A message from The Reverend Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Pastor Emeritus, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland
At last, Baptists in the Bay Area have broken the glass ceiling that has prevented women from serving as Senior Pastors.
Baptists have joined the ranks of Shiloh Christian Fellowship, Patten Christian Cathedral, Center of Hope Community Church and Oakland East Bay Church of Religious Science, all of whom blessed the East Bay with women pastors in the late Dr. Violet Kitely, Dr. Bebbe Patten, retired Bishop Ernestine Cleveland Reems, and most active, the Reverend Elouise Oliver.
Each of these pastors distinguished themselves as compassionate servants, eloquent speakers, talented teachers, spiritual trailblazers, peacemakers, and examples of unselfishness and bold justice advocacy, whose churches continue to impact the city and the nation with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With the confirmation of the Reverend Dr. Jacqueline A. Thompson as Senior Pastor, both my son and I have retired and welcome her leadership from Allen Temple’s pulpit.
A growing grass-roots opinion in the membership led by strong women and non-patriarchal men who were concerned that Jesus affirmed the equality of the sexes realized that the search community should give first consideration to their first woman assistant pastor. Dr. Thompson was already in great demand nationally as a preacher in multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-cultural settings and had won the hearts of her audiences with her charismatic preaching style that reached the Ph.D.’s and the “no D’s.”
On Sunday, April 7, 2019, more than 2,000 members stood in line around the block and more than 90 percent cast their votes for Dr. Thompson to be the Senior Pastor.
I thanked God, most merciful and most benevolent, for allowing me to live long enough to have helped in a small way to prepare a biological son and a spiritual daughter to serve as Senior Pastors of 100-year-old Allen Temple Baptist Church of Oakland, California.
What a way to celebrate this 100th year of our church anniversary.
The Allen Temple members had heard justice issues raised for generations from a prophetic pulpit. They read Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 58. They are not rigid fundamentalists.
The justice-minded members realized that an Affirmative Action program for women should exist in their own church, starting with their own home-grown candidate reared by a single mother who supported her studies at the University of California, Berkeley, which had few Black graduates.
Pastor Thompson earned her Master of Divinity at Howard University in Wash., D.C., where she was a teaching assistant to the renowned New Testament scholar Cain Hope Felder. She earned the Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Her post-doctoral work was conducted in Israel with Jewish and Arab scholars.
In 1976, Rev. Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell, Rev. Dr. Malvina Stephens, and Josephine Kulhman were the first women ordained in Allen Temple.
May Rev. Dr. Thompson be blessed with good health and many years to serve as the Senior Pastor of a strong Allen Temple Baptist Church, pregnant with positive possibilities, and may she be warmly welcomed with open arms by the clergy groups in the City of Oakland.
May we work with Pastor Thompson in the ministry of love, respect, and forgiveness; and may
God grant us the courage, unity, and energy to struggle and resist the local and global issues of white supremacy, the criminal injustice system and exclusive health care for the rich, societal blindness to homelessness and poverty, and bold indifference to the inequitable distribution of wealth.
May we become students of economic justice that resists the building of walls at borders, that preaches rugged individualism for the poor and socialism for the rich who pay little or no taxes.
May we who know little about the “sweet bye and bye,” but much about the “nasty and now,” preach about life after birth on an Earth that is abundant and full for all human beings, especially for those of us who have been denied our humanity and dignity.
May the aging clergy in our Baptist ranks embrace a collaborative relationship with Rev. Dr. Jackie Thompson, who is gifted in intergenerational relationships with the large number of young adults who have no ties to the church; who have cut the umbilical cord that tied them to the survival institutions that saved their elders.
Any technocratic culture without spiritual grounding is like a plant uprooted from the soil and its life-giving nutrients.