In 1984, Higgs was the new pastor of McCoy United Methodist Church in Birmingham. The day that he and his family moved into the parsonage, Higgs noticed another moving van in the neighborhood.
He started across the street to welcome the strangers but became paralyzed in the Eighth Avenue North turn lane when he realized they were black.
“Finally, I had a sense of God saying to me, ‘Lawton, if you can’t invite those folks to church, I can’t use you in Birmingham. Just go back across the street, pack your stuff and leave,” Lawton says in the trailer for “A Recovering Racist,” a documentary being produced by Daily Mountain Eagle columnist Dale Short and freelance writer Marti Webb Slay.
Short and Slay are currently seeking support for their project through Kickstarter, a website that links project creators with backers. The two have four days left to reach their goal of raising $7,500.
If for some reason they fall short, the documentary will not receive any funding.
Both Short and Slay believe that Higgs, who went on to become the founder of the multiracial Church of the Reconciler in downtown Birmingham, has something worth saying.
“On the one hand, he’s like nobody I’ve ever known in his willingness to change. On the other hand, he’s every one of us, and if he can do it, we can,” Slay said. “Understanding the process he went through and recognizing his openness to growing in his faith and responding to God’s call challenges all the rest of us.”
Short said he finds the pastor’s honesty refreshing and respects that Higgs calls himself a recovering racist rather than implying that the process has been completed.
“We tend to put the idea of race in the background and say, ‘Well, we dealt with that during the Civil Rights year.’ I think the recent election was an X-ray of the country and has made us look at what is still imprinted in there, what we still assume and what we still believe about people of other religions, nationalities and races,” Short said.
“A Recovering Racist” is expected to be finished by November.
To pledge support for the project, visit www.kickstarter.com.