McCarty Memorial Christian Church is no stranger to radical and courageous leaders. In fact, the West Adams ministry attracted national attention when it integrated in the 1950s.
Taking a bold stance by recruiting Black members, then-Pastor Kring Allen flatly stated, “Integration is basic to the Gospel…there can be no more segregated churches. The whole movement of history is against it.”
Fast-forward to 2018 and find a similar commitment to a multicultural Gospel in the Rev. Edward “Eddie” Anderson, the current pastor of McCarty Memorial. At 28-years-old, the young spiritual leader is determined to cultivate a contemporary ministry that reflects the church’s rich history of social justice.
“My goal is to continue our tradition of change makers who build bridges to bend the arc of justice,” said Anderson, who explained that his mission includes “growing a multi-racial, multi-generational membership, restoring our nationally-recognized historical cathedral and buildings (the church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places), and developing innovative programs to uplift our community.”
Like most churches, McCarty Memorial offers traditional ministries such as Bible Study, men’s and women’s ministry and senior activities as well as youth-oriented projects like a pre-school and a basketball program. The church has become even more involved in community outreach under Anderson’s leadership and hosts groups like the Outkast Dance Academy, the Youth Mentoring Collective and Black Lives Matter, which is a continuation of McCathy Memorial’s historical roots.
“This congregation had embodied prophetic witness in previous years, during the Civil Rights era and beyond. To this end, I came to McCarty to lift up the gospel of healing, justice and transformation in a church that is centrally located to our people who are closest to the pain,” said Anderson.
“My ministry is to follow the example of Jesus by turning over the tables of plantation capitalism and challenging the structures of power that keep people out instead of bringing the community together.”
Anderson’s approach to ministry was likely formed early in life. A third-generation pastor, he followed his grandfather and father into the profession where he learned first-hand about its rewards and challenges of accepting the call to preach.
After working closely with them at churches in Atlanta and South Georgia, Anderson attended the famed Morehouse College and also served as a chapel assistant at the Martin Luther King International Chapel. Following graduation, he received an assignment as an assistant pastor at First Christian Church of Burbank.
“I was the first African-American minister [there] and helped the congregation become more involved in the community by bolstering their housing of homeless families and raising resources for community efforts,” recalled Anderson, who is also a graduate of Claremont School of Theology.
In 2016, he was appointed to McCarty Memorial, making another “first” as the denomination’s youngest senior minister on the West Coast at that time. Empowered by the Spirit of God, Anderson tackled his new position with energy and enthusiasm.
Sharing his vision for McCarty Memorial, he said his wants implement “a cutting-edge economic development program that empowers residents through cooperatively owned business and leverages collective resources among churches and other agencies to invest in locally-owned South L.A. businesses; support community health and wellness through healthy food access, gardening and food entrepreneurship, and engage young people in arts, sports and leadership training.”
As a millennial, Anderson hopes to attract more of his peers by presenting “unconventional concerts,” along with panel discussions, podcasts and forums highlighting social justice issues. He also wants to increase the variety of youth and young adult activities that the church offers during the week.
“Church doesn’t just happen on Sunday, it’s what happens Monday through Saturday for the people are the church,” declared Anderson. “Millennials don’t come to church because they feel hurt or rejected by the church and they feel many churches haven’t made good on their commitment to social justice.
“We have to recognize the real challenges that young people face today (unstable employment, high rent, student debt, etc.) and still affirm that God is speaking to them!”
In addition to his church responsibilities, Anderson is collaborates with several groups in an effort that he describes as “weaving my theology and activism together for the empowerment of community and the affirmation of the divine in all of us.”
He has joined with Black Lives Matter-L.A. to pray and protest with the parents of murdered children, he serves on the board of LA Voice, an interfaith social justice organization, and the Rev. Dr. William Barber recruited him to be one the California leaders of the new “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.”
Remembering a recent 40-day experience with that organization, Anderson said, “I helped lead a coalition of disenfranchised, unionized and every day people in direct action in Sacramento to highlight the immorality of poverty, systemic racism, the war economy and ecological devastation.
“I was arrested three times and spent the night in jail to ensure our message was heard [that] everybody has the right to live with dignity. Our aim is to shift the moral and public narrative regarding the budget of the state of California to take seriously the economic disenfranchisement of the poor.”
That same mission of caring for the underserved will guide Anderson in his role as pastor of McCarty Memorial. Looking towards the future, he noted, “As a vibrant multi-racial, multi-ethnic, open and affirming congregation, we will be a church committed to remembering our past, re-imagining our shared future, and restoring our community one relationship, one smile, one sermon at a time.
“Together we can create the Kin-Dom of God and be the movement for wholeness and healing that our City of Angels needs.”
McCarty Memorial Christian Church is located at 4101 West Adams Blvd., in Los Angeles. To learn more, call (323) 731-4131 or visit mccartychurch.org.