March 2018


MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND DESTINY WILL MEET APRIL 3-4, 2018, AT THE SBC ERLC KING CELEBRATION

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

If Dr. King were alive, he would be utterly amazed that The Southern Baptist Convention, this year will be hosting a party in his honor in Memphis, Tennessee. When he penned “The Letter from The Birmingham Jail,” King had his “Christian and Jewish brothers” in mind, including Southern Baptists, when he wrote the following words in April 1963:

“While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’”

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.’”

The Clergyman in Birmingham also referred to King as an “outside agitator.”

In April 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr., was gaining national fame and spoke in Chapel at the flagship theological seminary, among The Southern Baptists’ six seminaries, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. As historian, Taylor Branch, wrote in his biography of King, concerning the response of powerful Southern Baptists who opposed Martin Luther King’s visit and Southern Seminary’s invitation to Martin Luther King:

“Within the church [SBC], this simple invitation was racial and theological heresy, such that churches across the South rescinded their regular donations to the seminary.”

During his lifetime, Dr. King experienced criticism, rejection and at best, “lukewarm acceptance” from the Southern Baptist Convention.

Fast forward to today. Over 3500, primarily Southern Baptists have registered in Memphis in 2018 to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, who was assassinated by an Anglo son of the South on April 4, 1968. What a difference 50 years make! The SBC attitude toward King has gone through a metamorphosis over the past 50 years, as the entire Convention has made substantial and measurable progress on the racial front.

In 50 years, the SBC has moved from castigating to celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. In 50 years, the SBC has moved from denying Blacks seats at the table of leadership, to electing Fred Luter as the first African American President of the SBC in 2012 and H.B. Charles as President of the Pastors Conference in 2017. In 50 years, the SBC has moved from viewing Blacks almost exclusively as a mission’s project, to engaging Blacks as mission partners and co-laborers. In 50 years, the SBC has moved from opposing the Civil Rights movement to passing resolutions overwhelmingly in favor of denouncing the Confederate Flag and the Alt-Right. Within 60 years, the SBC has moved from non-admittance of Blacks in Southern Baptist Seminaries, to appointing Walter Strickland as Vice President of Kingdom Diversity and Professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Within 50 years the SBC has shifted from the highest ranking Black in the SBC Executive Building headquarters being the “head custodian” to, Ken Weathersby, serving as a Vice President of the Executive Committee. The SBC passed a resolution acknowledging the historic election of President Barack Obama in 2009. Dr. Russell Moore, Dr. Frank Page, Dr. Danny Akin, Dr. Fred Luter, Dr. Steve Gaines, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Dr. James Merritt and a host of others, have worked diligently to move the ball down the road in advancing God’s Kingdom Agenda for racial inclusion and empowerment in the SBC. Yet, there is a vocal minority in the SBC that has registered opposition to the 50 Years King Celebration, as did their forbearers, 50 years ago, perhaps for different reasons though.

The SBC ERLC has spoken out against police brutality and in favor of comprehensive immigration reform under the prophetic and transformative leadership of Dr. Russell Moore. Never would this kind of prophetic advocacy occur during King’s lifetime. The SBC has by word, deed and repentance, earned the right to legitimately celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.

The largest racial hurdle the SBC has yet to overcome is the exclusion of Blacks and other minorities serving as an entity head. Entity Heads also constitute the Great Commission Council of the SBC. How can you have a Great Commission Council that reflects only one ethnicity within the Convention? Currently, with two entity head positions vacant, the all-White Great Commission Council should soon change, in the spirit of Martin Luther King’s dream.

Doctrinal and moral concerns are the two most common objections raised regarding reasons to suggest that the SBC ERLC not honor and celebrate the 50th year death of Dr. King.

Many have called attention to some writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recorded in his dissertation for his PH.D. work at Boston University that reflects liberal theological leanings.

Admittedly, Martin Luther King casts dubious questions and doubts on orthodox views of the virgin birth, deity of Christ, and the resurrection, reflected in his graduate school writings. I even recall reading that while in Sunday School as a youth at his father’s church, he raised questions concerning the validity of the gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Even John the Baptist, while in prison, sent word to Jesus, “Are you the Christ or shall we look for another?” Doubt and questioning usually take place at some point in the pilgrimage of every believer. Many of us simply have not recorded our thoughts or spoken aloud when battling with doubt. John the Baptist experienced days of doubt, but he died devoted to the belief that Christ was King of God’s Kingdom—so did Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Carl Ellis, reports that Martin Luther King applied to two conservative seminaries, and was rejected by both because of his color. He matriculated in the M.Div. and PH.D. programs at liberal theological schools in the ‘40’s. Conservative schools simply were not enrolling Black students at the time. Dr. Ellis testifies that one of the schools that rejected Martin Luther King as a graduate seminary student also rejected him for the same reason. It’s really arrogant to criticize a man for embracing liberal theology, when you refuse to allow him to enroll in theological conservative institutions. SBC seminaries did not enroll Black students until the ‘50’s, when they announced they would only enroll “highly qualified Negroes.” Not allowing Blacks to enroll in SBC seminaries was a practical denial of the faith, equally as problematic as King’s liberal theological leanings during his graduate work.

