Elder Ballard and Baptist Pastor Discuss Interfaith Coalitions
By Kelly Foss, Houston Area public affairs
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve recently met with Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr., pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, and other church and community leaders to discuss building families and communities in the midst of challenging economic and social conditions.
Rev. Clemons is revered in Houston for the decades of service he has devoted to revitalizing Houston’s historic 5th Ward community. (“Ward,” in this instance, is an administrative division of the city of Houston.) His visionary revitalization work began more than 15 years ago when he spearheaded replacing blighted buildings in the 5th Ward with the first substantial new multi-family and commercial development in more than 30 years.
That work has progressed and most recently included a massive service project in which 5,000 Starbucks volunteers helped to transform the community by building a park and renovating numerous aging structures. Missionaries from the Houston Texas North Mission supported this effort at a key point during the project.
That service led to the meeting between Elder Ballard and Rev. Clemons on Sunday, January 13. They discussed their mutual desire to build bridges between the Church and Pleasant Hill to lift communities through strengthening families.
Elder Ballard emphasized the importance of joining with members of other faiths to form coalitions for protecting religious freedom—particularly the rights of churches to have a continued voice in the public square. Elder Ballard said, “We commend the Christian efforts of Rev. Clemons and like-minded community and church leaders. We look forward to further cooperation in strengthening families and faith.”
Rev. Clemons commented, “I found Elder Ballard to be refreshing and our time together illuminating. I saw him to be a man of passion and of the utmost concern for suffering humanity with an eye on reinforcing the family institution around the world and particularly here in the United States. That concern found a place in my heart and in the heart of this ministry here at Pleasant Hill, in the 5th Ward community, and in Houston. We think it is consistent with our vision to work towards meeting the needs of suffering humanity.
“What was most exciting about speaking with Elder Ballard and his delegation was the understanding that our faith traditions bring us to different doctrinal places, but there is consistency in believing that Jesus Christ would have us to work towards alleviating the needs of suffering humanity and strengthening the family institution. It is our prayer that our unified effort will have a significant impact upon alleviating these social concerns. We look forward to the opportunity to do so and cherish the relationship that has begun. Our faith garners us the assurance that the world will be a better place as a result of our efforts.”
The two leaders found they had much in common—especially their desire to follow the Savior by loving and serving those in need.
Accompanying Elder Ballard on his visit with Rev. Clemons were Elder Gifford Nielsen, Area Seventy, and other Church members, Neal Rackleff, director of the Houston Department of Housing and Community Development, and Peter Huntsman, president of Huntsman Corporation.