This is a place where free speech and public debate are welcomed and encouraged. The Speakers’ Corner originated in the mid-19th century at London’s Hyde Park. The concept spread worldwide both physically and now virtually. Here at the Arizona Progress & Gazette, we are presenting this platform in the form of question-and-answer style interviews with people who have had a meaningful impact on the community.
Dr. Warren H. Stewart Sr. has been the senior pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church of Phoenix since 1977. He is credited with leading the landmark effort to establish an Arizona state holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which was passed by popular vote in 1992. Dr. Stewart has preached in 39 states and in 60 countries.
It’s been more than 30 years since voters established a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. How has the dialogue on race relations changed since then in Arizona?
Regrettably, it appears that race relations in many ways have begun to go in reverse because of coloring of the USA and Arizona which is perceived as a threat by many White people. Significant dialogue has decreased which affects dialogue on race relations adversely.
Do you to feel African Americans are adequately represented in state and local government? If not, what can be done to change that?
Absolutely not, for the most part. Acknowledge and utilize the immense talents, gifts, experience, and vision that African Americans bring to the table that will enhance American justice and democracy. End “tokenism”.
According to the New York Times, a Republican presidential candidate has failed to get more than 12 percent of the Black vote in nearly half a century. Yet a New York Times poll shows 22 percent of Black voters in six of the most important battleground states (including Arizona) support Trump. Do you believe the polling and what is your reaction?
I am sorry but I do not believe that polling is accurate. Even most African Americans in Arizona who I know are Republican have indicated to me that they did not and do not support Mr. Trump. It is challenging to believe that any person regardless of color supports Mr. Trump because his beliefs and actions are antithetical to the American democracy that has made the USA a greatest democracy on earth. However, the national polls indicate that I had better start quickly believing Mr. Trump’s overall support among millions of Americans.
What can be done to bring younger people back to religious services? Is this a concern for your church?
Faith communities need to be real, relevant, relational, and rousing in order to reach younger people. Young people need to see authenticity, transparency and integrity in faith leaders and faith communities. They need to see faith-in-action exemplified by members of the faith community throughout the week and not just during religious services on the weekend. Faith communities need to intentionally mentor young people and be mentored by them also.
Last year Phoenix approved ceremonial streets signs bearing your name at 12th and Jefferson streets, where your church is located. Among the yes votes was Mayor Gallego, a former political rival in a 2012 Phoenix City Council race. What is your relationship with the Mayor today?
That race was over in 2013. I have a respectful, working relationship with Mayor Kate Gallego and I have served on her African American Advisory Council for several years now.
Any future political aspirations?
Heavens, no! It’s too late in the evening for that for yours truly. However, I do think I still have valuable advice and wisdom to offer that would help dysfunctional government on local, county, state and national levels become functional and just.
You have a blended family of seven children and 12 grandchildren. How do you keep track of all those birthdays? What does Sunday dinner look like at your house?
God has blessed me to now have 13 grandchildren. I try to put most of their birthdays in my phone and in my calendar on my laptop. When we have family dinners there is a house full. We had 31 family members over for Thanksgiving.
What is the most unusual topic you selected as the basis for a sermon?
In August 2019, my message title was— “WHAT THE 21st CENTURY CHURCH NEEDS TO LEARN FROM THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY” from Acts 2:42; 4:1-4; 8:1-4 (The Voice), which I preached at FIBC and during the annual session of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. that same year.