COLUMBIA – The South Carolina Christian Action Council celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding on May 20 by honoring the director whose vision has become the reputation of the organization.
“Howard G. McClain was greater than Moses,” said the immediate-past executive minister of the SCCAC, L. Wayne Bryan. “During his tenure … he stretched our minds to understand each other across racial, cultural, gender and political divides.”
The late McClain, Ph.D., was a Baptist minister who ran the SCCAC from 1950-1985.
The Christian Action Council is an ecumenical group that is famous nationally for taking tough stances on such contentious, counter-cultural issues as gambling, abortion, the South Carolina flag, the death penalty and civil rights. It organizes, through its membership of 16 different denominations, grass-roots efforts to fight for the Christian position on issues; its early accomplishments in bringing races together during the ’60s has proven to be the foundation for more recent achievements.
The keynote speaker for the anniversary luncheon claim-ed that McClain and the council were instrumental in the success South Carolina had in working through integration with relatively little violence or upset. And the speaker, Bishop Frederick Calhoun James, ought to know about that.
Bishop James, retired from active ministry now, was “a champion of the Civil Rights movement and had a close relationship with Martin Luther King,” according to Richard F. Dozier, president of the SCCAC.
He was also in his episcopacy a bishop in South Africa, the bishop for AME districts 1 and 2 and a representative appointed by President Clinton to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa. He is a professor at Allen University. Bishop James spoke in poetic style about what the Council now calls The McClain Legacy and about what it means to be a neighbor.
“For me, the South Carolina Christian Action Council means a half century of precious memories, and the Rev. Howard McClain is central to those memories in the midst of our soft South Carolina racial midnight. Howard McClain and others here today provided the light so we could see scenes unfold,” he said.
Bishop James also spoke about “our Jericho Road experience” in relating the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan, as it relates to Who Is My Neighbor? He said that the Samaritan story was one of the greatest stories ever told.
“The pathway to the heavenly kingdom passes through your neighbor’s house,” Bishop James said. “Before we can live forever, we must become a neighbor.”
The Rev. Brenda L. Kneece, executive minister of the SCCAC, announced a plan to endow The McClain Lectures, a three-year series of public presentations focusing on ecumenism and religious unity.
Rev. Kneece spoke of the current council’s “days of strength” and asked the 150 representatives at the celebratory lunch to assist the SCCAC in raising $75,000 to continue its ministries in South Carolina.
Catholics have been and are prominent in the South Carolina Christian Action Council. Fred Sheheen is the chair of the Development Committee; he and Father Alexander McDonald are members of the board of directors.