MORE ABOUT ME

My name, as you already know, is Bruce Evans. I am, as I bragged in the beginning, 77 years old, with 5 children, 2 step-children, and 17 grandchildren. My wife, Anita, is a Social Worker in private practice. I have a bachelor's degree in Petroleum Engineering, a master's in Religious Education, and my doctorate is in Psychology and Counseling.

I am a  retired Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Louisiana and was in the private practice of individual, couple, and group counseling for 38 years. During this time I  worked with hundreds of clients and couples, some individuals weekly for over 25 continuous years.

I have also been an ordained minister for 38 years, the last 34 as pastor of an ecumenical church in Baton Rouge, LA. As minister I have married, baptized, and buried hundreds of persons-- not, of course, the same or in that order, and preached thousands of sermons. During the course of my unorthodox ministry I have also evolved a theology focusing on fullness of life in the here and now rather than in a possible afterlife later-- a natural rather than super-natural way of viewing reality, a perspective on God as the ultimate in what is real rather than the traditional Cosmic Magician.

During the course of these two complementary professions I have written some 28 books and published hundreds of articles and poems from which these included on my Home Page are excerpted.

Good living, present tense, is, I have found, far more challenging than the traditional forms of preparing for heaven post-death; yet, I also believe, well worth the price and risks. My works-- articles, books, and poems, all arise from and amplify these perspectives.

All this is present life. If you're into genealogy, as I am, more details about my ancestors (or to check about any possible connections with your own) are included on my page under: "My Ancestors"

During the course of my ministry I participated in many phases of the civil rights movement in the South. When I donated my papers to the LSU Library in 1997 I was asked  to prepare a summary of my involvements. Here is a copy of that summary:

SUMMARY OF CIVIL RIGHTS INVOLVEMENTS
J. BRUCE EVANS
1957-1996 

1957: While serving on staff of 5,000 member, white and segregated, First Baptist Church of Baton Rouge, I was moved by the church's response to possible visits from black persons, especially making behind the scenes plans of how to deny entrance in the quickest ways. 

1959: I became pastor of University Baptist Church, hoping to lead a group in what I believed to be a more Christian-like stance in ecumenical and racial issues. 

1960: I was moved by Louisiana State House of Representatives passing segregation packages, including establishing of a State Sovereignty Commission. Threats by C.O.R.E. to become active in Baton Rouge led me to preach a sermon on University Baptist Church and C. O.R.E., an effort to begin facing racial issues more openly. 

10/3/60: I preached on Christianity and Segregation, confronting the general situation in the South. 

3/19/61: The Christian Attitude in the Segregation Issue, another message to the church, was intended to face racial issues in a more personal manner. 

With the Little Rock tragedy and New Orleans violence in the immediate past, and facing the likelihood of Fall desegregation of schools in Baton Rouge, I began meeting with a small group of Baton Rouge ministers, including Rabbi Marvin Reznikoff, Dr. William Trice, Rev. Irvin Cheney, Father Borders, and others, to see what plans we might make to help the community face school desegregation without becoming violent. We concluded that the least we could do was publish a statement of principles that we believed all Christians should follow, as a way of encouraging citizens to act decently. 

5/8/61: Joined 52 other ministers in Baton Rouge in signing and publishing a Statement of Basic Principles urging calm in school desegregation.

None of us imagined, I think, given the rather benign nature of the statement, the furor our action would precipitate. 

5/13/61: An organization of laymen was formed to oppose our stand. They too published their principles, and privately many of them declared they would "get us all." Threats, abusive phone calls, phone tapping, and cross burnings followed immediately. 

6/61: The first of many forced resignations began with Rev. Irvin Cheney of Broadmoor Baptist Church. 

A representative of the State Sovereignty Commission called on me late one Sunday night, presenting an extensive dossier of my life including references to my "Communist leanings," and urging me to cease all efforts to "integrate our state, or else." I was told that all our phones were tapped so they would know "what we were doing."About this time Governor Jimmy Davis appointed 3 members to the East Baton Rouge School Board, effectively establishing its segregationist stance.

9/1/61:
My first wife, Ann Evans, was fired as a math teacher at Baton Rouge High, "Over Mate's Racial Views."


9/10/61: I preached a sermon, Am I An Integrationist?, in an attempt to help my parishioners confront the difficult position my stances had placed them in, as well as their own personal dilemmas in facing racial matters. A reporter was in the congregation and placed much of my message in Monday's paper.

