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MEMORIES OF MY BEST FRIEND AND MENTOR, DR. ROBERT E. FOWLER

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

FOWLER

I sometimes process grief by writing.

Most persons who read this article never met, or heard of my best friend over the past 33 years, Rev. Robert E. Fowler. I encourage you to read the entire tribute though, because I assure you as I unpack memories of our friendship and his mentorship in my life, at some point you will be encouraged, enlightened, and ministered to, in a manner worthy of your time investment. You will also be ministering to me, as you help me celebrate and memorialize the life and legacy of Bob Fowler.

A familiar name flashed across my cell phone caller ID, at 11:23 a.m. yesterday, specifically Vance Pittman, a well-known SBC pastor in Las Vegas, Nevada. After exchanging the pleasantries of the morning, Vance informed me that news was beginning to circulate in Vegas that our mutual friend, Bob Fowler, also a Vegas pastor, passed. Vance knew the depth of my friendship with Fowler, so he assumed I might know. If indeed true, he wanted to gear up to minister to his family. That was the first inkling of knowledge that my dear friend may no longer be “tabernacling” among us.

The thought of that possibility overwhelmed me. I wanted to immediately get off the phone with Vance to seek confirmation before I allowed my emotions to spin out of control. In our less than two-minute conversation, I told Vance I would call him back, when I learned more. Before our conversation concluded with the traditional goodbye’s, another call was coming in. This call came from another pastor, a Southern California pastor and mutual acquaintance/friend of Bob Fowler and mine, Rev. Weaver. I had not talked to him in 5-7 years or so. Early in the conversation he made it known that he was calling to console me relative to the home-going of my dear friend, Pastor Fowler. I wanted clarification, so I asked him was this simply a rumor or was it true that Bob Fowler was dead. He said, “no reverend, it’s not a rumor; it’s the truth.”

I lost it. I didn’t even bring the conversation to a close. I threw my cell phone down on the carpeted floor and fell down and balled like a baby. My wife picked up the phone, and I assumed, closed out the conversation with Pastor Weaver.

Denial is the first step in the grief process, I learned in seminary many years ago. After I collected myself many minutes later, I told myself, it can’t be true. Maybe I did not hear Pastor Weaver out. He may even be confused. I reflected on the fact that twice in the past rumors circulated in certain pockets of the Black preaching community that I passed, about 12 or so years ago. I actually answered the church phone when two friends called to confirm my death and were shocked that I answered, because it was publicly announced in a church in New Jersey that I had passed. I also remembered hearing an announcement of a man who had passed at the close of a revival meeting where I was visiting; and it was misinformation. The man had been hospitalized, but remained alive. Based on those two experiences, I was hoping against hope that Pastors Pittman and Weaver were mistaken, or had been misinformed. I decided to dial Fowler’s number, no one answered.

I then remembered that the last time I preached in Las Vegas for Pastor Fowler I had an unusual experience as I was dismounting the pulpit, on my way to my seat. I literally inexplicably fell to the floor, head first. I did not faint, because I was fully cognizant of what was happening. My legs just gave away, and I could not muster the strength to erect myself. I heard the congregation give a collective gasp. Several men rushed to pick me up from the floor and helped me to my seat. They encouraged me to go to the hospital, but I refused. As Bob was driving me back to my hotel after the service, I received a phone call from Rev David Wade of Mesa, Arizona. He said, “Dwight, I heard you fell tonight, are you alright?” I then asked David how did he get the news so quickly, I had fallen less than 15 minutes before he called. He said, “I got too many friends in Vegas for something like that to happen, and I not be informed.”

Aha, as I thought about that, my mind said, call David Wade. He would know for sure if Fowler was dead, so I did. When David answered he said, Dwight, I just got some of the worst news in my life, Bob Fowler died this morning. By then, I knew for sure it was true. I had to give up my denial. My son and daughter-in-law came to console me. My wife had sent the message to my kids. Other calls from around the country began to come in. I made a few phone calls. We were all in stark disbelief that Dr. Bob Fowler, pastor of the Victory Baptist Church of Las Vegas for 24 years, had passed.

I want to share several memories of our 30+ year friendship that I trust will somehow be an encouragement to your life and ministry.

Bob and I both pastored in the Tarrant Baptist Association in the Ft. Worth area, where we met in the mid to late 80’s. We were often the only two Black pastors who regularly attended the TBA weekly meetings, therefore we forged a natural affinity. Bob was single at the time, and I was honored when he asked me to be the best man in his wedding to Joyce, whom he remained married to till his departure early Tuesday morning. Bob and Joyce were gracious and kind to Vera (my wife) and our four children who were just above toddlers then. They were always willing to babysit on several occasions, and even during one or two times when we were out of town a couple of days. My kids affectionately call him, Uncle Fowler, to this day.

