A SAD DAY IN THE HISTORY OF BLACK BAPTISTS AT AMERICAN BAPTIST COLLEGE
What President Harris, Bishop Flunder, and “Prophetess” Jezebel Have In Common
By William Dwight McKissic, SR.
“20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” (Revelation 2:20-21 KJV)
An incredible, unprecedented, and thus far un-repented of, event took placed on Tuesday evening, March 17, 2015, at the Baptist World Center on the campus of American Baptist College (Dr. Forrest Harris, President). It was reminiscent of an event strongly rebuked by Jesus, that’s recorded in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:18-25). The purpose of this article is to summarize and capsulate that awful evening for posterity sake, and to communicate to the larger National Baptist family the sad state of affairs, theologically and spiritually, at American Baptist College, Nashville, Tennessee.
The “angel of the house”—the messenger or Pastor of The Church at Thyatira—permitted Jezebel, “which calleth herself a prophetess to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication.” Jezebel taught the congregation at Thyatira that sexually deviant practices, contrary to the Word of God, were permissible. Jesus rebuked the pastor and the church at Thyatira for permitting this false teaching to take place in His Church.
What President Forrest Harris, Bishop Flunder, and “Prophetess” Jezebel have in common is this: They all three affirm deviant sexual behavior and believe that the Bible is an insufficient guide in matters of sexual conduct for today’s believers.
In response to the lesbian bishop speaking controversy at ABC recently, Dr. Harris stated to the “Tennessean,” a local newspaper:
“It’s sad that people use religion and idolatry of the Bible to demoralize same-gender-loving people,”
When asked to define “idolatry of the Bible,” Harris said:
“When people say (the Bible) is synonymous with God and the truth,” he said. “We can’t be guided and dictated by a first-century world view.” [Emphasis mine]
That statement, and that statement alone, ought to be enough reason for the ABC Trustee Board to immediately relieve Dr. Harris of his duties. Dr. Harris’ statement not only contradicts the Words of Jesus, that equated God’s Word with truth (John 17:17); his statement also contradicts the official doctrinal statement of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., that holds a much higher view of the Bible than does Dr. Harris. In the Articles of Faith adopted by the National Baptist Convention, the very first article states the opposite of Dr. Harris’ view of the Bible as an insufficient guide, and not being synonymous with truth:
“We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us, and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions shall be tried.”
Where the NBCUSA, Inc. stands on the Bible, and where the President of ABC stands on the Bible are light years apart. Therefore, National Baptist churches can no longer trust ABC to educate our college students and they return to our churches holding the beliefs that are consistent with our doctrinal statement.
President Harris affirmed Bishop Flunder’s same-sex marriage before she preached that dreadful Tuesday evening. Dr. Harris asked 30-40 freshman students seated on the first couple of rows to stand, and stated to Bishop Flunder, “These students are here to support you.” Bishop Flunder introduced Shirley Miller whom she’s been in a lesbian relationship with for 30 years, and legally married her when laws in America permitted it. When Yvette Flunder recorded “Love Alive IV” in 1990 on the album with Walter Hawkins Singers, and did the lead role on the popular gospel tune that’s sung almost unanimously in Black churches—“Thank You Lord for All You’ve Done For Me”—she was in a lesbian relationship with Shirley Miller—who after Dorothy Combs Morriston left the Edwin Hawkins singers to establish a solo career—Shirley Miller, Yvette Flunder’s spouse, was the voice of the phenomenally popular gospel hit, “Oh Happy Day.” “Thank You Lord for All You’ve Done for Me” is married to “Oh Happy Day.”
On January 30, 2015, I emailed and forwarded to Dr. Harris a letter that contained the following questions that he refused to answer:
- “Is the pro-Gay lifestyle and same-sex marriage affirmed and taught as acceptable at ABC?”
- “Does ABC believe that homosexual acts are sinful within or outside of a “marriage” context?”
- “Dr. Harris, are you aware that Dr. Yvette Flunder is a practicing lesbian, legally married to a woman?”
To this date, Dr. Harris has not responded to my letter. He told Baptist Press that he decided to “let his supporters respond” to me.
Dr. Harris posted on ABC’s website a letter from “The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries” who is a group of churches led by gay pastors, or pastors sympathetic and supportive of “same-gender loving couples” and “marriage equality.”
As reported to the Baptist Press—letting “his supporters respond”—the following quotes are from “The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries” in support of Dr. Harris; and obviously these are his answers to my questions:
“No matter its denominational roots or current relationships, ABC is right to maintain its commitment to academic integrity by introducing students to a fuller witness of the Christian faith and life, including that of Bishop Funder and other same-gender loving Christians.”
