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Friday, December 3, 2021

Rev. W. Sterling Carey, black church pioneer, dies at 94

The Rev. Dr. W. Sterling Carey, who bravely joined other black religious leaders in 1966 to reconcile nonviolence and the demands of black power and who was later elected the first black president of the National Council of Churches, died Sunday Sunday. his home in Flossmore, a suburb of Chicago. He was 94 years old.

According to his daughter Yvonne Carey Carter, the cause was heart failure.

Mr. Carey was unanimously elected in December 1972 by the largely liberal National Council of Churches, the largest ecumenical body in the United States. He served until 1975. His election set a precedent that he hoped would go beyond the symbolism of the 1960s. …

“To me, symbolic victories don’t matter much,” he told the New York Times in 1972. – Black is elected to Congress or mayor of an almost dead city. It gives an opportunity to a person, not to people. “

Mr. Carey was the pastor of Grace Congregational Church in Harlem in 1966 when he helped organize a special National Committee of Black Churchmen. In the July 31 issue of The New York Times, the committee ran an advertisement announcing the demands for black power as announced by Stokely Carmichael, the newly appointed national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Action Coordinating Committee, and his students, who were both white ministers. and many of the leading leaders of the civil rights movement denounced them as anti-American and anti-Christian.

“What we see through the variety of rhetoric is not something new, but the same old problem of power and race that our beloved country has faced since 1619,” the clergy wrote, referring to the year when black slaves first imported into what became the United States.

While they emphasized that they did not view power as a quest for isolation or domination, their statement condemned US officials for “tying the white suburban noose around the necks” of black people classified as unemployed and ramshackle and still isolated schools. and not protected by laws against discrimination that was not respected.

Mr. Carey would later think that the interracial coalition that promoted civil rights in the 1960s fell apart when the movement began to challenge racial inequality in the North.

What became known as black liberation theology echoed decades later when Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 and was asked if he shared the views of his own minister, the Reverend Jeremy Wright, the apostle of that theology. In an interview with NPR that same year, Mr. Carey described Mr. Wright as “a prophetic voice still calling on the nation to take a step towards total justice for all its people.”

William Sterling Carey was born on August 10, 1927 in Plainfield, New Jersey. He was one of eight children of Andrew Jackson Carey, a real estate broker and YMCA administrator, and Sadie (Walker) Carey, a housewife.

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He ran for student council president of his predominantly white high school and believed he had won by an overwhelming majority. But the dean informed him that according to the official results, he was defeated.

Finding that he would be more comfortable in a black school, he decided to go to Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Ordained to the Baptist Church in 1948, he was elected president of the Morehouse student council that same year and received his bachelor’s degree in 1949. He entered the Allied Theological Seminary in Manhattan, where his fellow students elected him as the first black class president. He received his Master’s degree in Theology in 1952.

He later served in the Presbyterian and United Church of Christ congregations, including as pastor of the Butler Memorial Presbyterian Church in Youngstown, Ohio, and for three years at the Open Door Interracial Church in Brooklyn.

He was the pastor of Grace Congregational Church from 1958 to 1968 when he was appointed Administrator of the New York Metropolitan District of the United Church of Christ. In this capacity, he oversaw nearly 100 congregations with over 50,000 parishioners.

He was 45 years old and lived in Hollis, Queens when he was elected president of the National Council of Churches. At the time, Ebony magazine named him one of the most influential African Americans in the United States.

In 1994 he was elected conference minister of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. He was the first black person to serve in this role, leading some 250 churches, until he retired in 1994.

In addition to his daughter Yvonne, he is survived by his wife, Marie Belle (Phillips) Carey; two other daughters, Denise and Patricia Carey; son of W. Sterling, Jr. two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

In a 2008 NPR interview, Mr. Carey said the United States has taken “huge strides” towards racial justice, but added a word of caution.

“It’s a different world than the world I was born in and the world I grew up in, but it’s still a world that needs perfection,” he said. “There are all kinds of conditions that require a decision by the nation.”

He said he was amazed at how Americans celebrate the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream.”

“It’s remarkable that he talked about sleep,” said Mr. Carey. “The country has no problem with your dreams. But when Stokely Carmichael spoke in the language of demand, or when Malcolm X spoke in the language of demand, they were viewed as fighters – as a threat to the stability of society. Now why this is so, I believe it will take a psychiatrist for the analysis. “

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