The good news after completing his PH.D. and while pastoring the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. King returned to the faith of his father—Martin Luther King, Sr. Dr. King testified that he was returning to the “God that would make a way, out of no way.” That’s common phraseology in the Black church to refer to The God of the Bible. Furthermore, King announced that he was embracing his father’s God; again, which was also another way of expressing in Black theological circles that he was returning to orthodoxy. He made those statements on the heels of bombs being blasted at his home in Montgomery, potentially endangering the lives of his wife and children.

In one of his lesser known sermons, preached at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on Easter Sunday, April 1957, in a message entitled “Questions That Easter Answers,” Dr. King made the following statements that ought to lay to rest his beliefs in orthodoxy:

“Easter is a day above all days. It surpasses the mystery and marvel of Christmas with all of the glory of the incarnation.” (MLK believed in the incarnation, which would include the virgin birth and Christ’s Deity.)

“Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have fit testimony that this earthly life is not the end…”  (Martin Luther King’s confession of the resurrection in his own words)

 “…men through the generations have learned when they live close to Jesus Christ, that Easter can emerge, and that all of the darkness of Good Friday can pass away.” (You cannot live close to Jesus, unless He is the living Lord.)

“And this means that life is meaningful, that life is not doomed to frustration and futility but life can end up in fulfillment in the life and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

“We thank you, this morning, for your Son, Jesus, who came by to let us know that love is the most durable power in the world, who came by to let us know that death can’t defeat us, to take the sting out of the grave and death and make it possible for all of us to have eternal life. We thank you, oh God. And God grant that we will be grateful recipients of thy eternal blessings. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.” (I am baffled as to how anyone can read Martin Luther King’s Easter 1957 sermon and prayer and conclude that he did not believe the gospel.)

Martin Luther King, Jr. shed his liberal views on Christology expressed during his graduate school years and preached the powerful Easter message in 1957 (previously referenced) that affirms the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His Lordship. It would certainly be appropriate for those claiming that Dr. King did not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ to now acknowledge this misunderstanding.

Many are unaware that Al Mohler and Frank Page embraced liberal views on women in ministry while in graduate school studying under more moderate/liberal professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Later, as did Martin Luther King, Jr., they shed their liberal views and embraced a view on women in ministry more akin to the BF&M 2000.

The second objection to the King celebration has to do with his “alleged immoral lifestyle.” The reason I say alleged is because I am unfamiliar with any female or male, or their descendants or relatives, who have testified to a personal sexual encounter with Dr. King. That is not to say, one or more did not transpire, it is simply to say, I find it interesting that no one has come forth to claim such a personal encounter.

Nevertheless, my response to this objection will be relatively brief. I was recently asked: how can the church reconcile Martin Luther King’s adultery, plagiarism and doctrinal deviancy with a celebration?

My answer: Whatever sins Martin Luther King was guilty of were a matter between his God, his wife and children, his congregation and himself. The church does not have to reconcile, King’s sins with any celebration of him. Just as the church does not have to reconcile the racism of W.A. and Betty Criswell, who are both on record unrepentantly claiming Africans were cursed and assigned to servitude. The Criswell’s will have to give an account to God for their racism. My father, knowing Criswell was a racist, loved to hear him preach and had several of his books in our home, during my formative, ministerial years. I would celebrate Criswell today, not because of his sin, but because of his good. And that is why the SBC ought to celebrate Martin Luther King. I hope many others will join the celebration in Memphis as a testimony to the grace, goodness and redemption of God, in all our lives and as another major step in the SBC toward racial healing.

May the Spirit of God breathe upon The King Memphis Celebration! May Southern Baptists come from the North, South, East and West! Job well done SBC ERLC!