In one of our TBA meetings, as Bob and I were seated together waiting on the meeting to begin, the guest speaker for that day came in, walked by our table and began to dialogue with us. He was touted as “The Billy Graham of Australia,” so we were all eager to hear him. Bob and I only knew who he was because of his Australian accent. He reached out to shake our hands and asked us, “Do you speak English?” Bob and I assumed he was joking, so we simply politely laughed, while he stood as if he was awaiting an answer. He then repeated the question. Bob and I recognized then, that his question was a serious one, and we then gave sort of a clumsy answer, “well, yea, yes.”

Bob nor I thought the gentleman was being racist in his question, but as far as we could tell, as he worked the room, shaking hands, we do not think anyone else was asked that question. We could only conclude that he thought maybe we were the American equivalents/counterparts of the Australian Aboriginals, who do not (as a rule) speak English. I mention that because that incident occurs over 30 years ago, but Bob and I would revisit that incident at least annually, because it documented to us, we stand out in a majority White setting; and upon meeting people in that context, there are assumptions about you, that you usually simply are not privy to–maybe some good, maybe some bad. Clearly, we were the “others” in the room. We never forgot that lesson. We were even thought of as speaking a different language.

When Russell Dilday was being voted out as President of SWBTS, by the trustees, Bob and I were summoned early that morning to go to the seminary and join a protest with other pastors to the firing of Russell Dilday. Rev. L.B. George, a highly respected Black TBA pastor and the first Black moderator of the TBA, asked Bob and I to join the protest.

Pastor George’s requests presented a dilemma for us. He assumed we supported Russell Dilday, but he never asked us, if we agreed with the protesters, he just ordered us to join in. That is often a common practice as to how seasoned, senior, respected Black preachers, relate to younger, up and coming, aspiring Black preachers. The protesters were singing “We Shall Overcome,” the mantra of the Civil Rights Movement.

Bob and I thought that song was inappropriate for that occasion. We also had mixed feelings about Russell Dilday. We liked him personally. He had even invited me to preach in chapel at SWBTS in my early 30’s. But he was being painted as a theological liberal and one who rejected inerrancy. Bob and I philosophically agreed with the “conservatives” as opposed to the “moderates” in the SBC. We wanted to honor Rev. L. B. George though, by complying with his request to protest. So, we stood there with the protesters and sang, halfheartedly with our shoulders slumped. Later, Pastor George and Pastor Charles Wade told us that they sensed our not being fully with the program and our hearts were not in the protest. We apologized to them, explained our conflicting emotions and asked for his understanding and forgiveness. They were gracious to us, and we remained great friends until Pastor George passed. I still remain good friends with Charles Wade.

Bob was later asked to serve on the old Sunday School Board (if my memory serves me correctly, which was the forerunner to Lifeway, I think) and some 12-15 years later, I was asked to serve on the Board of Trustees at SWBTS, the very board that fired Dr. Dilday that day. That was one of the saddest days in the history of SWBTS. In hindsight, I believe Dr. Dilday was greatly mistreated. His book, “The Doctrine of Biblical Authority,” is crystal clear that he is not a theological liberal; and he holds a high view of Scripture. His book was even published by the SBC’s, publishing arm. I honestly believe the never-ending unrest and bickering in the SBC is rooted in the unrepentant acts of mistreatment of Dr. Dilday. Ken Hemphill followed Dr. Dilday. He and I became friends. I respect him immensely. He also invited me on several occasions to speak in SWBTS chapel. Bob Fowler and I throughout our friendship would also revisit our experiences at SWBTS the day Dilday was unceremoniously fired.

Bob was pastoring the Eastland Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth at the time. Eastland was once a predominately Anglo SBC church; but by the late ‘80s, it had become predominantly African American. Bob was the second AA pastor in their history. While at Eastland Street, Bob’s Church and Cornerstone where I pastor, partnered together to construct a church building in Lebowa, South Africa, in the late ‘80s, while Mandela was still in prison. Members of both churches spent 15 days there holding VBS and doing construction work. That was a wild and wonderful experience. Too much to unpack now though.

Bob and I invited Pastor Lionel Malebono, pastor of the South African congregation, to Texas. While the three of us dined for breakfast at Denny’s, Pastor Malebono, literally started crying. Bob and I did not understand his tears. We thought we had unintentionally offended him, somehow. He finally explained to us that he was crying because that was his first experience being served by a White waitress. And for her to treat him with dignity, respect and call him “sir,” and clearly interact with him as a servant, it was an historic, unprecedented moment for him. He thought he would never, ever know what that experience was like. Therefore, experiencing the reality was quite dramatic and emotional for him. Another 30-year marker for Bob and me.

