St Moses the Black conference

The Marcus Garvey Factor & African American Orthodoxy

Marcus Garvey was not an Orthodox or any other Christian that I know of.  Yet, this forefather of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism provides a couple of doorways for African-Americans to leave the confines of Protestantism and dive into the deep waters of Orthodoxy.


Garvey was a direct influence on the African Orthodox Church.  Bishop George Alexander McGuire, a former Anglican pastor from the West Indies and ally of Garvey, sought the creation of a Christian church headed by black clergy with roots going back to the origins of the faith.  A Kenyan and two Ugandan clergymen became members of the AOC in their homelands and began seeking a connection with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.  Their churches became a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the late 1940’s.  In particular, the Church in Kenya faced bitter opposition from the British colonial government in the 1950’s.  The Archbishop of Cyprus dared preach against colonialism in Nairobi and won the respect of African independence leaders.  Today, the church continues to grow steadily from its grass-roots of black people who wanted an authentic form of Christianity that was not handed down to them by their colonial masters.

Emperor Haile Selassie venerating the cross during Orthodox worship

Garvey is better known as the man who proclaimed that there would be a black king crowned in Africa.  This statement is the birth of Rastafarianism, named after the pre-coronation name of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie Ras Tafari.  The popularity of Rastafari grew with the rise of Reggae music and its biggest star, Bob Marley.  A year before his death, Marley converted to Christianity and became a member of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church.  It was only natural that a man who sang about African freedom and redemption would be a part of a form of Christianity that came to Africa by the ministry of the Apostles Mark and Matthew.

Brother Bob Marley

For African-Americans fearful of being labeled a “sell-out” or “forgetful of where you came from” in their pursuit of Orthodox Christianity, the Garvey Factor with the witness of 2,000 years worth of the African martyrs, saints, and theologians crushes such shallow criticisms.  Charges like that do not deepen the faith of black Christians.  They only scare us from knowing more about who we are.  And when a person is too scared to know himself, anyone else is empowered to define him.  These charges keep us on familiar plantations and keep us fed on mere scraps.  While this was (only by the grace of God) nourishment enough when we had access to nothing else, we can now go to our own fertile fields and choice foods in the Orthodox world.

Together in worship (C) John Gresham

Together in worship (C) John Gresham

Do not let the critics keep you shallow and scrap fed on a plantation.  For those who have seriously looked (and peeking your head in the door and going the other direction because you didn’t want to be the “only one” is not seriously looking) at Orthodoxy and decided to remain AME, Baptist, COGIC, and etc; fine.  You made an informed choice.  If you feel your choice was right, you shouldn’t mind others investigating the ancient faith and choosing for themselves.  And if the fear of being the only black person or lack of a black clergy makes you so uncomfortable about Eastern Orthodoxy (Antiochians, Greeks, Russians, OCA, …), look into the AOC, Copts, Eritreans, and Ethiopians.  Garvey and McGuire awakened black Christians to the fact that we did not have to settle for the faith that was handed down to us by former colonial and slave masters.

The Ancient Faith & Afro American Christianity Conference 2012

I have attached a couple of resources that highlight Garvey’s influence on modern African Eastern Orthodoxy:

Donations & Sales For A Cause

“Go, sell the oil and pay your debt.  Thus you and your sons shall live by means of the rest of the oil.”

2 Kings (4 Kingdoms) 4:7  (read 4:1-7)

I don’t pastor a large and wealthy mega-church.  Not all state employees are getting fat off of taxpayers.  My wife is mentally and physically disabled.  Needless to say, I have a tendency to have more month than money.  Plus, there are educational goals I would like to accomplish as an informal environmental educator and in religion.  Yes, I am applying to other jobs to help fill in the gaps.  But, bills and objectives tend not to wait. 

There was a widow who was so deep in debt that the creditor was going to take her sons as slaves.  Rather than give her help, the Prophet Elisha showed her how to help herself.  In a nutshell, “Get a bunch of empty jars from your neighbors and fill them with the oil you already have.  Sell the jars of oil and you will have enough to pay your debt and live off of the rest.”  As a devout Christian, I have no problem using common sense solutions from the Bible.

I have a sales site for my photography, Baystride Images.  These are a few of my favorite photos I have created over the past couple of years.  You can order prints of various sizes and gifts of these images as well.  A 14″x16″ of a shoreline sunrise or a bald eagle coffee mug would be great additions to your home or office.  Or, why rush out and shop for a present from a big corporation when you can help a starving artist?

And what will this money go to?  I do have some immediate objectives:

In the long-term, I would love to pursue a masters in religion and purchase a Pentax K-5II.  But, taking care of these first four issues would answer my prayers.  Even if you do not wish to make a purchase, feel free to browse and visit by photography & nature blog, Baystride Images Journal.  I solicit your assistance, business, and (above all) prayers.  May God bless you for your time.