The Reverend Dr. Christopher Alan Bullock is a founder of the Canaan Baptist Church in New Castle, a congregation that has grown to over 1700 members since 2003. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Rev. Bullock came to Delaware by way of Chicago, where in addition to his pastoral duties he was president of the Southside Branch of the NAACP.
TownSquareDelaware: First, you are a graduate of the University of Alaska. Now, there can’t be many black Baptist ministers that hold that diploma. How did you end up there?
Rev. Bullock: I went to the University of Alaska-Anchorage as a student-athlete where I earned my Social Work/Criminal Justice degree and enjoyed an outstanding basketball career as a playmaking point guard.
I also served as Youth Pastor of The Shiloh Baptist Church in Anchorage. Alaska was a great experience.
TSD: The Church has a long and distinguished heritage of leading the crusade for equality and civil rights. But the older generation of leaders like Jesse Jackson are moving into the sunset and increasingly, African-American politicians do not hail from that tradition of activist church leadership. What is your appraisal of the current state of the black church and its continued efficacy as a key vehicle for social change?
RB: I’m in the Black Church tradition of the Rev(s) Martin Luther King, Leon Sullivan, Ben Hooks, Adam Clayton Powell, and Jesse Jackson; activist preachers of the social Gospel.
The Black Church remains the house of refuge and vanguard of hope for millions around the globe. If the Black Church is to remain relevant it must get beyond prosperity preaching and gimmicks, being politically disinterested and silent on the urgent socio-economic issues of this day.
Issues like mass incarceration, mis-education, poverty, HIV/Aids and urban violence. I address many of these issues in my book “The Social Mission of The Black Church: A Call to Action.”
TSD: When you joined with a dozen leading local African-American clergy to decry the travesty of the Gosnell abortion case, few urban politicians joined in the common-sense calls for health and safety reforms. Why?
RB: The Gosnell abortion case is a major travesty. Especially since so many of the abortions were performed on African-American girls and women.
I’m disappointed but not surprised by the tragic silence of many African-American leaders and politicians in Delaware. Abortion is a sensitive wedge issue and could cost a politician at the ballot box.
TSD: As a man of the cloth responsible for nurturing and growing your congregation, how do you compete for the hearts and souls – and attention – of young people in an increasingly secular, technology-driven age?
RB: I try to meet young people where they are and teach them the ways of the Christian faith. The Canaan Baptist Church has progressive and relevant ministries that address the many challenges of this generation. Canaan emphasizes education not incarceration. This is the new moral assignment.
TSD: You’ve been a Republican, you’ve been a Democrat. But your involvement on a range of issues from fair sentencing to abortion to civil unions don’t lend themselves easily to any one political ideology. Where do you sit politically at this moment?
RB: My political ideology stems from my biblical theology. In my evolution as a servant, I’ve come to appreciate that moral principles matter more than political party.
TSD: You must have crossed paths with then-State Senator Barack Obama when you led the NAACP in Chicago in the 1990s. How well did you know him?
RB: I worked closely with then State Senator Obama in Chicago. As President of the Chicago Southside NAACP we led the grassroots fight against hate crimes in Illinois. President Obama joined this fight as the lead sponsor of anti- hate crime legislation in the Illinois Senate. That legislation became Illinois law.
Obama was the keynote speaker for one of my NAACP events and he also spoke at my church Progressive Baptist as a candidate for Congress. He lost badly to Bobby Rush but I supported him.
TSD: Did you ever imagine he would become President?
RB: I don’t think Obama was even thinking about the Presidency back then. I thought he would make a great Governor. It was obvious to me, however, that he was unique, special and ambitious.
TSD: I must also ask about the now-notorious Reverend Wright. Did you know him and what do you make of that situation?
RB: I’ve known Dr. Jeremiah Wright for many years. He’s my fraternity brother-Omega Psi Phi. He strongly supported my pastorate and civil rights work in Chicago. We worked on Africa debt relief issues together.
Dr. Wright spoke the truth from his vantage point during the 2008 presidential campaign. The media behaved as they do in those kinds of situations. Candidate Obama did what was best for his campaign and moved on.
TSD: This is actually your second tour in Delaware. You were in a highly visible and respected position in Chicago. What brought you back?
RB: My family and I came back to Delaware after much prayer. Many wonderful people from my former congregation The Eighth Street Baptist Church and the American Baptist Churches, USA asked us to return to plant a new urban church in Wilmington.
We miss Chicago but Canaan Baptist Church is doing very well.
TSD: What do you like most about life here?
RB: I like Delaware because of its strategic location. We also enjoy a close knit of good friends and family here. My wife really loves the tax-free shopping.
TSD: What would you change?
RB: The next [Wilmington] Mayor to offer a vision and plan that seriously addresses crime, economic development (private/public partnerships) and positive alternatives to crime for urban youth.
TSD: What are some of your favorite local spots?
RB: The Riverfront, Evelyns Soul Food, Kozy Korner, Joseph A.Banks, my barbershop, my deck, Philadephia and New York.