Sponsored by Erskine Seminary and First Presbuterian Church
Wednesday, April 5 and Thursday, April 7, 2017
3:30 p.m. Coffee & Questions in The Bridge Coffee Shop
5:00 p.m. Reception in The Bridge, Room 125
6:00 p.m. Lecture
The Bridge, Room 125
1400 Lady Street - Directions and event parking
Excerpt from "First Things" Vol. LXVII No. 12, March 19, 2017
Each year for the past five First Presbyterian Church has joined with Erskine Theological Seminary in hosting lectures to honor the memory of John Lafayette Girardeau and to exhort the church of Jesus Christ toward the faith which he preached. He was one of the ablest theologians among the Presbyterians in the southern states, and was regarded by many as its finest preacher, “The Spurgeon of the South” as he was called. One man who heard Spurgeon some six or eight times, declared after hearing Girardeau just once, “It has never fallen to my lot to hear a more absorbing, spiritual, eloquent and moving sermon” (the Rev. J. M. Buckley, editor of the New York Christian Advocate; quoted by Dr. John B. Mack in George A. Blackburn, ed., The Life Work of John L. Girardeau, D.D., LL.D., p. 57).
For his many gifts and abilities in service and love to Christ, Girardeau is worthy of our remembrance and imitation. But he is chiefly remembered in these lectures for his devotion to the work of the gospel among the African American population of antebellum and postbellum South Carolina. Born on James Island in 1825, he grew up in the plantation economy of those times, and from his mother seems to have inherited a deep love and compassion for the slave population. Converted during his teenage years in Charleston, he accepted a call in 1854 to become the pastor of a mission church in Charleston to the slaves and free blacks of that city. It grew from just 36 members at its founding to over 600 members before the war, with over 1500 regularly attending.
Girardeau had declared while a seminary student here in Columbia that he only refrained from going on a foreign mission because he felt it to be his duty to preach (which he could do in Gullah) to the mass of slaves on the seaboard of South Carolina. Thus, was his life devoted to what he called in one sermon, “The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God,” which he preached in our sanctuary in 1860, at the installation of the Revs. F. P. Mullaly and J. H. Thornwell as co-pastors of First Presbyterian Church. It is with thanksgiving to God for Girardeau’s life and labors that we honor him in these lectures.
This year’s Girardeau Lectures, on the theme “Christ Died For our Sins,” will be given by Dr. Jarvis J. Williams, associate professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Williams received his bachelor's degree from Boyce College and the M.Div., Th.M., and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, including One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology (B&H Academic, 2010) and Christ Died For Our Sins: Representation and Substitution in Romans and Their Jewish Martyrological Background (Pickwick, 2015). With Kevin Jones he is the co-author of Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives (B&H Academic, forthcoming in 2017). He has published articles on soteriology and atonement in the Princeton Theological Review, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Criswell Theological Review. Williams is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature.
Mark E. Ross
First Presbyterian Church – John R. de Witt Professor of Theology
Erskine Theological Seminary
Excerpt from "First Things" Vol. LXVI No. 11, March 13, 2016
Was he a pastor with few peers or a preacher with few peers, or both?
I am speaking, of course, about John Lafayette Girardeau.
His pastoral skills were legendary - marked both by a sincere compassion for the needy and a zeal for evangelism without bounds. From the pulpit he was sometimes known as the “Spurgeon of America,” yet one of the few people to hear them both thought Girardeau was “the greater preacher!”
Why a lectureship at First Presbyterian Church under Girardeau’s name? In this fourth year of the lecture series, by now his name has become familiar to many of us. But, nonetheless, let’s review some of the facts gleaned about this gospel minister from our previous years.
Born on James Island, South Carolina, in 1825, Girardeau lost his mother when he was only seven years old. After graduating from the College of Charleston, he served for a year as a tutor on a local plantation. From 1845-1848, he studied at Columbia Seminary and attended First Presbyterian Church. Beginning his ministry in rural South Carolina, in 1854 he came to a mission church in Charleston, at Anson Street, and remained there during the great harvest years of the Second Great Awakening. The vast majority of the worshipers were slaves, while the church grew with an attendance of around 1500 people.
In 1875 he returned to Columbia to become a professor at Columbia Seminary and supplied the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church. After remaining in Columbia, Girardeau died in 1897 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Why the cooperative effort between Erskine Theological Seminary and our church in sponsoring this lecture series? Since joining the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1983, First Presbyterian Church has gradually become more and more involved in the outreach and impact of the denomination. During this span, Erskine College and Erskine Theological Seminary have been in the forefront of our efforts, especially over the past thirteen years when the seminary’s Columbia campus was developed. Accredited as a degree-granting site in 2010, the Columbia campus has strengthened Erskine’s long-held impact of seminary education over a diverse population of students. This would certainly include the training of many African Methodist Episcopal (AME) pastors – something that would be of particular interest and inspiration to John Girardeau were he still alive today!
Join me in warmly welcoming the Reverend H.B. Charles, Jr., this year’s Girardeau lecturer, who will be speaking on the topic: The Unchanging Christ.
