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revpinckneyClementa Carlos Pinckney (1973-2015)—a Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate and the senior pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] Church—was martyred last night, along with eight other church members, while leading a Bible study and prayer meeting within his church in Charleston, S.C.

Pinckney (age 41) is survived by his wife, Jennifer (whom he married in 1999), and their two children, Eliana and Malana.

At the age of 23, he was the youngest African-American in South Carolina history to be elected to the legislature. He began preaching when he was 13 years old and was first appointed to preach at the age of 18.

After earning a degree in business administration and a master’s degree in public administration, he enrolled in Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (ELCA) in Columbia, S.C., graduating with an MDiv in 2008.

In 2010 he was named pastor of Mother Emanuel AME. He was a fourth-generation pastor.

In the video below—filmed in 2013 within the church where he would later be murdered—Rev. Pinckney gives a short history of his historic church:

ema2NewsOne has pulled together several things you should know about the history of this historical church:

1) In 1816 Black members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church withdrew over disputed burial grounds and under the leadership of Morris Brown, formed a circuit of 3 churches of people of color affiliated with the newly established African Methodist Episcopal Church. Emanuel’s congregation grew out of the Hampstead Church, located at Reid and Hanover Streets.

2) In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, had organized plans for a major slave uprising in Charleston. The plot was foiled by an informant, and Vesey was hanged, along with 36 enslaved people.

3) As a result of the revolt plot, Emanuel AME Church was burned, and laws were passed in a number of southern states restricting the movement of Black people.

4) Parishioners rebuilt the church after the fire and worshipped there until 1834, when South Carolina outlawed all-Black churches.

5) The congregation had to continue worshipping underground until 1865, when the church formally reorganized. It was then that the name “Emanuel” ( meaning “God is with us”) was adopted.

6) Richard Harvey Cain, who served South Carolina as a Republican representative to Congress from 1873-1875 and 1877-1879, had led Emanuel after the Civil War. During his tenure the church was “one of the strongest political organizations in the state.”

7) Today Emanuel A.M.E. is the oldest AME church in the South.

8) It houses the oldest Black congregation south of Baltimore.

9) The current church building is a Gothic Revival-style structure built in 1891.

Here is a picture from 1963 of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other associates within Mother Emanuel:

The murderer—identified by police as 21-year-old Dylann Roof—has now been apprehended by the authorities.

Let us pray for both the justice of God upon his enemies and for his healing comfort to be upon his people.

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13 thoughts on “Clementa C. Pinckney (1973-2015), Pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, SC”

  1. Matt says:

    This is a horrible tragedy. Are we sure he was a martyr? Is this church a Gospel believing church? Was it a racial crime? Religious crime? Do we know?

    1. Jesse says:

      None of your questions matter in the slightest.

      1. Greg says:

        Actually it does matter if it is implied that he was martyred for his Christian faith. At this point we have very little information so it would be better to say that these people were killed or murdered rather than martyred.

    2. Leslie says:

      Your comment is heartbreaking. People are mourning. In the midst of such evil, to read such questions brings me to my knees. I pray that this response is isolated.

    3. Shayne says:

      No doubt its a left leaning church, but I also have no doubt about Pinckney’s genuine love for Jesus. The shooter didn’t attack a random Christian at a random place. He attacked a group of Christians meeting for Bible study at a church. He sat through an hour of Bible Study. There are all kinds of Christians who I wouldn’t agree with theologically that are persecuted in Jesus’s name, especially in places like Iraq and Africa.

      That said, 12 hours after a mass murder is definitely not the time to ask such a question. Next time let your internal monologue take over.

  2. dave says:

    Is this church a Gospel believing church?

    Sigh… you should be embarrassed that this is what you’re asking right now.

    1. Nick says:

      Actually you should be embarrassed that you recognize how inappropriate those questions are at this time and still responded equally inappropriately. It’s probably better to explain that Justin has written this to honor this church’s history and it’s members and to grieve this terrible loss. We don’t find endorsements or doctrines of this church anywhere, so those important questions are both insensitive and irrelevant to this article, which is acting as an obituary and call to prayer. We don’t need the answers to those questions to grieve this tragedy, pray for those affected, pray for justice, or pray for God to heal this church and draw it closer to Him in the midst of this evil.

  3. Irene says:

    know dear brothers and sisters that you are in our family’s prayers. Psalm 116:15: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. I pray that this horrible thing will not be allowed to be the start of more racial hatred in your city, state and our country. We must not give the evil one an opportunity to divide God’s people.

  4. David Moore says:

    Thanks for posting this Justin. Sobering and yet clarifying to hear Pinckney’s words about possible sacrifice we may have to make like dying for righteousness. Ps. 116:15.

  5. Heather says:

    This certainly is a terrible thing. The taking of human life unjustly and when motivated by racial hatred is always horrible. Just to address Matt’s questions (I wasn’t very familiar with the AME church, either), their beliefs listed on their denominational website are very orthodox: In practice, this article (which was very helpful) suggests that it’s likely many of their congregations endorse liberation theology: Anyone else know much about them?

  6. Roger says:

    With all sympathy due, “Martyred” is the wrong word. Not because the dead are not Christians. Paul’s criteria in the New Testament is that “he who confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Being a southern White man myself, I can testify to the fact that our Black brothers and sisters in Christ, even those with bad theology, often put us white, affluent reformed Christians to utter shame in their love for Jesus and their willingness to own His name. But “Martyred” is the wrong word here because they were not killed for their faith. They were killed for their Blackness. All indications are that this was a white supremacist murdering Black people, not an ISIS zealot murdering Christians.

  7. solidmark says:

    I say they died in the faith and for the faith. It’s a terrible thing for those people left behind but like the thief on the cross, today those people who died are all with him in paradise. Pray for the people left behind. God may be on the move. Keep the faith.

  8. Todd says:

    Thank you Justin!! SMH, Whenever you feel like closing comments, I understand. This is such a tragic, tragic event. God Bless all who love His appearing!!

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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