A great moment in reconciliation

In the news, South Carolina voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the capital grounds. It’s a good move. Those symbols need to be in different places, which is why I’m not for just getting rid of them completely.

Let me explain, because the title of the post isn’t referring to South Carolina. It is referring to my own denomination, the Assemblies of God.

I received the resolutions packet for the upcoming General Council. I can never afford to attend those events, but I’m always glad to know what is being considered. This year is a resolution to add in a seat on the executive leadership team that is specifically for a black minister in the A/G fellowship. We’ve made the move in ethnic groups generally, and then for a woman to have a position, and then for ministers under 40. Now, this resolution will allow for a seat at the table for a fellowship that has long been with us in the Assemblies of God. I pray it moves for approval quickly.

The Assemblies of God as a Pentecostal fellowship is new to the scene. We’re barely 100 years old. But on the world church scene, Pentecostal movements in the last century have risen and form a large part of what is going on in the Church worldwide. It began out of a revival that can be traced ultimately back to Topeka, Kansas. I have to mention that, since I’m FROM Kansas. But the catalyst revival was Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906. It was started by a black man named William Seymour. Denominations that arose out of that movement, however, were still caught up in the racism of the day. What is hard to swallow in A/G history is the racist roots. We were formed and took white ministers. Church of God in Christ became predominately African American.

And this is why I think removing the Confederate battle flag from government grounds in the South is a good idea, but trying to make it go away completely is a mistake, along with trying to rename every building and tearing down statues.

I can’t get away from the A/G history. It impacted me early on in my ministry and that was a moment I could have “bolted.” I chose not to. Over the last 20 years has been a reconciliation movement in the A/G that has worked hard to bring healing and hope. Our national leader over 20 years held a foot washing ceremony and asked for forgiveness of the leaders of the Church of God in Christ. This year our national leader preached at the Church of God in Christ national convention and their leader will preach at our national convention.

But we can’t scrub the history. We have to talk about it. We have to ask for forgiveness. We have to heal. And that means at times you leave the ugly reminders to say to a next generation: “Don’t go this road any more.”

So, I’m incredibly thankful for the great moment in reconciliation for my own denomination. I am prayerful it will pass easily.

Reconciliation and Pentecost

I am currently reading Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Restoration: Multidisciplinary Studies from a Pentecostal Perspective. It was sent to me as a review copy.

Renea Brathwaite’s chapter is incredibly insightful and powerful. He gives a historical perspective about Azusa Street and does so as an African American Pentecostal scholar. He retells the story of the racist Charles Parham and the spiritually hungry William Seymour, who was African American. Parham wouldn’t allow Seymour into his school, but Seymour welcomed Parham into his church.

Brathwaite chronicles the painful road from Azusa Street. What God birthed as truly a movement that did not notice race was turned right back into race after Azusa Street was over. The road back to reconciliation is far from complete.

One sentence stops me cold: Racial interaction is not racial reconciliation.

Ouch.

Let’s put this in a hard perspective with the case of Trayvon Martin. Wearing a hoodie does not make us as white people “one” with African Americans. Ranting on a blog doesn’t do it, either. It’s far more work than that.

What gets it done is the cross of Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit. We need Pentecost again. We need Azusa Street again. We need the mantle of William Seymour to rest on us one more time.

Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Restoration: Multidisciplinary Studies from a Pentecostal Perspective (Pentecostals, Peacemaking, and Social Justice)

Three Voices We Need to Hear Again

Through church history, especially since the Reformation, I am convinced we are only rehashing old problems. We are just doing it with greater speed. (Kind of like our fashion trends these days. Did the 80s styles have to come back SO fast?)

Three voices need to be heard once again, in my view.

1. Soren Kierkegaard.

While I can never pretend to understand all he wrote, and I would probably not agree with all he wrote, I do understand his statement in 1855. He remarked that Christianity no longer existed in Denmark.

We need that voice again. We need someone who will get in the face of every American Christian and say, “Your brand of Christianity is not Christian. It’s not Christ.” Liberal Christians are acting like Democrats and conservative Christians are acting like Republicans. It needs to stop. Seriously.

2. Karl Barth

Again, there is no way I could lay claim to understanding everything Karl Barth said or wrote. I certainly wouldn’t agree with all he wrote. Yet, he stood up in the face of liberal theology and chose to BELIEVE THE BIBLE once again. He actually studied the Scriptures. He took it as truth.

We need that again. I used to think that we needed it in liberal strains of Christianity. After attending Society for Pentecostal Studies, I am convinced we need this call all through the Church in America once again. We have people who teach and preach who really don’t believe the Bible is authoritative. We need a Karl Barth once again who will plunge into Scripture, choose to believe it first, and teach what the Word is saying.

3. William Seymour

The one-eyed African American preacher pushed past all kinds of prejudice in his day to seek the power of the Spirit. He lived in the power of the Spirit and walked in radical love. He allowed racists to preach in his pulpit. He chose to love those who called Azusa Street “the last vomit of Satan.”

We need Pentecostals to be Pentecostal. We need to quit arguing about tongues and start living in the power of the Spirit. We need to be bathed in the radical love of Christ and walk with humility. We are full of ourselves. Preachers preach to show off their skill. We reward churches for their numbers. People aren’t changed. They just come to hear the band. Let’s be honest.

Where are those three voices? I want to hear them again. We need them soon.