Pastor Aaron Moore was the guest speaker during Grace College's Tuesday virtual program for Black History Month. Moore is a pastor in Dallas, Texas, who is leading a course at his church on the history of Black churches. Photo by Amanda Bridgman, Times-Union.
Pastor Aaron Moore was the guest speaker during Grace College's Tuesday virtual program for Black History Month. Moore is a pastor in Dallas, Texas, who is leading a course at his church on the history of Black churches. Photo by Amanda Bridgman, Times-Union.
WINONA LAKE - Grace College hosted a virtual Black History Month program Tuesday featuring Pastor Aaron Moore from Dallas, Texas.

Moore is the pastor of adult ministries at Concord Church in Dallas and has a Master of Arts in Christian education from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The program was sponsored by Grace College's history and political science program, the Department of Humanities and the Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Director of Grace College's history and political science program, Dr. Jared Burkholder, hosted the informal interview Tuesday and said Moore is leading the Concord Church in a course of church history that provides people with a historically accurate depiction of prominent African American churches in history.

Moore said his own history compelled him to begin the course.

"One of the things I noticed as I took church history, I noticed that there were some factors, elements of the African American church that were left out," Moore said. "I wanted to put on a body of curriculum that was very diverse but provided a balanced diet just for Christian discipleship."

Moore said he started the year off with a course on how to study the Bible, then with a course on what is the Bible and now he is teaching the church history course.

"We need to do better as a local church in really educating people on the history of the church," Moore said, adding he averages around 430 participants on Zoom every week.

Burkholder asked Moore why he thinks there is such interest in the topic now.

"It's the Lord's timing. God orchestrated it to be so," Moore said. "But also I think we can't bypass some of the recent events in our nation that took place in 2020, how the pandemic really just pulled back the cover on some of the socioeconomic issues that already existed, and of course the murder of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and all these social injustices that have been taking place. ... The one constant in the African American community is ... also a pillar of hope and justice has been the Black church, and so with that being said ... now we're getting to a place where there are some prominent scholars really taking the time to writing and becoming published in the area of African American church history, so, I like to view it this way, in our context, history starts to become apologetic in a sense, because there's so many different misconceptions about the history of the African American church and how Christianity was introduced, that once history is really told correctly, then you have this definitive faith that wins more people to Christ that otherwise would be dismissive."

A main topic of Moore's course is listing people in the Bible and makes a case for them being people of color. Moore talked about Moses and slavery, along with north Africa and how Christianity was alive and thriving there a millennium before people thought it was introduced in America during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

"What we want to do is to teach people of African descent and people who are non-Black as this is how we identify different ethnicities within the Scriptures," Moore said. "So really what we try to do is to show people that there are people within that you can see yourself. The Bible is a beautiful book of color, that it has always been a part of God's plan to reflect this multi-ethnic picture, all working together in unison to tell the story of God."

Some highlights of his course, he said, will touch on the "invisible institution" which is the study of Christianity in the African American context starting in 1619 when the Dutch ship first arrive in Jamestown up until the emancipation of slaves at the end of the Civil War, and then from there the course will look at the inception of the Black church and include denominational history and key figures.

"The African Methodist Episcopal Church was birthed out of the fact that two Black men were praying in the white-only section of the church and were forced to leave, and when they were forced to leave, they saved up some money" and started their own Black church, Moore said. "Then from there, we're gonna talk about what I like to call the soundtrack of the Black church, which is gospel music, Black preaching, the African American pulpit and its relevance throughout history and then where do we go from here and the relevance today."

Moore expects people to be surprised by some of the things that come out in the class.

"Much like one of the experiences I had while making through my matriculation in seminary, it is possible and we experience this in America, it's possible for two different people from two different backgrounds to be in the same space and have two different experiences,” he said. “One of the things that I've been able to have conversations with a lot of my non-Black pastor friends has been wow, when church history was taught, there were a few holes that were left in, but what's happening now is that it's almost like Swiss cheese.

“But now, with this course, we've been able to fill in and really see both sides and really get the story straight. ... History, when it's done right, can demonstrate to us God's faithfulness in his people in spite of mistakes made throughout the course of history. We try to save slavery in the Bible was way different, but there were a lot of things that were the same, so how from the Scriptures do we show that slavery was never something that was ordained by God? How do we do that and then from there we use that as the backdrop of what the place is in American history, and so those are some things that I think would be shocking,” Moore said.