Lawrence W. Rodgers
Lawrence W. Rodgers was born to Robbie and Darryl in Eastern North Carolina. His parents taught him to be both spiritually astute and socially conscious. The poor town of Kinston that Lawrence grew up in, introduced him to social ills that often plagued poor people, black people, people of color, and women. From a young age, Lawrence realized the potency of religious communities as social institutions for advocacy, social justice, and a refuge or relief from societal oppression or neglect of marginalized people. Lawrence was fully aware that many Christian churches were failing in this area of ecclesiological praxis. However, guided by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, Lawrence felt he must be the change he wished to see in the world.
Lawrence spent a great deal of time working and ministering to local churches around his city. He often emphasized Jesus’ mandate for his followers to serve the poor and advocate for the oppressed. Lawrence helped to establish several social justice ministries and would often preach from a perspective that seeks to contextualize the gospel in the 21st Century context. Lawrence has been married to Bettae since 2010, and they currently have one daughter who brings them great joy and happiness. They met each other at a church event in North Carolina and have been best friends ever since.
While Lawrence has appreciated the older ministers and pastors, who worked to help to train him, he felt that this training alone would be inadequate for himself. Lawrence desired to study the scriptures academically himself and learn to interpret for himself. Lawrence did not want a hand me down interpretation or a hand me down theology, but personally, interpret and understand what he studied. Lawrence and his new wife Bettae moved from Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina to Searcy, Arkansas where he studied Bible/Ministry at Harding University. Lawrence graduated in 2013 receiving his Bachelors with honors such as the “Most Outstanding Bible/Ministry Major” award and graduated as a member of various honor societies. It was around the time Lawrence graduated that Bettae had their first child, a baby girl.
Lawrence appreciates Harding University’s promotion of rigorous scholarship and critical thinking. However, while attending Harding University, Lawrence discovered mainstream evangelicals within the dominant culture in America had a historical bent towards an advantageous biblical interpretation as well as theological lean that gave sanction to oppression of the marginalized and the oppression of blacks, Africans, or members of the African diaspora. This discovery of ethnocentricism is what prompted Lawrence to seek out Howard University’s School of Divinity. Howard University School of Divinity’s Mission Statement makes it clear they seek to educate and form academic and religious leaders while simultaneously celebrating the religious and cultural heritage of African-Americans, the African Diaspora, and Africa. Lawrence is very grateful for his experience at Howard University School of Divinity because it is culturally enriching. The school is equipping him with better and deeper understanding of himself, his community, the church, religion, and God. Upon graduating from Howard University School of Divinity, Lawrence hopes to continue his education in a Ph.D. program.
Lawrence is also currently the pastor of Westside Church of Christ. A 50-year-old congregation on the Westside of Baltimore, MD. Since Lawrence has come to Westside, the congregation has been very intentional about the development of social justice ministries, such as a homeless ministry that not only houses homeless families but goes into the streets and works with homeless individuals in a one-on-one or group setting. Westside has developed “Community Appreciation Meals” which is an idea Lawrence has helped to implement at three different churches. It is essentially a pot-luck in reverse where the members of the church bring the food, but the church invites the community to eat it. Westside also has human trafficking ministries, a budding literacy ministry, and coming soon is Freedom School and a re-entry citizens ministry.