While most people are keeping their eyes on the governmental politics happening right now what with Super Tuesday and the recent debates, I’ve been keeping my eye on the latest church politics the last couple of yrs. Undoubtedly, the biggest noise has been made by the Southern Baptist Convention/International Mission Board. Their revised Baptist Faith and Message made a big stink when it authorized women to ‘graciously submit to the servant-leadership of their husbands,’ (my paraphrase) in the yr 2000.
The spiral downward began in 1984 when after already having ordained women into pastoral offices for over a decade, they decided they were not being ‘true to Scripture’ as it pertains to women’s roles, and recanted their previous position. A great summary and critique can be found here.
Then, they got into more hot water after a 2005 document was released by the International Mission Board whereby they determined that anyone professing to actively practice what they term ‘Private Prayer Language’ (PPL), i.e. tongues, would surely find themselves disqualified from finding a position on the mission field. Rev. Dwight McKissic, a former Southern Baptist trustee preached at an SBC seminary on this issue and freely admitted that he himself had received the gift of tongues at seminary. He challenged the student body to decide for themselves on this issue (which is what I thought seminary was for – challenging ppl’s minds, not shutting them down), and his sermon was censored. Later, after much discussion, he resigned his position as a trustee b/c of all the crap he and his family had been thru. (Who can blame him?) He has his own blog on how the SBC decision on tongues is actually prejudicial here. Wade Burleson, a fellow trustee, who also recently resigned (see a trend?) has written extensively about the divisiveness of the new policies and in support of Rev McKissic himself on his blog. Whilst Rev McKissic focuses on the ’emotional prejudice’ that tongues may instigate, I am pretty sure there’s also a lot of racial prejudice involved.
You see, Rev McKissic is a black man in a white man’s denomination.
I hate to say this, but the SBC does have a proven track record of advocating for things of which they’ve had to repent later. Slavery, for one. Racism, for another. (Anyone see a connection?) The fact is that in the macrocosm sense of things the American (and perhaps Western) church considers itself to be very racially/ethnically and economically superior to churches in other countries, particularly those that are still developing. In the microcosm sense of things, what this translates into is racial/ethnic and class superiority complexes, e.g. white over black, rich over poor, city over country. Yes, I am making a blanket statement. Obviously, not every single white church thinks that a black or Hispanic church is to be disdained. (I am saving the Asian church – the privileged minority – from getting involved in this debate for now.) But, overall, speaking from the perspective of a Hispanic woman, (and yes, I do sometimes become Hispanic again when it suits me), it is easy for me to see this prejudice. If you read Rev McKissic’s blog and see the very racially charged comment he received from another white ‘man of God’ who is supposed to be his equal in every respect, you will not be able to deny that race is very much still an issue in the church, as well as class, and dont even get me started on gender. >_<
The fact of the matter is that churches which elevate the status of women, and that are charismatic/pentecostal, (thus actively practicing and pursuing the gift of tongues a.k.a. PPL), are racially in the minority, are ethnically darker-skinned, are economically disadvantaged and are often found in developing nations. How do you account for this? I dont have time to get into the research now, so I’ll just make another blanket statement: I just think they’re more Biblical in these areas, even if they still struggle in others. And if they’re not more Biblical in those respects, then how do you account for the obvious outpouring of God’s Spirit in those nations, on those churches, in those ministries, and the apathy/dryness/animosity towards the church in the West? Is God really that much of a compensator? Sure, He is. Oh, He is! I cant even describe to you how much He compensates for our stupidity. But, really – miracles? tongues? gifted women pastors/preachers/teachers? Come on. Maybe instead of always chalking it up to God’s compensation, we should call it what it is — a movement of the Spirit of Jesus!
Let’s stop looking at the developing nations and implying that their churches still have a lot to learn just b/c they may have pastors who didnt go to college (not a requirement for the Spirit’s calling last I checked my TNIV), or b/c there are parts of their congregation who dont own a full Bible (but yet possess the fullness of the Holy Spirit living in them), and let’s start looking at them as the Spirit of God does – not just spiritually equal, but functionally as well. Not that they are just attempting to build a church, but that they actually have one. Not just trying to follow Jesus, but actually doing it, and that better than we are! What does our Western church know of true sacrifice? war? persecution? poverty? slavery? Nothing! But, these nations do. And Jesus did. And that’s why He can be found more often in a tent in Africa on a random wkday evening than He can be found in any of our churches here on a Sunday morning.
American church – get over yourself.
Liberte! Fraternite! Egalite!