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Gaskin Lecturer Presents Black Baptist History

October 6, 2000

The first African American graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, Dr. Eric A. Mayes, pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, returned to the university's campus as an authority on Black Baptist History for the Gaskin Lectureship, Oct. 2.

Mayes, the highlighted speaker for the lecture series, gave a profile of a prominent black Oklahoma pastor and explored the history of the educational endeavor of Black Baptists in Oklahoma.

His morning lecture outlined the life of Dr. E.W. Perry, pastor of Oklahoma City's historic Tabernacle Baptist Church from 1915 to 1969.

"Without question, E.W. Perry was, first and foremost, an uncensurable Christian," Mayes said. "Not only had he had an experience that changed his life, but he had an encounter with Christ that kept him moving and turning and venturing into things that other men and women would not dare venture into."

Perry deserves notice as a significant member of Black Baptist history due to his ministry traits that were unique, Mayes said.

Perry, he said, was first and foremost an outstanding pupliteer.

"This man preached to convince, to persuade," he said. "Consequently, the word took roots in the lives of the people and their lives were changed.

"He was not satisfied with just preaching in the black community. He preached in every community that would allow him to come."

This popular preacher was notable for his actions as a compassionate pastor as well, Mayes said.

"He served as pastor of the monumental Tabernacle Baptist Church from 1915 to 1969, a period of 54 years," he said. "He loved to preach, but he loved most of all the people to whom he preached."

Perry was an influential leader in denominational work on both the state and national level, he was a man of exuberant, healthy, constructive humor and he was an intellectual giant despite his lack of educational opportunities.

"This man, Dr. E.W. Perry, characterized what I would like to be as a pastor and as a servant of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," Mayes said.

"Throughout the course of African American Baptist work in the Sooner state, there has been a great shortage of trained leaders. In addressing this problem, Dr. Perry exhorted every young person to aspire to equip himself or herself to the utmost."

This lack of training in Black Baptist History was the focus of Mayes evening address.

"A fact often ignored and often unaddressed is that African Americans got a late start in the education process due to no fault of their own," he said.

Mayes described a reminder issued by Dr. Benjamin Mays, president of Morehouse College for many years, that stated, "He who starts behind in a race must run faster than the other participants if he hopes to have any chance of making a respectable showing."

"We are not out here to outrun our white brothers, our Southern Baptist brothers," Mayes said. "What we are about is trying to run in such a way that it will give not only black people dignity and respectability but give the whole Baptist denomination there and everywhere a greater respectability," he said.

We are one bundle of humanity. There is no entity anywhere that can be any stronger than its weakest link."

Mayes described the Black Baptists' tendency to focus on preaching and fellowshipping instead of training for lay people in the church.

"We had a deplorable imbalance and this imbalance resulted in no Christian education," he said. "The unconcern for teaching impeded the progress of churches that reduced the Black church to a parasitic existence. An unawareness of the necessity of a vital teaching and training ministry impeded the growth process."

For heaven's sake, don't count us Black Baptists out. Be prayerful with us and keep encouraging us."

Mayes has been pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Oklahoma City since 1957.

He is founder and president of BEAM Ministries, Inc., a non-profit organization designed to provide scholarships for deserving college-bound students.

Mayes earned a bachelor of arts degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1963. He holds a master of secondary education degree from Oklahoma City University and a master of religious education degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned a doctor of ministry degree from International Seminary in 1990.

He is co-founder and treasurer of One Church, One Child Adoption of Oklahoma and has served as executive secretary-treasurer of the Oklahoma Baptist State Convention since 1978.

The J.M. Gaskin Lectureship was established by friends of Dr. J.M. Gaskin, Oklahoma Baptists' first historical director, and advocates of the preservation of Oklahoma Baptist history and heritage to provide and sustain a series of lectures which will preserve and promote the study of Oklahoma Baptist history and heritage.