God’s Prophet to the Stone-Campbell Movement

Samuel Robert Cassius was born in 1853.  His mother, Jane, was a slave. She taught her son to read and write.  In time, Jane’s beloved Samuel, would honor her dreams as he became a husband, father, evangelist, and educator.  Cassius would also work as a coal miner, open a college, and become an entrepreneur during his life that stretched between Reconstruction and the Great Depression.

Cassius joined the Stone-Campbell movement in 1883.  In time, he became one of the most gifted and graced evangelists in the movement.  However, all too soon, Cassius discovered the leadership of the movement was reluctant to offer financial support to the efforts of African American evangelists.  He wrote, “I had rather preach the gospel for what I can eat, than to live in plenty at anything else.  God has raised me up for this very work, and I am not happy or contented at anything else.”

As he traveled throughout the United States and Canada, Cassius realized that the systemic racism of the nation had found a home in church structures and organizations.  The young preacher confronted this racism by calling for the church to repent of the discrimination that was stifling the Good News of Jesus.  In 1889, Cassius wrote: “I tell you brother it is time that this race hatred and prejudice was left at the church door, and a determined effort made to evangelize every community regardless of race or color.”  Cassius would not compromise God’s Word and demanded the church be inclusive of “every blood.”

Cassius became weary of pastors and leaders who “preach about the goodness of God, and pray about loving one another, and being one in Christ, but scorn me on account of my race and color, and tell me that their people will not tolerate me as an equal.  I am compelled to say to all such, “Thou hypocrite!” Do you believe the Bible when it says that God is no respecter of persons, or that God made of one blood all men?”  In 1920, Cassius published, “The Third Birth of a Nation,” in response to D. W. Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation.

We read in Amos: “The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter God’s voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither” (1:2). I believe the Cassius is one of the Restoration Movement’s utmost prophets.  Indeed, God’s Word still roars in the Reverend Samuel Robert Cassius’ sermons, articles, and lectures, “The world did not start the ‘Jim Crow’ law; it was started by the church because the white members of the church did not think that negroes were good enough to worship God in the same house that they did. … Christianity means [learning] the things taught by Christ and his apostles, and being a Christian means doing the things taught by Christ and his apostles.”

Lon Oliver
Administrator of the Disciples Appalachian Scholarship Ministry: A Ministry Partnership of Disciples Home Missions and the Christian Church In Kentucky and
CCK District Minister for Districts 10/11

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