CFC Lecture

Carl Ellis: The Forgotten History of African American Missions

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George Leile is America’s first missionary. He’s not America’s first black missionary; he was America’s first missionary.

On Feb. 2, 2018, The Center for Faith and Culture and the Kingdom Diversity Office hosted the Annual Black History Celebration Luncheon. Dr. Carl Ellis of Reformed Theological Seminary discussed the forgotten history of African American missions.

Watch the video above, or read key excerpts below (edited for clarity):


George Leile’s missionary journeys predated Judson’s missionary journey by 29 years.

On Dr. Ellis’ seminary experience.

“When I went to seminary, I took four courses in church history, all 3-hour courses. It was required. I put all those four courses together. Do you know how much time we spent talking about the black church? Maybe 15 minutes. I thought, ‘My goodness. What’s wrong with this picture?’ And I wanted to know about other church histories, too, like the history of the Korean church. So I took it upon myself to begin to look at some of those things.”

On Georgie Leile, America’s first missionary

“George Leile is America’s first missionary. He’s not America’s first black missionary; he was America’s first missionary….

He was the first African American to be ordained as a Baptist minister, and he was a major player in the founding of African American churches in the late 18th century. Now, if you understand the history of the black church, in the early days the black church was invisible. It was a church that met in secret because it was a church that was persecuted.

Leile’s missionary journeys… predated Judson’s missionary journey by 29 years.”

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The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.

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