Bob’s dad was 16, when he was born. He did not know him. Later, his mother married a wonderful man, whom Bob loved dearly and he never experienced father deprivation except for the brief period before his mother married and blessed him with a wonderful stepfather.

At age 32, having graduated from SWBTS with an MDiv, and pastoring in Fort Worth, Bob became intrigued with the notion of meeting his biological father. He hired a lawyer to search for him, with success. The lawyer after two weeks gave Bob a man’s name, address, phone number and other biographical data, and told Bob, it is a high, high probability that this name is your father.

Armed with that information, he caught a plane to White Plains, New York, and registered in a hotel a couple of blocks from the man’s address. He then called the phone number, got the man on the phone, and began to ask him a series of questions, trying to confirm the man’s identity to see if it matched the information provided by the lawyer; and it did. As Bob was interrogating the man, he interrupted Bob and said, “you must be my son. I have wanted to connect with you for a long time.” As Bob listened to the man’s answers, he started to realize that he was talking to his biological father for the very first time in his life. Unlike me, Bob Fowler is not emotional. But, hearing his father’s voice for the first time, brought a river of tears to his eyes. I had never thought to give God thanks, or to appreciate and value the voice of my father. I simply took it for granted. But I began that day, as Bob called me from New York and told me the story, to regularly give God thanks for my father’s voice. Bob gave me permission to share his story many, many years ago. I have done so many times, because if you are blessed to have been raised by your biological father, learn to value and appreciate his presence and voice.

Fowler was called to pastor the St John Church in Lawton, Oklahoma in about 1993. He honored me by having me preach his installation service. In 1996, he was called to pastor the Victory Church in Vegas, where he remained until his death.

Interesting story how he was called to Victory. A San Diego pastor, Dr Timothy Winters, invited me to preach three nights at his church surrounding my book, “Beyond Roots: In Search of Blacks in The Bible.” I had a scheduling conflict and could not make it. Fowler, helped me research the book, and checked a book out of the library at SWBTS entitled, “Noah’s Three Sons: Human History In Three Dimensions,” by Dr. Arthur C. Custance, published by Zondervan Press. That book was the major extra-biblical source that informed my book. When I asked Fowler, if there were any Blacks in the Bible, he said, “I don’t know.” But he sought to help me answer that question and helped me tremendously with research, freely given.

Consequently, I recommended Fowler to go and speak in my place in San Diego, for Dr. Winters. Dr. Winters accepted him, loved his preaching, and later recommended him to preach at Victory in Vegas in view of a call. The rest is history.

Because Bob pastored the largest African American Church in the state of Nevada, politicians flocked to his church. The State Attorney General and many prominent politicians are members of his congregation. I have preached there on many occasions, and the reigning Republican Senator Ensign, at the time, was worshiping there. He loved my message and stayed around to chat. Senator Joseph Liberman was at his church one Sunday, and he is a practicing Jew. Bob asked him permission to share the gospel with him. Senator Liberman said, under one condition: “You cannot use Scripture from the New Testament.” Bob said, “fine,” and gave an exposition of the Gospel of Christ based on Isaiah 53. The Senator did not accept Christ, but he told Bob that he appreciated learning about Jesus in that passage.

Bob was still pastoring in Fort Worth in 1994 when my mother passed. His schedule would not allow him to attend my mother’s funeral; but, he and Rev. Lee Hill, his understudy, drove to my father’s home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, two days before the funeral, to sit with and comfort my father.

My father, also a Baptist pastor, loved to travel to National Baptist gatherings, with Bob and me. Daddy would have been proud of both of us, as we mounted the lecture stage together this past September in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the National Baptist Convention to lecture on Church Growth and Development.

In November, this past year, I was preaching at a conference in Los Angeles. Bob drove down from Vegas to support me and hang out for a couple of days. He affirmed me and my message in a manner way beyond anytime in the past. I did not realize that would be the last time he heard me preach in person.

Bob and Joyce maintained a house in Fort Worth, and often he would preach for me while in town. Cornerstone absolutely adored him.

