Raising the Bar

 Decline of African American TheologyDaniel Alexander Payne (1811-1893) was an African American who lived in South Carolina during the peak of the slavery era. He was born to parents who were free but he was orphaned by the age of nine, to be raised by his grandmother. Payne was a tremendous reader and devoured books. As a highly motivated young man he also taught himself Greek, Latin and Hebrew. By the age of nineteeen he had opened a school for the education of both free and slave Africans until the State authorities closed the school. He went on to go to Seminary and studied at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Following this, Payne went on to model a faithful pastoral ministry and urged other men on to faithfulness. He was a champion of sound doctrine and faithful practice. He was (and is) highly regarded for his efforts to  raise the bar and bring reformation to the African American pastorate. This life-long attempt at reform was based on raising the priority of education in general and especially biblical education in the role of the pastor.

I was recently introduced to this man by reading Thabiti M. Anybwile’s The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity (the above introduction is taken from this book; see especially p. 28-29).  He has quickly become one of my heroes, however. He is no doubt one of the ongoing cloud of witnesses whose faith spurs on the rest of us. His faithfulness in spite of obstacles reminds me of the testimony of John:

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4-5)



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