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GRATEFUL FOR WILLIAM SEYMOUR, N.L. ROBINSON, ONE COMMUNITY CHURCH AWARDS, AND ARKANSAS BAPTIST COLLEGE TRUSTEE AND LIFE ACTION ADVISORY BOARD APPOINTMENTS

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

In the past three months, I have been chosen to receive three distinguished awards and given an opportunity to serve on the Board of Trustees of a Historically Black College and on the Advisory Board of an evangelical revival ministry with an incredible vision. There are numerous awards, certificates, plaques and tributes I have received across a forty-year span of public life and ministry. I am equally thankful and godly proud of all those as well. Typically, I am not one who desires or broadcasts awards, honors and Board appointments. However, I am so thankful and thrilled to serve and be associated with these awards and institutions. I feel unworthy of each one. I wanted to write a statement to promote each ministry that has entrusted their name to me; and given me the honor of promoting, praying for and supporting their significant and substantial ministries. I pray that you will join me in praying for, supporting and appreciating these ministries. I guess it is a sign of old age that these most recent awards and appointments are unusually meaningful to me. They all came suddenly and unexpectedly.

THE WILLIAM JOSEPH SEYMOUR AWARD

I will travel to Los Angeles, April 6-8, 2018, to receive the William Joseph Seymour Award and speak at related events. Who was William Joseph Seymour? Yale University historian, Sidney Ahlstrom, stated before his death (July 3, 1984) that Seymour personified a black piety “which exerted its greatest direct influence on American religious history”—placing Seymour’s impact ahead of figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, WEB Dubois, E.C. Morris, C.H. Mason, Booker T. Washington, Richard Allen, Frederick Douglas, Marcus Garvey and a host of other religious and cultural-impact iconic figures in Black American history. Although Seymour is not as well known in cultural Black history, when one measures the height, depth, width, breath, and longevity of Seymour’s historic and current impact, I agree with Ahlstrom: William Joseph Seymour “exerted its greatest direct influence on American religious history.”

Perhaps, many are unaware of the legacy of Seymour because truly his incredibly impactful and fruitful ministry centered not on himself or his legacy, but rather on the Spirit of The Living God. The Holy Spirit is the ignored member of the Trinitarian Enterprise. The Holy Spirit is the only God on planet earth. Yet, The Holy Spirit historically and currently does not receive the worship, study, fellowship and celebration, such as given to God The Father and God The Son. Seymour was a game changer as it relates to the church ignoring of The Holy Spirit, particularly in the African American community. No theological system or denominational stream has influenced the Black worship experience as much as Pentecostalism.

Globally, the fastest growing churches and churches that are retaining membership, in this season of “a great falling away,” are charismatic/Pentecostal churches. The cofounder and single most important influence on the widespread growth and development of Pentecostalism was William Joseph Seymour. Oral Roberts University, Hillsong Church and music, The Church of God In Christ, The Assemblies of God, CBN and TBN Christian Television, C.H. Mason, C.P. Jones, Oral Roberts, T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Ulmer, Jack Hayford, Paul Morton, G.E. Patterson and Tua Tagovailoa, the amazing Alabama quarterback that led them to win the 2018 College Football Championship, all can trace their spiritual and theological roots in whole or in part to William Joseph Seymour.

When one considers the phenomenal widespread growth of Pentecostalism in Black America, and arguably the largest spiritual influence in African American communities, and how charismatic/Pentecostal worship and some theological tenets have almost totally impacted all African American churches, how could anyone dispute Ahlstrom’s claim that William Seymour is the most influential religious figure in Black American history. Yet, by name and face recognition, he is far less known than Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, E.V. Hill, Tony Evans and T.D. Jakes, in many evangelical circles.

If you were asked to name the one person who has brought to the masses—the person, work, doctrine and ministry of the Holy Spirit—in post biblical history—more so than any other—who would you name? If one gave an honest, objective, historically accurate and truthful answer to that question, the answer would be: William Joseph Seymour. Seymour is primarily known as the man who eventually led a prayer movement in Los Angeles from about 1906-1922 that literally expanded around the globe in a ten-year period. The prayer movement led by Seymour was thoroughly interracial and interdenominational.

At a time when blending races and denominations in worship was virtually impossible; and even today, it is a difficult feat to accomplish. By the power of The Holy Spirit, thousands upon thousands of persons of every race from throughout the world, and persons from every denomination made their way to Los Angeles, Azusa Street, in order to experience an unusual, historic, outpouring of The Holy Spirit. The Azusa Street outpouring of The Holy Spirit was kindred to the first and second great awakening.

Seymour was born the son of former slaves in Centerville, Louisiana, in 1878. His first name, William, means: Determined helmet or protection—later meaning “conqueror.” His middle name, Joseph, means: Add or increase. His last name, Seymour, means: Dark-skinned saint. Seymour’s name is filled with prophetic insight that he fulfilled throughout his life.

In light of the illustrious, iconic, and impactful life, leadership and legacy of William Joseph Seymour, I am thrilled beyond measure to accept The William Joseph Seymour Award.

