Turbulent Times for a Civil War Pastor
By Larry Hightower
Should a pastor seek to keep the peace or stir the waters? When a moral dilemma occurs at a time of crisis, the stakes rise exponentially. Reverend Stephen D. Jones, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Kansas City, researched and wrote a recently released historical novel, Galusha—Crisis and Courage in a Civil War Pastor, based on the life of Galusha Anderson, the pastor of the Second Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
When Reverend Anderson took the pulpit in St. Louis (circa 1856) St. Louis was a border city with northern and southern sympathizers. Although emotions ran high, no pastor in St. Louis had addressed the issues of slavery and succession. There was no controversy when Anderson openly prayed for the president, James Buchanan. When Abraham Lincoln was sworn in, Pastor Anderson prayed for the new president. The deacons urged him to stop. Southern sympathizers were offended and Union supporters were concerned that his prayers would destroy harmony within the church. Rather than be stifled, he followed his conscience and took to the pulpit the next Sunday and preached against slavery to a nearly stone silent congregation. Southern sympathizers circulated a petition for his removal. When that failed, they abandoned the church and attendance plummeted. A few remaining Union supporters were concerned for their church. Although attendance remained low for a while, the church became known as a Union church, drawing some new members. The congregation grew as Union soldiers were drawn to the church, since battles were not fought on the Sabbath.
Reverend Jones first became aware of Galusha Anderson when he became pastor of Second Baptist Church in St. Louis, the church where Anderson had preached. This led Jones to read Galusha’s book, The Story of a Border City During the Civil War. Reverend Jones then learned that he and Anderson graduated from the same seminary (also attended by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). “As I read Pastor Anderson’s book I realized that it focused on the secular history of St. Louis. Yet on the underside of his secular history, it told a gripping personal side of his own history and story, not always told in great detail but always captivating. I decided to write Galusha’s story as historic fiction. I embellished his story to bring Galusha to life for modern readers.
Jones captures the tension and action of the tumultuous war years in a borderline city. Despite receiving death threats, being abducted, and having a lynch mob form during a service, Pastor Anderson had the courage and convictions to continue to preach against slavery and lead other pastors to do the same. By basing his book on Anderson’s autobiography, Reverend Jones allows readers to see the horrors of slave pens and slave auctions through the eyes of a direct witness.
In the current environment of Black Lives Matter and deep social unrest, Reverend Jones’ new book arrives right in time to profile an early disciple, who along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Ralph Abernathy used their positions as Baptist ministers to advocate for equality and social justice. Reverend Jones states, “Our congregation at First Baptist of Kansas City is proudly multinational, interracial, and intergenerational.”
Stephen Jones has previously authored six faith-based books. They are available in hardcopy, softcopy and e-book format at Barnes and Noble and amazon.com. His next book, Learning Jesus, due out late summer, explores Christ’s own spiritual journey.