Atlanta Leftist Church Spins-Off “Second Iconium”
(APN) FOREST PARK — Rev. Sylvia Carroll of the First Iconium Baptist Church, a left-leaning institution in Atlanta, is celebrating the one year anniversary of a separate spin-off church she has started in Forest Park, Georgia, south of Atlanta.
The First Iconium has produced nine ministers with their own small congregations in Atlanta, all with a community mission, Rev. Timothy McDonald told Atlanta Progressive News. The First Iconium church feels these are extensions of their work.
Reverend Carroll asked to use the name “Iconium” and Reverend McDonald gave his blessing for her to do so.
The Second Iconium Baptist Church meets every fourth Sunday at 2:00 PM in the Ash Street Baptist Church Sanctuary located at 5370 Ash St. in Forest Park, Georgia.
The First Iconium, a primarily Black church near Atlanta’s Little 5 Points is well known for its involvement with the community.
The church “has it fingers in a little of everything from voter empowerment to economic rights, domestic violence and the death penalty,” Reverend McDonald said in an interview with APN. Rev. Al Sharpton has recently spoken at the church at least twice.
This approach is unique among churches who usually do not involve themselves in advocating for the disenfranchised.
Previous articles by Atlanta Progressive News have highlighted Rev. McDonald’s involvement in the opposition to privatization of Grady Hospital, opposition to the US Invasion of Iraq, Georgia Progressive Summit, and opposition to government spying, as well as a recent speech to the Democratic Socialists of America Atlanta annual dinner.
Carroll was one of the “support grandmothers” when several Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace were arrested earlier this year trying to enlist in the military, as previously reported by APN.
The FIBC holds monthly social justice forums as well. Last year, APN spoke in a panel on public housing demolitions, along with AHA’s Barney Simms, residents, and community leaders.
The word Iconium means, image of Christ, according to the church’s founders, co-pastors Sylvia Carroll and David Key.
They felt strongly the unique mission of the activist church is to reach beyond the Black community to everyone of any color or ethnic minority in unified service for equality and opportunity for all people.
Reverend Carroll experienced “a vision that God made on David’s [Key’s] heart and a vision that God made on my heart and we sort of came together and talked about it,” she told Atlanta Progressive News. Together they founded the church.
Reverend Carroll is a Black woman; Key is a White male.
Reverend Key is head of Baptist studies at Emory University and met Reverend Carroll when she was studying at the seminary.
Reverend Carroll holds a BA in Mathematics from Spelman College and an MBA from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business Administration, as well as a Masters of Divinity from Emory University.
“We deal with systems of power and privilege that oppress and marginalize and discriminate, that result in exclusion instead of inclusion,” Reverend Carroll stated.
The church is small but growing, at present it has a handful of congregants. They intend to start a program for single parents next month.
The church is involved in issues similar to those of the First Iconium Church.
“We are actively involved in advocating for issues like health care, PeachCare, preschool for three-year-olds and four-year-olds, this whole idea of ending the cradle to prison pipeline,” Carroll stated.
“American culture is very much consumer-oriented and materialistic in nature. There is a misinterpretation of scripture which is part of the Industrial Revolution and is more connected with Adam Smith than it is to the Bible,” Reverend Key said.
Key argues the Bible is very clear that protection of the poor and oppressed is the primary mission of the Church.
“We feel that this is Jesus’s method because Jesus was a radical. Jesus went to the temple and kicked over the table of those oppressing the poor. He wanted to bring all people into his ministry. He talked to the tax collector, he talked to the sinner. He talked to everybody. He did everything he could to be labeled inclusive,” Carroll said.
“We are incorporated as a Baptist church. We do not use Baptist when we talk about the church. We want to break down barriers in relation to race, and cultures, and denominations; we involve anyone and everyone,” stated Carroll.
This is what McDonald considers to be the major difference between the First and Second Iconiums, and a very important and worthy goal.
The community orientation has not caught on in most United States churches, Catholic or otherwise. This despite the paradox that many Conservatives believe in a government predicated on moral values.
“For most churches, the primary thing is to talk to people about salvation,” says Reverend Carroll.
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Alice Gordon is a Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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