THE N.L. ROBINSON AWARD

Rev. Norman Lee Robinson served as the proud pastor of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas, for fifty years. His congregation grew from 17 to 10,000 under his leadership. His motto was: “Live a Clean Life.” And that he did. His integrity and lifestyle were impeccable. Rev. Robinson fell into the arms of Jesus in 2017. I was so delighted that his successor, Rev. James Thompson, his church’s leadership and community leaders chose me to receive this distinguished award. Arlington’s mayor, Jeff Williams, read the reasons for granting me the award. I was deeply humbled being associated with the character and leadership traits of the most venerated Pastor—period—in the history of Arlington, Rev. N.L. Robinson. I received this award in February 2018. In 1983, (27 years old) the year I planted Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, my father took me to Rev. Robinson’s church and said to him, “Take care of my son.” I was 60 years old when “Pops” passed. Rev. Robinson was affectionately called by everyone, “Pops.”

ONE COMMUNITY CHURCH AWARD, PASTOR CONWAY EDWARDS

In January 2018, I received the Distinguished Senior Pastor Recognition Award from One Community Church, Plano, TX, led by Dr. Conway Edwards. This church is only ten years old, and the average attendance currently is 9,500 (documented numbers). They hosted their 2nd Annual National Leadership Seminar where they chose to bestow this honor upon me. Last year’s recipient of this Distinguished Senior Pastor Recognition Award was Dr. Tony Evans, the internationally known expository preacher/pastor of Dallas. I was grateful and humbled to follow him as the honoree and receive the large cash gift award that Pastor Edwards prefers to give as an award, rather than plaques, trophies, certificates, etc. I was extremely pleased and thankful for the generous gift. The world will hear about One Community Church Plano.

Their Annual Leadership Conference is already up to 800 registrants in their second year conducting it. One Community Church is one of the most innovative, biblio-centric churches in America. As Jesus said to James and John, when they asked Jesus about His residence, Jesus said “Come and see.” Every young—and, not so young—pastor and church leader would do themselves a great service in January 2019, if they attend the One Community Church Leadership Conference, “Come and see” (John 1:38-39).

ARKANSAS BAPTIST COLLEGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES APPOINTMENT

I was asked by the current Board of Trustees at Arkansas Baptist College (ABC) to join them as a board member in February 2018. My parents were married on the campus of ABC, while my father was a student there; so the college holds a special place in my heart. The College was founded in 1884 by former slaves. E.C. Morris was their first President, who also was the first President of the National Baptist Convention. E.C. Morris was also one of the early pastors of St. Paul Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, AR, where I was born again, baptized, licensed and ordained as a preacher.

As a youth, we made annual trips to ABC, and each youth was asked to donate two cans of pork and beans to the College, for the student cafeteria. The Cornerstone Church, Arlington, where I pastor, has donated over $225,000 to the College over the past 25 years. We believe in their mission and their potential. The late Dr. Sandy F. Ray, Pastor of Cornerstone Church, Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Jerry Black of Atlanta, GA, and Rev. C.D. Edwards of Little Rock, AR, are a few distinguished individuals who are proud graduates of the College. Bishop C.H. Mason, founder of The Church of God in Christ, also matriculated at ABC.

LIFE ACTION MINISTRY ADVISORY BOARD APPOINTMENT

 Life Action Revival Ministries, based in Buchanan, MI, is an evangelical ministry uniquely focused on revival and disciple-making. Across the past 20 years, they have conducted five revival meetings at Cornerstone Church, Arlington. Three of these meetings were two weeks in duration. Their approach to revival has wrought wonderful changes in the lives of our people, healed marriages, evoked repentance and a clear conscience before God with many of our people and enhanced the prayer and devotional Bible reading among our people. I highly recommend Life Action to local churches of every ethnicity, if you want to see God do an in-depth work in the lives of His people that result in fruit that remains.

Rev. John Avant was recently selected as President of Life Action Ministries. Churches where Rev. Avant has pastored have experienced an awakening during his tenure. An extended Revival broke out at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth while John was preaching in Chapel, during the ‘90’s.

John Avant and his executive team recently cast a fresh and exciting vision for their ministry. Their vision: “Millions of God-Astonishing Lives in Action with Him Shattering Division, Injustice, and Lostness.” It is most unusual to see an evangelical ministry make the centerpiece of their vision addressing “injustice” and “division.”

God may sovereignly choose Life Action to partner with Black, Asian and Hispanic church leaders throughout America to unite our hearts–those longing for revival, to pray together for a spiritual awakening in America. Just recently, Rev. Avant asked me to serve on Life Action Ministries Advisory Board.

It is my prayer that you will pray for me as I attempt to continue to serve Christ’s Kingdom and His people. Hopefully, my grandchildren and great grandchildren will get a hold of this writing, at some point, and it will be a source of inspiration, information, affirmation and encouragement to them (Psalm 145:4).