BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A Vestavia Hills pastor has learned his church was not on the right side of history during the Civil Rights Movement. Now, he’s asking for the community’s forgiveness.
The Birmingham International Church currently sits off of Montgomery Highway in Vestavia Hills. Come to find out, the the church may have originally sat off of 7th Avenue North in Downtown Birmingham.
Reverend Ron Higey, who came to the church in 2004, says the church just wasn’t moving forward for some reason. Higey says he wanted to understand the ‘sins of the fathers’ in order to find what could possibly be holding the church back.
Back in 2015, the church hired a consultant to look into the church’s history.
The consultant told Higey the church’s original name was the Birmingham Gospel Tabernacle. It was located right across the street from the Greyhound Bus Station.
Higey says in the 1950’s the pastor of the church took strong a strong stance against corruption in city government.
For some reason during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the church gave into a ‘spirit of fear’. Higey learned during that time, the church would not allow Dr. Martin Luther King to attend and worship.
He also learned that there were some members of the Ku Klux Klan apart of the church congregation.
“I don’t know how strong it was but if you have armed men greeting Martin Luther King at the door that’s not a good sign,” said Rev. Higey.
Higley tells CBS42 he hopes by seeking forgiveness for the church’s wrongdoings the entire community can move in the right direction.
“It’s disappointing that the churches, we’re just as guilty and probably, I think, that’s the biggest disappointment because we have no excuse,” said Higey.
In Higey’s letter to the African-American community, he says in part, “We know that words will never be enough, but we do ask you to forgive us as a church and pray for us that we never again give into a “spirit of fear”.”
“I was asked does this come from some type of white guilt and the answer is no, it comes from hearing from God and being obedient and doing what’s right,” he adds.
Pastor Higey tells CBS42 he’s serious about exploring how the church’s history has impacted its future. He points out that the church tried to bring about change even before know its history.
Years before, the church became a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic church.
In digging deeper into the church’s history, the church has decided to host a special series called ‘Let’s Talk’, where the community can discuss everything from race to politics.
The next ‘Let’s Talk’ is December 9 at 10:30 at the Birmingham International Church in Vestavia Hills.