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Pastor Milton Kornegay: A Biblical View of Racism

Pastor Milton Kornegay (’98), one of Clarks Summit University’s trustees, was invited to speak at CSU chapel in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Due to weather conditions, the chapel was postponed to Friday, January, 28.

Kornegay has served at Central Baptist Church since 1996. He lives in Syracuse, New York, with his wife Patricia. Kornegay accepted Jesus Christ as his savior in April 1987, and since then he has committed his life to ministry. A graduate of CSU, he is passionate about teaching people about God and helping them mature in their walks with Christ. He is a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention and president of the Baptist Fellowship Association.

“Pastor Milton Kornegay wants to help our students strengthen their biblical perspective on racism,” CSU President Jim Lytle said. “He has been a faithful Christ follower and pastor in spite of unkindness from others who are troubled because he is Black. Milt’s background and experiences have provided fertile soil to become a leader for Christ.”

Personal Experience

Kornegay was born in the south in 1954, and grew up in the height of racial tension in the ’60s. He recalled this time of segregated bathrooms, off-limits lunch counters and warnings that a Black boy should never even look at a white woman. The accounts of racism’s effect on Kornegay’s life go far beyond which locations he was allowed to eat lunch. When his younger brother suffered an injury, he was not permitted to receive treatment at the closest hospital in the city. This hospital did have capacity. However, it did not serve Black people. Kornegay’s parents rushed his brother to the hospital almost 60 miles away. There, he died in his mother’s arms. He never received treatment.

While these experiences could naturally have led to an anger-fueled life of protest, Kornegay instead chooses to focus his ministry on living out the gospel of Jesus Christ. He credits his mother for helping to shape his perspective on these tough topics. Her advice like, “Don’t you ever condemn a whole race of people because of a few,” helped him navigate. He said, “The love of God flows through me to whomever God sends me to. It doesn’t matter what you look like…I minister to whom God sends me…It doesn’t matter if they’re Black or white. They need Jesus.”

Biblical Perspective

Kornegay’s message helped CSU students learn about how the Church can set the tone for changes in racial reconciliation. Kornegay said:

“I want students, faculty, and administration alike to see and hear a Christian man whom God decided needed to be Black, who at 67 years old has actually experienced racism on several levels—but whose relationship with God and through the nurturing of his mother—is not angry with his Caucasian brothers and sisters, but who is sad and sometimes discouraged to see racism continue (almost unabated) in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He addressed issues surrounding racism and gave a clear picture of how the Word of God gives solutions. “I just want each one of us to honestly look at what has and is taking place in our churches and society,” Kornegay said, “and based on our love for Jesus and our belief that He has saved us, make some plans to be used of God to help change the seemingly freedom that racist actions, speech, and attitudes have—especially in our churches.”

Practical Advice

Kornegay believes conversations should be at the center of this change, guided by a biblical perspective. He said, “If we can’t come to the table and talk about the real stuff of racism, we’ll never get beyond where we are…We have to be honest, and we have to be willing to let God and what He has to say about this thing govern our responses, govern our attitudes, as we deal with these issues.” Because of what Christians know about the Word of God, Kornegay believes, “The one place that ought to set the tone for all the changes we expect in our world is the Church.”

He advised the audience not to claim they don’t even see the color of someone’s skin. “I see color,” he admitted. “I realize that you are not the same color skin as I am…but in looking at you and trying to look through the eyes of the gospel, I try to see you as a person created in God’s image who is equally valuable to God—just like I am.”

Theology in Action

While conversations are a starting place, Kornegay pointed out that real change can only be effective with proper theology and the practical application of it in everyday life. He encouraged the audience to have a high view of God and His Scriptures, and out of that will come a proper view of man. He continued, “My theology, my beautiful understanding of sound doctrine, all of those things are wonderful. But the apostle Paul said something in I Corinthians. He said, ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angles, and have not love…it profits me nothing.’ And so knowing the truth of God, having sound theology, having sound doctrine…I can have all of that, but if my view of God is not a lofty lone, If I’m not desiring to draw closer and closer to him day by day, if my relationship with him is not the priority in my life…I won’t have a high view of His Word…and consequently, I won’t have a proper view of man, so that I can treat my fellow humans as human beings.”

Because of this view, he is able to see racial injustices as sin and also remember the truth and beauty of Christ’s death on the cross to cover all sin. “I don’t believe His love for me is a second-class love…,” Kornegay said, “His grace is universal.”

Watch the full chapel session on Facebook.

By Ainsley Hall, Communications-Writing major, and Erika A. Bruckner (’04, ’21)

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