They will come.
That was the thrust of LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s sermon on the Epiphany text of Isaiah 60 for the Jan. 7 installation of the Rev. Roosevelt Gray Jr. as director of LCMS Black Ministry at the LCMS International Center in St. Louis.
“Sometimes the Word takes root and sometimes it doesn’t,” said Harrison during his sermon. “We don’t know why. It’s a mystery.
“But they’ll come, Roosevelt. That’s what the Bible says.”
On Nov. 1, Gray began serving as director of LCMS Black Ministry, a historic LCMS ministry that serves predominantly black communities and African immigrants. Gray provides leadership and direction for LCMS districts, congregations, schools and related organizations as they minister to minority groups in their communities.
He also serves as a liaison to the churchwide Black Clergy Caucus and oversees the development of resources to support LCMS Black Ministry throughout the Synod.
Harrison told Gray after the installation that the slate is clean for Gray in the new position.
“We are looking to you for leadership,” Harrison said.
Harrison quoted from a book by Rosa Young, a pioneer in mission work among blacks in Alabama.
“What Rosa says applies to you today, Roosevelt,” Harrison said. “The talent we possess is for the service of all. The truth we hold is the truth for all mankind.”
The LCMS began its black ministry in 1877, 30 years after the Synod was formed.
The director position has been open since 2010, when the LCMS Board for Black Ministry Services was disbanded following the restructure mandated by the Synod in convention. Most recently, the Rev. Dr. Frazier Odom served the ministry as interim director.
Filling the position was the No. 1 priority for the Black Clergy Caucus.
The Rev. Dr. Bryant Clancy, who retired as executive director of the Synod’s black-ministry board in 2002, attended the installation. He said he was thrilled Gray had accepted the called position after having turned it down in the past.
“I’m just delighted that he is here,” Clancy said. “The Lord has brought us to this day.”
Gray said the church has a herculean task to reach the unchurched wherever they are located. But, he said, God will help the church in those challenges and provide opportunities for the Gospel to be shared.
“Let us be Lutherans where God has called us to be,” Gray said. “Let’s be people of the Word, people of witness.
“And then, God will give the increase.”
Prior to joining the staff of the LCMS International Center, Gray served as assistant to the president for Missions/Evangelism in the LCMS Michigan District, a call he accepted in 2001. He served as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church and Lutheran City Ministries in Detroit from 1997 to 2001; director of admissions, recruitment and vicarage at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., from 1994 to 1997; and as pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Houston, from 1988 to 1994.
Gray graduated in 1988 with a Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary and in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in Printing Production and Management from Alabama A&M University, Huntsville, Ala.
Gray and his wife, Otelia, are in the process of relocating to St. Louis.
The director of LCMS Black Ministry position is in line with the Synod’s restructure and is covered in the Synod’s budget.