Historic Ind. Church That Stood Against Ku Klux Klan in Danger of Being Destroyed

An Indiana church that once stood up to the Ku Klux Klan after a 1930 lynching is in danger of being destroyed by the passage of time.

Shaffer African Methodist Episcopal Church of Muncie, a historically black congregation founded circa 1893, has several structural problems to its historic building.

Ivy Farguheson, reporter with The Star Press, wrote of the situation Monday as a local group, Whitely Community Council, seeks to raise funds for the church's repairs.

"With broken stairs, cracks in the facade, uneven landscaping and an old historical marker, Whitely residents and members of its neighborhood association are calling on Munsonians to donate to the Shaffer Chapel fund," wrote Farguheson.

"With the help of 20 Ball State University elementary education students, the neighborhood association will create fundraisers for the Chapel."

Back in 1930 two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, were lynched near in the area after being arrested under suspicion of raping a white resident.

Shaffer's pastor at the time, J. E Johnson, agreed to bury the two lynched men even as the local Ku Klux Klan chapter made threats against him for deciding to do so.

When the Klan arrived to attack Johnson, they were met with a large all-night vigil for the two murdered men organized by Shaffer AME. The KKK backed off in response.

The aging, dwindling congregation belongs to the AME Church's Fourth Episcopal District, headed by the Rt. Rev. John Bryant.

Bryant, who serves as presiding prelate and senior bishop for the Fourth District, told The Christian Post that Shaffer's problems were shared by other congregations in the area.

"We have 250 churches and they are one of our churches in the district and one of the oldest in the district," said Bryant, who had visited the church as part of a tour of the congregations in the Fourth District.

"It is probably in a shared kind of condition; that area of the country of course is depressed, the economy in Muncie is very depressed."

Bryant attributed the issue to the economic downturn of 2007-2008. Bryant said that as many as 25 percent of the Muncie area population have left.

"Muncie has been struggling with a combination of unemployment and underemployment and struggling with dwindling population," said Muncie. "Of course that affects the churches and everything else."

The Whitely Community Council did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.