“The Christian community cannot make sanctuary for biblical idolatry and interpretive inertia, grounding our stubbornness and phobias in shaky notions of denominational heritage. We must instead seek a new and continual revelation in our sacred text that continues to breathe life and preach liberty to those most vulnerable and marginalized, including same-gender loving and transgender people.” [Emphasis mine]
American Baptist College is dedicated to educating students to be strengthened in believing, practicing, and proclaiming the liberating gospel of Jesus. The students of American Baptist College deserve to know that the gospel of Jesus is believed, lived, and preached by faithful people who are in committed same-sex relationships in the same way the gospel of Jesus is believed, lived, and preached by faithful people who are in committed heterosexual relationships. http://www.awab.org/statement-of-support-for-dr-forrest-harris-and-the-american-baptist-college.html [Emphasis mine]
On the opening night of the lecture series at ABC, the worshippers were asked to participate in a “Responsive Reading” where the worship leader stated the following:
“We are committed to a love and justice ministry that shuns all forms of oppression and hates based on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. We are committed to fostering leaders who uphold cultural and racial diversity, gender justice, and developing effective leadership for a more inclusive church and society.” [Emphasis mine]
There is no biblical or biological proof that a person is born with a “sexual orientation” that causes them to be attracted to the same sex. Romans 1:24-32 seems to indicate that individuals choose to become homosexual “through the lusts of their own hearts” (24), “changing the truth of God into a lie” (25), changing the natural use into that which is against nature” (26), “men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burning with lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly” (27). To ask worshipers at a Baptist College to affirm “sexual orientation” as an undisputed social category without any scientific or scriptural backing for such a notion is beneath the integrity, intellect, honor, and holiness that you would expect from a Baptist College.
In a letter supporting Dr. Harris, Marvin A. McMickle, President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, stated, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we do not yet know the degree to which sexual orientation is simply a matter of ‘how we have been made.’” Maybe Dr. McMickle doesn’t know “how we have been made,” but the apostle Paul claimed to know; and he clearly argued that we were not made to engage in homosexual activities.
After Bishop Flunder gave a $500.00 gift to ABC, Dr. Harris pledged to raise an additional $9,500.00 from gay and gay affirming churches in order to name a dormitory room in honor of Bishop Yvette Flunder on the campus of ABC. To form a fundraising alliance, recruit students from gay and gay affirming churches, and enshrine Bishop Flunder on the walls of that institution on the basis of her same-sex marriage is tantamount to high crime and treason by Dr. Harris, in light of the NBC’s statements in support of marriage being between one man and one woman.
A Nashville news station broadcast Dr. Harris greeting Bishop Flunder upon her arrival at ABC with, “You’re a Great Woman.” Here is what Dr. Harris’ “Great Woman” preached at ABC:
When Bishop Flunder mounted the pulpit at the World Baptist Center, she acknowledged, Dr. Emily Townes—the lesbian Dean at Vanderbilt Divinity School; Bishop Alex Byrd, pastor of a Dallas gay church. Flunder then asked “All the Fellowship pastors who are here to please stand, because these are some powerful preaching and leading sisters and brothers.” A large segment of the audience was from the gay community. Flunder then introduced her “spouse”—“Mother Shirley Miller”—to which there was a hearty applause from the audience—which included at least three ABC board members, and former NBC President, Dr. Julius Scruggs. In another context, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPOktKBBwJ0) Flunder said sometimes Shirley plays the husband role and vice-versa, depending on which day of the week it is. Shirley Miller is twelve years older than Yvette Flunder. She then recognized Bishop Elect Dennis Meredith—who is a self-proclaimed “openly gay-bisexual.” He pastors the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta.
In another context, while speaking at Pastor Dennis Meredith’s church in Atlanta, Bishop Lawrence Kirby, a current trustee at ABC, issued a resolution in support of Dennis Meredith becoming a bishop in an official ceremony. There seem to be an above average number of individuals who are sympathetic and supportive of gay marriage on the ABC Trustee Board. Their views are way out of the main stream of the majority of the NBC. But it provides a plausible explanation as to why Flunder was able to come representing a gay marriage and to affirm gay persons in the audience. The spirit of Jezebel is alive and well at American Baptist College.
Bishop Flunder acknowledged her Church of God In Christ roots at the outset; but she failed to mention that she has been rejected by the COGIC because of her lesbianism. Why did ABC not hold to the standard the church of her roots held to?
Flunder referred to ABC as a “neo-Pentecostal institution.” She further elaborated:
“This prophetic neo-Pentecostal institution filled with the Spirit where great minds are in this room and space to speak in new tongues. Somebody hear what I’m saying. And fearlessly guide people beyond where God has been to where God is. Somebody hear what I’m saying…brand new Pentecostals.”
It was news for me to learn that ABC is now a “neo-Pentecostal” school. I am probably the most COGIC/Pentecostal-friendly Baptist pastor on the planet. Indeed my wife was genuinely born again in a COGIC Church. I take the Bible literally and affirm all the gifts of the Spirit—including tongues. I am a continuationist as opposed to a cessationist when it comes to the gifts of the Spirit. I firmly believe in biblical and demonstrative praise and worship; spiritual warfare; and the Spirit-filled life (Ephesians 5:18-21). I even believe if there is interpretation, there can even be speaking in tongues in a worship service (I Cor. 14:27-28), no more than three though, as the Scripture says. If there is no interpretation, I believe that person who is gifted to speak in tongues should do it within as Paul instructed (I Cor. 14:27-28). My point is, I am not anti-Pentecostal. My challenge with her statement is that a Baptist College does not have to take on an identity, the theology, or doctrine of “neo-Pentecostals” in order to fulfill God’s vision.
