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Matthew Parker Oral History Interview

Identifier: CN 413

Scope and Contents

Oral history interview with Matthew Parker in which he describes his childhood, family, education, conversion, study at Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music and work/study at Wheaton College, ministry with Campus Crusade in its sports ministry and with Overseas Crusades sports evangelism ministry (Venture for Victory w/ Bud Schaeffer), the 1984 and 1986 National Summits on Black Church Development, the Atlanta '88 Congress on Evangelizing Black America, the Afro-American community, white evangelical racial attitudes, church planting in the black community and his involvement in numerous other ministry-related activities. The time period covered by the interviews is 1945-1989.

Matthew Parker was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on April 13 and 14, 1989 at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College.


  • Created: 1989

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Matthew Parker was born on November 14, 1945 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Matthew and Ruth Parker. When he was a year old, his parents moved to the Black Bottom area of Detroit, Michigan, where his father then worked in the auto industry. When Parker was two his mother died, leaving his father to raise him and his younger brother.

Parker's education began in Detroit's public school system. Unable to gain admission to a state university, Parker entered a junior college in Grand Rapids, where he was heavily involved in cross country and track. While a student there, he was arrested for theft, after which he returned to Detroit where he lived with his father and later his uncle, and worked for Chrysler Corporation on an automobile assembly line. In 1966, he entered Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music (GRSBM, pronounced grizboom), and while a student there committed his life to Christ. When he entered GRSBM, he and one other student were the only African Americans attending the school. His experience at GRSBM awakened him to the racial attitudes of white evangelicals he characterized as "racism," which he would later experience in various other predominantly white evangelical organizationsas well. Parker graduated from GRSBM in 1970 with a diploma in General Bible.

During his senior year at GRSBM, Parker was recruited by OC Ministries' basketball ministry, Venture for Victory, and joined the team during the summers of 1971 (Central and South America), 1972 (Indonesia) and 1973 (Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe). He credited his trip to Africa with making a significant contribution to his personal development by making him aware of his racial legacy. In 1971, having completed his Bible school education at GRSBM, Parker joined the staff of Campus Crusade, participating in its sports ministry, Atheletes in Action, and in developing a campus ministry among blacks during 1971 and 1972.

Parker studied at North Park College between during the 1972-1973 school year. In 1973, Parker was approached by administrators of Wheaton College to work as the school's first Minority Student Advisor. During that time he also enrolled as a part-time student, graduating in 1977 with a BA, majoring in sociology. His contributions as Minority Student Advisor until 1978 included developing community resources for students, contacts for summer mission opportunities for minority students, and SOUL, the Student Organization for Urban Leadership. In coordinating these and other projects, Parker developed his administrative skills, drawing on the expertise of college administrators and staff.

Between 1979 and 1981, Parker was the administrator of the J. Allen Caldwell Private Schools. In 1981, he joined the staff at William Tyndale College in suburban Detroit, where he taught and established and directed the Urban Ministry Program. Among the changes Parker initiated were evening courses meeting in community churches in Detroit, discontinuing the inaccessibility of the education to center-city black students. As the program flourished, Parker was appointed the Associate Vice President of Urban Academic Affairs at the college in 1985, which he continued until 1988. In addition to the urban studies major, three institutes were also created: Institute for Urban Youth Ministry, Institute for Hispanic Studies, and the Institute for Muslim Studies. Parker also observed that black graduates of Bible college were overlooked by white evangelical organizations as viable candidates for the positions for which they had trained. As a result, the Center for Black Church Development, launched after the 1984 National Summit for Black Church Development, was established. The Center, which employed black graduates of William Tyndale College's Urban Studies Program, thus utilized and further developed the skills of its staff.

Between 1978 and 1988, Parker was involved in a number of other projects. During the summers of 1978 and 1979, Parker directed the summer program of Detroit Afro- American Mission. He played an instrumental role in founding the Great Commission Community Church, later named Hamilton Missionary Baptist Church. The church began when a suburban white church discontinued its Sunday school busing ministry in center city Detroit; the suburban church provided the funding for Detroit Afro American Mission to begin a church planting project. Parker initially acted as a consultant on the project, which moved from a vacation Bible school to a Sunday school to a Sunday morning service to hiring a pastor. Parker assumed interim pastoral responsibilities in the congregation when the first pastor was dismissed. In 1984, he planned and directed the National Summit on Black Church Development; a second summit was held in 1986 and a third in 1990. In 1986, he started and led a Bible study outreach to blacks in Detroit's suburb of Southfield; the program continued until 1988, when it dissolved with the members becoming involved in local congregations.

Beginning in 1985, specifically in response to the exclusion of African Americans from the agenda of the 1985 National Conference on Evangelizing Ethnic America, Parker and others planned Atlanta '88, the Congress on Evangelizing Black America. Parker was appointed to be the Congress chairman. The congress was noted for its gathering of African American Christians from diverse backgrounds. At the close of the congress, the steering committee dissolved the congress corporation, despite calls for it to continue on in some capacity. In response to the Atlanta '88, Parker was involved in the formation of the Institute of Evangelism at Bryan College. The program, which was accredited through the college for credit, sought to provide practical experience and training in evangelism for blacks and other minorities, as well as developing model programs for church development and leadership training which could be replicated around the country.

In 1986, Parker was introduced by John Perkins to a group of church leaders who went on to form the Religious Alliance Against Pornography. Parker joined them as a member of the Executive Committee. The Alliance, which particularly targeted child pornography and hard core pornography, included in its activities briefings by several federal agencies in Washington, DC, and a meeting with President Ronald Reagan. Parker was particularly influential in gaining support for greater representation of minorities and women in the Alliance's Executive and Steering Committees. In early 1992, Parker and other members of the Alliance met with Vatican representatives to begin planning for an international conference in 1994.

In response to the Bill Moyers 1986 program, "The Vanishing Black Family: A Crisis in Black America," the Institute for Black Family Development was formed in 1987. Parker played a key role in the founding of the Institute, which was designed to be a national Christian consulting agency to provide leadership training for pastors, their wives and youth leaders. Assistance for the Institute was provided by Prison Fellowship, Focus on the Family and World Vision. Parker was the Institute's first president, a post he continued to hold at the close of 1991.

Parker's diverse involvements included serving as a consultant to a variety of ministries and projects, ranging from Mendenhall Ministries and Oakdale Tabernacle Church to Christianity Today, Detroit Youth for Christ, and World Vision. He has applied his administrative skills to business in the production of a film, The Black American Family: A Christian Legacy, and publication of a book, Black Church Development. He had his own publishing company for a period of time.

Parker earned an MA in Education Administration from the University of Detroit in 1987. Parker's skills and contributions were recognized through the following awards: Achievement Award and Minority Student Award from Wheaton College in 1974; Outstanding Young Men of America in 1980 and again in 1981; Who's Who Amongst Black Americans in 1986; Missions Leadership Award from Destiny '87 conference in 1987; Urban Leadership Development citation from American Biographical Institute in 1987; Men of Achievement citation from International Biographical Centre in Cambridge, England in 1988; Leadership Award (for Atlanta '88) from National Black Evangelical Association in 1988.

Parker married his wife Karon in 1980. They had a son, Matthew Lloyd Jr., a daughter, Tiffany, and a second son, Michael James.


5 Audio Tapes

249 Minutes

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Matthew Parker in April 1989.

Accession 89-33

February 12, 1992

Paul A. Ericksen

C. Easley

Collection 413 Oral History Interview with Matthew Parker
Paul Ericksen
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US