According to the Associated Baptist Press, W. W. Finlator, longtime pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, died of pneumonia July 3. He was 93.

In the 1950s, unlike virtually all of his white Southern Baptist counterparts, Finlator spoke out forcefully against segregation. Over the years, the causes he adopted were ahead of the curve for most white Baptists, including opposition to the Vietnam War, support for women’s rights, calling for nuclear disarmament during the height of the Cold War, even embracing gay rights.

In a clear demonstration of the close relationship between racial prejudice and discrimination and homophobia:

He served several other North Carolina congregations before being called to Pullen in 1956. He and Robert Seymour, his colleague at Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in nearby Chapel Hill, soon earned reputations as two of the few white Baptist leaders publicly to support integration at the time.

The two congregations later became the first two churches kicked out of a Southern Baptist-affiliated state convention for affirming gays and lesbians.

Demonstrating that a devotion to God need not be married to a devotion to oppression, Finlater said in 1979:

“the more I understand the Christian faith, the more I see the Bible is concerned with justice. And I’ve found that if God has any prejudice at all, he’s prejudiced on the side of the poor and the deprived and the disinherited. But the church seems to be on the other side.”

Sadly, in the years since it seems to have become more so.

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