    Senator J.D. Deblieux and others financed the printing and distribution of the sermon, leading to much positive and negative reaction.

12/27/61: State Senator Wendell Harris, a member of the Louisiana Sovereignty Commission, was indicted along with others on charges of illegal wire tapping of ministers who signed the Declaration of Principles in May.

6/4/62: I participated in a 2 day conference "for Negro Clergymen in Greater Baton Rouge." 

2/63: A Voice From The South, a summary of my integration sermon, appeared in Pulpit Digest, a national, inter-denominational, publication. Response from around the country was encouraging, but some members of my congregation were becoming increasingly disturbed with my ministry.

4/28/63: Under continued pressure from many of my parishioners opposed to my ministry I chose to resign my pastorate of University Baptist Church.

5/63: Began Fellowship Baptist Church, the first, so far as I have been able to determine, ecumenical and racially integrated church in Baton Rouge officially established with an open membership.

8/63: Preached on Meeting The Negro.

9/63: Fellowship was rejected for membership in Judson Baptist Association; other reasons were given, but our open racial stance was strongly opposed by many and probably influenced the vote.

2/64: Fellowship Baptist Church became the first church in Louisiana and in the deep South to affiliate with the racially integrated American Baptist Convention.

1/25/65: Sponsored a national Church In The World Conference on race relations in the South, including Clay Lee, pastor of Philadelphia, MS church where civil rights workers had been recently killed by KKK members; Jerry Chance, from racially troubled Bogalusa; Dr. Carlyle Marney, Charlotte, NC, and others. Was attended by leaders from around the country as well as Baton Rouge.

    During the two day conference KKK members were noted recording license plate numbers of those attending.

2/65: I preached on Christianity And The Extremes: Far Right, Far Left, & Communism.

3/65: I participated in a Church And Race conference in Meyers Park Church in Charlotte, NC, for leaders from the South, making plans for church involvement in racial activities.

3/31/65: The conference was reported in a full page article in The Christian Century, a national ecumenical religious publication.

6/65:
I preached on
Church In The World, an invitation to becoming a truly Christian church.

    I was elected first Chairman of the newly formed Baton Rouge Council on Human Relations. As a member of this council, I along with other members, participated in the first integration of many Baton Rouge restaurants and other facilities.

9/65:
Fellowship Church again applied for membership in Judson Baptist Association, the local
body of Southern Baptist Churches, and was rejected; again for other stated reasons but probably related to racial stances.

10/65:
Preached on Religionless Religion, an appeal to move beyond the narrow divisions of most established denominations.

5/66:
Baton Rouge Council on Human Relations invited former congressman from Arkansas, Brooks Hays, who had been active in the civil rights movement, then Consultant to the President, to speak in Baton Rouge.

6/66:
Head Start Program for disadvantaged children was approved for Baton Rouge and put out an appeal to local churches to provide space for this integrated service. Fellowship Church was one of only two local churches that volunteered to provide facilities. A full-page article described this Catholic led, inter-racial, program in a Baptist church.

5/68:
Sermon on The New Jerusalem invited a wider concept and practice of Christian principles. The church participated in inter-racial fellowships with Father Elmer Powell's church in Scotlandville.

8/68:
Preached on
Beyond Denominations.

8/70:
With full integration of Baton Rouge schools mandated in 1970, and in face of threatened violence at school opening, the Political Action Committee of Fellowship Church attempted to
organize Baton Rouge churches in making a public statement of concern on A Christian Response to School Desegregation. Letters to 265 churches resulted in only a $5 contribution and a hostile letter accusing the church of being "communistic." The church published the statement on its own.

9/70
: Participated in organizing American Baptist Churches of the South, the first openly integrated major denominational group in the South. I later became its President from 1977-79.

3/72
: Fellowship Church sponsored the 2nd annual conference of the American Baptist Churches of the South, meeting at Mt. Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Guest speakers included Dr. Harvey Cox of Harvard University, author of The Secular City, and Dr. Henry Mitchell, professor of Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

10/1/96:
When I retired from the ministry I was the only remaining one of the 53 ministers who signed the Declaration of Principles on racial openness in 1963 still pastoring a church in Baton Rouge.

******

    In 2006 I donated many of my records, genealogical research, correspondence, etc. to the Hill Memorial Library at Louisiana State University. These have been cataloged and are now available for viewing there. Here is a link to these papers, along with other biographical about myself:

http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/findaid/4664.inv.htm

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