Personality: Dr. Emanuel C. Harris

Spotlight on president of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity

9/27/2019, 6 a.m.
A new outspoken, politically aware and socially conscious president has been installed to lead the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond …

A new outspoken, politically aware and socially conscious president has been installed to lead the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity. Dr. Cheryl Ivey Green passed the leadership mantle to Dr. Emanuel C. Harris during a ceremony Sept. 15 at Second Baptist Church of South Richmond. Dr. Harris’ infectious enthusiasm and passion for BMCRV, founded in 1929 and led by its first president Dr. William L. Ransome, was on full display during his interview at the Free Press discussing the state of religious leadership in Richmond and the world and its effects on the political climate. The 47-year-old pastor was licensed to preach in 1993 and ordained in 1998 at Cedar Street Baptist Church of God in Church Hill. He currently serves as senior pastor of Jerusalem Baptist Church in Goochland County. Dr. Harris’ main goal for BMCRV, consisting of more than 50 members, is unity. “We are in an age when the church, especially the black church, is more divided than ever,” he says. His concern centers on churches working in silos, doing their own individual thing and not working as a whole. Dr. Harris wants pastors to know no matter how big or small their ministry’s expertise, it is always better to look at the entire community and share that special expertise in this age of social and political chaos and spiritual dysfunction. Dr. Harris questions how some people believe, theologically, they are better than other people. "One of the fundamental teachings in the Bible is we are all created in the image of God." he says. Yet some so-called Christians dehumanize other races, treating them with distain, unkindness and a total lack of human compassion. “This is unacceptable,” he says. “If churches and believers in Christ unify, we can eradicate these evils,” Dr. Harris says. “Churches need to take correct moral stances, often a rarity, so they will not lose the respect of the community when it comes to being a prophetic voice.” His passion for the church began at an early age at St. Pe- ter Baptist Church on Mountain Road in Glen Allen. He served in many capacities under the tutelage of Dr. Kirkland Walton. St. Peter’s village of fellowship – youth ministries, community athletic organizations, mentoring from coaches and the pastoral administration – was strong and laid a firm spiritual foundation of best practices Dr. Harris relies on in his present pastoral leadership. “Those best practices, whatever they may be from church to church, is a part of unity,” Dr. Harris says. “Those procedures churches do well can be shared within BMCRV to provide a holistic approach to our spiritual message, regardless of the congregation’s age, race or persuasion.” “If you are a minister in the greater Richmond area, you are not by yourself,” Dr. Harris says. “Sometimes pastoral professionals need to talk to other pastoral leaders.” Meet this week’s Personality and a preacher’s preacher, Dr. Emanuel C. Harris:

Current job: Senior pastor, Jerusalem Baptist Church — Manakin in Goochland County.

No. 1 community leadership position: President, Baptist Min- isters’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity.

Length of term: It is an annual term.Apresident may serve for up to three consecutive years.

Date and place of birth: Jan. 9, in Richmond.

Current residence: Henrico County.

Alma maters: Armstrong High School, salutatorian; bachelor’s in accounting, Virginia Union University, magna cum laude; master’s in divinity, VUU, cum laude; and doctorate of ministry, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

Family: Wife, Anne S. Harris, a school counselor at Bellevue Elementary School; and two children, Arayana Harris, a senior majoring in psychology at Hampton University, and Emanuel Harris Jr., a junior at Highland Springs High School and a student in the Advanced College Academy, School of Business.

Why I accepted this responsibility: To assist, be- friend and empower church leaders; to strengthen the community and enable more effective collabora- tion among our churches so we can address communal issues from a Christian perspective.

BMCRV membership: About 50 to 75 pastors and ministers serving communities and churches in varying capacities in Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield, Goochland and other surrounding counties.

BMCRV’s mission: To provide a safe space for area clergy to fellowship and network; offer an abundance of opportunities for ministerial development; promote the general welfare of its members; and aid in the prorogation of Christian influence in general.

Role of the church in 2019: I define church as an assembly of believers, not the building. Consequently, I believe the role of the church is to be disciples of Christ and to make disciples for Christ. Metaphorically speaking, the church is the hands, feet and mouth of God operating in the world.

How churches have changed:

As a whole, the church’s theology has been watered down to fit the waning moral laxity of the world. And there’s a division between the black church and its leadership. We need to help each other and share our expertise.

Reason: Unfortunately, pastors and churches are often in competition with each other trying to build personal ministerial empires instead of building God’s Kingdom.

The role and importance of church in the community: In my experience, the church is the center and foundation of the community. It is our role to teach, liberate, empower and love all people. Also, from a ministerial perspective, we must realize the whole with all of our gifts is greater than the individual parts.

A minister’s greatest reward:

Seeing lives and communities transformed by God.

Challenge: God always works through people, and we are only human. We get tired, discouraged, hurt, sick and angry. The challenge is to keep going, even when we don’t feel like it or want to.

Role of church in eliminating social ills: As disciples of God, we have been given power and authority over the enemy and all his devices, tactics, systems and schemes. Therefore, out of obedience and gratitude, we must utilize that power to eradicate all evil and injustice consistently and intentionally.

What makes a good leader: A good leader is an individual who is able to see the whole and is willing to work, not just dictate commands. This is what we call servant leadership.

How I start the day: Lord, use me to do your work, no matter how great or small.

Quality I most admire in others: Resilience. Each day, I see people fight through trauma, sickness, abuse, poverty and disease, but they keep fighting.

Three words that best describe me: Compassionate, joyful (humorous) and resilient.

A quote that I am inspired by: The quote that inspires me is also the title of a gospel song — “May the work I’ve done speak for me.”

A perfect day for me is: Spending time with family, and whenever the Cowboys, the VUU Panthers and/or the Los Angeles Lakers win!!!

Best late-night snack: Cookie dough ice cream and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

How I unwind: Watching football and basketball.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: Be yourself; don’t be who you are not to make friends. You don’t have to impress anybody. God loves you uncondition- ally and we do, too.

At the top of my “to-do” list:One day I will travel the world and I will make a special effort to spend extra time in the African countries.

Persons who influenced me the most: My parents, Helen Harris, and the late Charles Harris, in addition to my grandparents, the late Helen Epps and the Rev. Andrew Clay Epps; the late Dr. Benjamin Robertson; and Dr. Kirkland Walton.

Book that influenced me the most: “The Hidden Lives of Congregations” by Israel Galindo.

What I’m reading now: “To Serve This Present Age: Social Justice Ministries in the Black Church” by Danielle L. Ayers and Reginald W. Williams Jr.

Next goal: Expand my doctoral project by conducting more church training on the relationship between patriarchal authority in the Bible and domestic violence