Here is a very interesting profile of Harry Jackson ’75 in Wednesday’s Washington Post. I guess he must have been quite a football player at Williams:

After high school he entered Williams College — prestigious, mostly white, Massachusetts — in 1971 and majored in English lit. He again played football. He was a middle linebacker and he hit hard. Pro scouts glanced in his direction. He got a tryout with the New England Patriots.

I think the piece presents a pretty interesting picture of Jackson, one that is more complex than how he is often portrayed in shorted pieces (and sometimes here at EphBlog):

There wasn’t a seminary, or a school of theology. It was just preaching, getting invited to other pulpits and letting word spread on the grapevine. “I was trained in the field,” Jackson says, pride in his voice.

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As he preached and worked, he’d look at black family life and get sullen about the grim statistics of divorce and crime. In his mind, too, there was a convergence of black family life and the clashing of alternative lifestyles. He saw abortion rates and gay marriages as undermining traditional family values. He found the pulpit, just as a cause found him.

“Some of the smartest people I knew in college were gay,” he says. “Some black students I knew who were gay were off-the-charts smart.

“But gay marriage is wrong, he says.

“”I don’t know of anybody black who says, ‘I hate gay people.’ We’re more accepting generally. But you overlap that — homosexuality and gay marriage — with broken families, and we don’t know how to put it back together.”

In Corning he founded a church, the Christian Hope Center, just outside town. The parishioners were mostly white, and that never changed.

“We really broke racial barriers for a black man pastoring white people in 1981,” he says.

His wife says: “We just believed we should preach the message God would give us.”

She says there were fewer than 20 blacks in a congregation that would grow to several hundred. “Irish Catholics and former Greek Orthodox,” she says. “It was a very interesting experience.”

Harry Jackson got attention for the successful church and was recruited in 1988 to come to Beltsville to take over, full-time, Hope Christian.

By 1998, he had become a bishop. (One becomes a bishop in the Pentecostal hierarchy by dint of establishing a reputation outside one’s own church. Jackson now serves as an adviser to eight other churches up and down the Northeast corridor as well as advising churches in South Africa.)

It appears that Bishop Jackson has taken full advantage of his Williams education. While I couldn’t disagree with him more on his signature issue, I agree with David that it would be great to get him up to Williamstown more often. Although he apparently didn’t have any formal theological training prior to become a pastor, I suspect he would be an interesting person for students interested in divinity school or the pulpit to talk to.

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