Local papers are running the press release that came out from the county government yesterday announcing that Dr. David C. Forbes, Sr. of Raleigh's Christian Faith Baptist Church has been chosen as this year's speaker for the city and county governments' joint commemoration of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.
When we at BCR heard of the selection, our mind raced to winter 2010, when the selection of Pastor J.D. Greear from the Summit Church here in Durham raised the ire of Durham native and national-stage LGBT blogger Pam Spaulding, who took the event committee and local governments to task for selecting Greear, whose opposition to gay marriage, Spaulding argued, was antithetical to the cause of civil rights being celebrated through the King holiday.
(Local officials would go on to defend the choice, saying it wasn't intended as a referendum on the speaker's beliefs, but as the choice of a member of the community who could speak to Dr. King's ideals.)
In this year's selection, there's again a Baptist preacher coming to present from the pulpit. But unlike Greear, whose Summit mega-church is affiliated with the socially conservative Southern Baptist denomination, Forbes hails from a church affiliated with the more politically-progressive American Baptists, a group that includes Watts Street Baptist and other churches that have been more progressive on civil rights and social justice issues than their better-known brethren in faith.
Forbes himself has also sat on the NC Council of Churches board, an affiliation of progressive churches in the news recently for electing the first openly-gay president in the state council history, or in the history of such councils in the South, for that matter.
Is Forbes' selection a response to the outcry of last year? Well, that would be pure speculation -- and one that vastly understates Rev. Forbes' accomplishments.
Forbes holds numerous honorary degrees in addition to his Doctor of Ministry degree, and has long been active in civil rights causes, serving in the 1960s as the state representative to the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, for instance.
And his CV lists broad service within ecumenical boards and organizations as well as with organizations like Shaw University (including trusteeship), the United Way, the state council of PTAs, and Habitat for Humanity.
This year's event is scheduled for Wed., Jan. 12 at noon at First Presbyterian downtown.