You can be Baptist, and make sure that you stop by Calvary and receive your pardon—and stop by Pentecost and receive your power. That does not make you “neo-Pentecostal.” That makes you a Spirit-filled Baptist. There is only one baptism in the Spirit that all genuinely born-again believers receive upon salvation (I Cor. 12:13); but there are many fillings of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18-23). What we need to be is Spirit-filled Baptists, not neo-Pentecostals. Even at Pentecost, there were some who were filled with the Spirit who did not speak in tongues (Acts 2:43-47). There were others who were filled with the Spirit who did speak in tongues (Acts 2:4). Our calling is to be Spirit-filled Baptists; not neo-Pentecostals irrespective of our beliefs and practices regarding tongues. I must admit that the only section of her sermon that did not receive enthusiastic verbal support was when she attempted to label ABC a neo-Pentecostal college. I interpreted the virtual silence during this section of the sermon to mean they were not buying that.
The late Dr. L. Jack Gray, a former professor at SWBTS, stated in his booklet, Studies of the Holy Spirit:
“Baptism with or entrance of the Holy Spirit is simultaneous with conversion. It happens once, is permanent, and cannot be repeated. (Jn. 3:5-6; Acts 2:38; Rm. 8:9; I Cor. 6:19; 12-13; Gal. 4:4-7). The fillings of the Holy Spirit are God’s acts of continued nurture, growth, empowerment and equipping for life and service. Fullness of the Spirit is temporary and must be daily repeated. (Lk. 9:23; I Cor. 15:31; II Cor. 4:11; Eph. 3:16-19; 4:13; 5:18). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are means of equipping the church for her varied and total ministries. (I Cor. 12:4-7; Eph. 4:8-16). The fruit of the Spirit is the result of being filled with the . Holy Spirit. We are known by our fruit, not our gifts. (Gal. 5:22-23; Rm. 5:5; 12:11; Matt. 7:16, 20).”
I’m a Kingdom man. I have no problem with persons from other denominations speaking at a Baptist school. But to pronounce a different identity, direction, and doctrine, stepped over the line.
Flunder’s most egregious statements had to do with her views on the nature of Scripture. Her being a lesbian, legally married to a woman is less problematic for me than her beliefs that the Bible is insufficient and incomplete. Flunder taught at ABC:
“God will not be fixed; God will not be stuck; God will not be concretized.”
She made that statement while intentionally flipping both ends of the Bible, to symbolize that God could not be “concretized” in the canon of Scripture. She further stated:
“My theology is alive and shifting and it’s not stuck between the corners and the pages of a book. Just like God spoke to them, God is speaking to us. I’d like to see Martin’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” canonized one day…maybe in a Testament III—because God is still speaking…Thank God for theological evolution.” [Emphasis Mine]
Referring to the “Third Testament,” equivalent to the Bible, that Flunder proposes, because “God is still speaking” Flunder suggested that it could include “skype,” “in-vitro fertilization,” and…”somebody will write about me and Shirley and 30 years.” Flunder dared to have the audacity to place her and her spouse in a “Third Testament” that she would consider canonical based on her evolution theology.
Flunder suggested that Jesus was also theologically evolving when the Syro-Phoenician woman responded with faith and determination to Jesus’ response to her request to heal her daughter. Flunder said, “Jesus’ eyes popped open.”
Flunder said, “There’s a new gospel afoot.” Bishop Flunder was introduced as the successor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ushering in a new era of “justice” in America.
She closed her message affirming LGBT persons. Flunder said that she was surrounded by “loving men—straight and gay.” She has no better friend and supporter in the work than President Forrest Harris. His hospitality to her is subsidized by National Baptist dollars. This is her second consecutive year speaking at the Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series at ABC.
“We are going to pray together because Jesus had the oil. The prophet has the oil of anointing. Oil…God’s symbol of affirmation and ordination and enablement. Oil does not come cheaply… Jesus had the oil…Malcolm had the oil…Martin had the oil…American Baptist College has the oil…God sent the oil…and the oil is in the room…Tell your neighbor, I see your oil…bring your oil, your Pentecostal oil, your Baptist oil, your straight oil, your gay oil…bring your prophetic gifts.”
The request to bring “your gay oil” is nothing more or nothing less than an attempt to mainstream the gay lifestyle, in what were heretofore orthodox churches.
I close by repeating my thesis: What does President Forrest Harris, Bishop Flunder, and “Prophetess Jezebel” have in common? They all three affirm deviant sexual practices; teach contrary to the Word of God; and sees the Bible as something less than the final authority, in guiding and governing the affairs of man.
I pray that what took place at ABC on Tuesday evening, March 17, at the Baptist World Center, will never repeat itself again.