One of Michigan's largest Christian congregations will baptize its first black member Sunday, ending a 60-year-old policy of banning nonwhites from joining the church.
The 9,500-member Temple Baptist Church in Reford Township, affiliated with the nationwide, fundamentalist Baptist Bible Fellowship, will baptize Stewart Pigler of Southfield, Mich., one of 70 blacks who have attended its services.
"I started coming here in June, 1983, and I'm glad they are finally changing." Pigler said. "I'm joining (because) God sent me to this church."
Pastor Truman Dollar said the majority of 3,000 members present Sunday voted to end the unwritten, all-white policy. Eight days before, deacons voted 29 to 7 for the change. Dollar said the seven deacons who voted "no" did so because they feared that many whites would leave the church.
"I have been here 2 1/2 years and have been working to change attitudes," Dollar said.
In a recent sermon, Dollar urged members to examine their hearts: "All true believers love other believers. And you can't be saved if you don't."
Temple had also been under outside pressure to reform. About 150 black Baptist members from three Detroit-area churches formally urged Temple to admit blacks to its membership.