Pastor A.R. Bernard was honored by Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington at the Museum of the Bible's “Blessing of the Elders” ceremony that paid tribute to the faith-filled legacy of leaders in the black Church.
Bernard, the senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in New York City, who was honored by Washington and his wife, Pauletta, was among several other Christian leaders recognized for their contribution to the nation and Americans' spiritual health.
Other honorees included: Bishop Charles E. Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ; Pastor Shirley Caesar of Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, North Carolina; Pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas; Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas; Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and evangelical civil rights leader John Perkins.
Bernard, whose Brooklyn-based megachurch has 40,000 members, and has served as an adviser to mayors and presidents, told The Christian Post that "it was extra special to have Denzel and Pauletta Washington present my award.”
The famous actor and producer has publicly called Bernard his pastor and spiritual mentor in recent years and has been vocal about his faith in God.
“I am blessed to be a part in their spiritual journey," Bernard added.
At the ceremony, Washington revealed that Bishop Blake has also shaped his faith.
“It’s been an amazing 40-year journey from Bishop Blake’s church, where I first was filled with the Holy Spirit, to tonight,” Washington said, according to Religion News Service.
Washington further described Bernard as “a man of God with a mind of God,” who had asked the actor to speak during his tribute.
“It has been a blessing for all of us to be students of Pastor A.R. Bernard. It’s been a blessing for me, personally, to have someone that I can talk to, ask questions,” Washington said.
While being honored at the event, Bernard said: “Embracing Christianity, blacks didn’t seek to imitate white Christianity — oh no, instead we created a parallel religious culture, our own brand of Christianity with our own hymns, music, style of worship, much influenced by the challenge of slavery.”
Bernard, who served as chairman of the Blessing of the Elders Steering Committee, said he was elated that black people of the cloth were finally being acknowledged for leaving an indelible mark on the fabric of American society.
“Christianity gave blacks hope in the midst of a hopeless situation, and we’re not done yet. I believe the 21st century will see the black church lead the way to hope and healing in a deeply divided nation,” he said at the event.
“In its many distinctive expressions, the black Church has played a significant role in the American experience," Bernard told CP. "It has impacted the spiritual, social, economic, educational and political life of our nation.”
The event also featured appearances by co-hosts Erica Campbell and Bebe Winans, along with Ambassador Andrew Young, Pastor Marvin L. Winans, Tramaine Hawkins, The Clark Sisters, Fred Hammond, Wintley Phipps and Lecrae.
Blessing of the Elders is guided by a steering committee whose vision statement reads: “We seek to honor Black pastors across the United States who have been committed to their call of preaching the Gospel and caring for the souls of humankind. We acknowledge and appreciate their exceptional contribution as vitally important to the development of America’s biblical values.”
In a statement shared with CP, Steve Green, Museum of the Bible co-founder and chairman of the board said, “The black Church has a unique and rich history in our country, leaning on the Bible for strength, courage and perseverance, and this powerful story of faith needs to be told.”
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic