns.”
Those safety measures include locking the door, but according to church officials in Kentucky, that isn’t going far enough.
“Had that door not been locked, that would have been another bloodbath, probably worse than the one in South Carolina,” Monroe said.
According to Price, this stance represents a regional difference.
“I’m not suggesting that [people don’t carry],” he said, “but I’m saying there’s a difference between a place where you can openly carry versus a place where you can’t.”
Monroe disagreed. “If you feel threatened, you will carry a gun,” she said. “You will do something to protect yourself.”
Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist, the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, and a Visiting Researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University’s School of Theology. Emmett G. Price III is a Professor and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. To hear the full All Revved Up Segment, click on the audio player above.