Rev. Charles became the senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida in 2008 and since 2012 has authored three books (Moody Publishers), It Happens After Prayer, The Difference Jesus Makes, and On Preaching. With a participating membership of more than 5,000, the Shiloh church continues to grow spiritually, missionally, and numerically under H.B.’s leadership.
Chairman, Erskine Seminary-Columbia Campus Committee
Excerpt from "First Things" Vol. LXV No. 10, March 8, 2015
Next Wednesday evening – March 11th – will be the Third Annual John L. Girardeau Lectures. Girardeau was a noted 19th century preacher who was, for a time, supply preacher at our church. Those who are newer to the church may find the following biographical sketch helpful.
“John Lafayette Girardeau’s name is intimately connected with both the old Columbia Theological Seminary and the history of First Presbyterian Church. Born on James Island, South Carolina, in 1825, Girardeau lost his mother when he was only seven years old, and within a few years went to school in Charleston, later graduating from The College of Charleston. He served thereafter for a year as a tutor on a local plantation. From 1845-1848 he studied at Columbia Seminary, and attended First Presbyterian Church, where
Dr. Benjamin Palmer was minister.
Already his compassion for the needy and his zeal for evangelism were evident. Beginning his ministry in rural South Carolina, in 1854 he came to a mission church in Charleston at Anson Street. He would remain there during the great harvest years of the Second Great Awakening. The descriptions he gives of the services, in which the vast majority of the worshipers were slaves, are profoundly moving. The church he served in Charleston grew from 36 to more than 600 members in a few years and—what is more impressive—had an attendance of around 1500 people.
In 1875 he returned to Columbia to become Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology in the Seminary. He supplied the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church and was also heavily involved in the church plant which we now know as Arsenal Hill Church. Girardeau remained in Columbia for the rest of his life. He died in 1897 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Girardeau’s ministry bore extraordinary fruit. He was sometimes known as “The Spurgeon of America.” One of the few people to hear them both thought Girardeau was “the greater preacher.”
The John L. Girardeau Lectures are a cooperative effort between First Presbyterian Church and Erskine Theological Seminary (Columbia campus). They are an attempt to capture the enthusiasm and focus Girardeau had for ministry to the needy and diverse populations in South Carolina. This year’s lecturer is Rev. Leon Brown. Rev. Brown is a husband, father, pastor, and author. He received a B. A. degree in Communication Studies from the University of San Diego in 2008, an M. Div. degree from Westminster Seminary California in 2011, and an M.A. degree in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California in 2012. Pastor Brown is pursuing his PhD in Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.
He is currently the pastor of Crown and Joy Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Richmond, Virginia and has recently published Words in Season: On Sharing the Hope that is Within Us in 2013. He served in the Navy for ten years. He and his wife, Rosalinda, have two children, Genesis (2) and Lincoln (11 months).
Lecture Title: The Great Commission: “Don't Forsake the Context”
Text: Matthew 28:16-20
Excerpt from "First Things" Vol. LXIV No. 8, February 23, 2014
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
We warmly invite you to join us on Wednesday evening, February 26 for another opportunity to support our own seminary – Erskine Theological Seminary (Columbia Campus) – by attending the annual John L. Girardeau lectures. These lectures were established with the aim of inviting African-American brothers to speak and this year’s lecturer is Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile, a well known conference speaker (Together for the Gospel, Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks and Ligonier) and a personal friend of mine. He is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church Cayman, Cayman Islands (well, someone has to do this!).
Rev. Anyabwile has chosen for his two lectures the important issue of the gospel and race, particularly as it relates to the history of reformed churches in the United States. It is altogether fitting that he does so. Dr. Girardeau began laboring among the low country slaves as a Presbyterian minister in Charleston in 1855. After only four years, the Presbyterian Church for slaves had outgrown its facility and moved into a significant building on Calhoun Street near the corner of Meeting Street, a building which the slaves named, Zion Presbyterian Church.
By the time the War began, the African-American membership of Zion numbered over 500 with an additional white membership of some 200. Girardeau preached regularly to a mixed congregation of 1500, three times each Sunday. His preaching to the slaves was uncompromised. He did not believe in lowering the bar but rather preached with the goal of raising the slaves to higher levels of knowledge and Christian devotion. Between his extraordinary preaching and the extensive education effort of the white membership toward the blacks, Girardeau developed numerous black leaders for the future.
Perhaps, few recollections of Girardeau’s love for South Carolina are more moving than the description of his return after serving as a chaplain in the Twenty-third Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers and a brief imprisonment on Johnson Island, Ohio:
"Upon crossing the state line from North to South Carolina, he ordered the wagon to be brought to a halt and leaped to the ground. Falling prostrate to the ground, head pressed against the earth, and eyes flowing with tears of gratitude, he cried out: ‘O South Carolina, my mother, dear, God be thanked that I can lay my head on your bosom once more.’"
After the War the black leaders of Zion invited Girardeau by letter to return to Charleston to continue as their pastor. He labored among them for the next years and was the first Presbyterian minister in the South to ordain black men to public office in the church and alone stood against segregation in the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1874.
We welcome Rev. Anyabwile into our midst and invite you most warmly to attend his lectures.
Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas
This page last updated April 6, 2017.