Mud Creek Baptist Church and Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church share the same name because of a local creek that runs through Henderson County. Yet, the three miles now separating these two churches once had a racist past leading to a congregational split.
Greg Mathis has been pastor at Mud Creek Baptist Church for 35 years, and he had heard stories about the church split. He began searching church minutes after the Civil War, and it was then that he discovered some horrible details about some racism expressed against its African-American members. According to the minutes Mathis found, the sixth order of business in April 1867 deemed that Mud Creek’s African-American members “be allowed” the two back pews on the men’s side when the church wasn’t full.
Times News Photo by Patrick Sullivan
James Roberts, from left, pastor of Fairmont Missionary Baptist Church in Asheville, Greg Mathis, pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, and Matthew Tollison Sr., pastor of Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Hendersonville, talk about a framed copy of Mud Creek Baptist Church’s apology for racist acts following the Civil War that caused black church members to form Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church.
A month later, African-American members left to organize Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church. They didn’t have an official place to worship until 1933 when they moved to their current location in East Flat Rock.
Matthew Tollison Sr., pastor of Mud Creek Missionary Baptist for 19 years, said he was shocked when he received a formal apology letter from Mathis.
In the letter, Mathis says, “I am ashamed of some of the past history between our churches, and I know that Christ was not pleased. … The Bible makes it abundantly clear that followers of Christ must exercise no discrimination toward other human beings because of skin color. We are all a part of the human race and should treat each other that way.”
Tollison and Mathis plan on framing and hanging the letter in conspicuous areas in each of the churches.
Mud Creek Baptist Church hosted a special service Oct. 12 to address racism and racial reconciliation. Mathis, continuing a sermon series called, “What a Christian Should Look Like,” opened the service saying that whites don’t always see through the eyes of those who’ve experienced racism.
In a video interview between Tollison and Mathis, Tollison said that even though strides against racism in America have been made, it’s still real.
Mathis also interviewed James Roberts, pastor of Fairmont Missionary Baptist Church in Asheville. Roberts told a story about a few altercations between whites and blacks in the days of segregation. While he was a medical professional, he had to take care of the very people who mistreated him. We had “to nurse them [whites] back to health. So, God must’ve had something in me during that time to love the individual and not the ‘ways.’”
Eric Gash, Hendersonville High School football coach and former NFL player, told Mathis about his first real encounter with racism.
He said, “It was my sophomore year in high school and we went from 3A down to 1A, and we had to play Rosemont. … At halftime we were beating them 7-0 or 14-0, and coming off the field a lot of the parents were there, and they were dropping a lot of obscenities – the ‘N’ word, curse words and things like that. That was like a rallying cry for us and we ended up bonding stronger and winning the football game. As we were leaving, they were throwing rocks at the bus and that shook me a bit,” because Gash had never experienced prejudice like that first-hand before.
In his sermon, Mathis said racism comes in many forms – it can be racial, geographic or religious. “If that’s who you are … then you’re either ignorant of what the Bible says, you’re misguided because of a misguided culture that you maybe grew up in, you’re ‘backslidden,’ or you’ve never really been saved. “I want to say very boldly, biblical and spiritually today that it’s absolutely a sin … if you have racism in your heart,” Mathis said.
In the apology letter to Mud Creek Missionary Baptist, Mathis closed saying, “We humbly and contritely seek racial reconciliation with you and your congregation.
“I want us to lead our congregations to do even more together, beginning with biblical reconciliation. I concur with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘A person should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character!’ As we strive to live the new nature of Christ and lead our congregations to do the same, let’s move forward together as one race, the human race!”