Obviously, I could tell many other stories about my friendship with Bob Fowler, that has impacted my life like none other. Let me conclude with this one. The last time I saw Bob was in January of this year. He came to town with his wife to visit family, and to check on three investment properties that he owns here. While in town, he spent a day with Vera and I. We had a Systematic Theology III class that morning; he came with us. He also wanted to experience SWBTS again, and we had a blast, sitting in class like teen-age boys, as we were whispering to each other regarding Dr. Madison Grace’s great lecture. Afterwards the three of us enjoyed a hearty breakfast. It was a very special time. I had recommended to Dr. Paige Patterson to invite Dr. Fowler to preach in chapel at SWBTS a few years earlier. Dr. Patterson invited him. I attended chapel that day and was so blessed to hear my friend preach. Fowler recently completed a DMin in Church Growth from Biola. He also earned a DMin from Tyndale Theological Seminary. Bob Fowler was my theological, exegetical and ecclesiastical mentor, in addition to being the best friend I have ever had.

I am going to miss my friend. I am awaiting the details regarding his funeral services. I have not traveled since the virus outbreak. But, if The Lord says the same, I am going to Vegas and love on my friend’s family and congregation. And, I want to go on his turf and bid him farewell. I need that for closure and healing. Thank you for sharing my grief and listening to my long story. I pray that there was something said that was inspirational and a blessing to you! More importantly, as Bob would have it, I pray that this tribute glorified our Savior and Lord.

Al Mohler is a tried and trusted leader among Southern Baptists. His election as President of the SBC in June 2020 is probably inevitable.

The timing of his announcement, I find unusual and unprecedented. I believe there is an agenda—a specific agenda—associated with his nomination. I just don’t know what all it might include.

As with all nominations, for the SBC President, H.B. Charles’ nominating Al Mohler is a strategic move. H.B. is lending his enormous credibility and influence to Mohler, and that will bode well in Mohler’s favor with a wide variety of people. I applaud and appreciate H.B. Charles’ nominating Al Mohler. Mohler will inherit a reservoir of good will from all of us who love H.B. Charles.

I do not plan to attend the Orlando SBC as my way of protesting the five entity head vacancies over the past two years, choosing to not elect, or in some cases, even interview minority candidates. This decision was made before Mohler’s nomination.

If I had concerns about Mohler, they would be: I am afraid he might be representing a certain SBC constituency who wants to move the clock back in certain ways. Mohler loves to inter-mix his personal opinion—not backed by the BFM2K—that a female, such as Beth Moore, should not be allowed to preach to a coed audience. There were more women platformed at the ’19 SBC Birmingham meeting than any other convention in SBC history. I hope that we will see this continue in a Mohler-led Convention.

Mohler supported the IMB policies that restricted SBC missionaries from praying in private according to the dictates of their own conscience and biblical convictions. I would hope that he does not try and turn the clock back on the decision for freedom exercised in private prayer among IMB missionaries.

I celebrate the fact that Mohler refused to publicly support Donald Trump due to character issues. His consistency here trumps many of his evangelical counterparts. Much respect to him for his position. I also appreciate the fact that Mohler would not sign John MacArthur’s anti-social justice statement. He showed a backbone in doing so that I greatly admire.

I do not share Mohler’s beliefs regarding Calvinist soteriology. I believe that Christ died for all, and all can be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. I do not embrace the idea that only the elect can be saved. God elected those, who based on His foreknowledge, would elect Him. I find Mohler’s view of soteriology lacking biblical support and particularly, historically anathema, to the Black church. Calvinism is the theology that drove slavery in America, and provided a false theological justification for its existence. The African American Baptist Church is largely anti-Calvinistic. I would hope that Calvinism does not exponentially increase as a result of Mohler’s election in SBC life.

I appreciatively applaud Mohler leading SBTS to acknowledge their complicity with slavery and the corresponding benefit to the institution. That is a huge counter-culture move in SBC life. Much respect I give to Mohler for this.

Unless a better candidate emerges—such as Beth Moore or some other well qualified woman—or male pastor that share my convictions—I would be comfortable with Al Mohler as President, because he is tried, trusted and tested as leader, with regard to character and competence.

Some are afraid that the SBC is beginning to run off the rails. Al Mohler’s agenda, I believe, is to keep that from happening. In doing so, I question whether or not, he might be more tradition-driven, than biblical and Spirit-driven. I am watching his nomination with prayerful and careful eyes. I pray that he will not turn the clock back.

REBUTTAL TO INTERPRETATIONS RESTRICTING WOMEN FROM PREACHING
1 Timothy 2:12
“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
By Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

There is no single verse in the Bible that has generated more controversy than 1Timothy 2:12. Dr. Maurice Pugh is correct in his assessment as to why there is so much controversy surrounding this verse.

“The crux of the controversy: some would say take it as it is written, others would say what is going on behind what is written; then others compare it with the other verses that have been written.”

Paul taught that women in the Kingdom were to model the pattern of leadership God set forth in creation whereby leadership is exhibited by male and female God-given dominion. The male is given leadership responsibilities in the partnership and the woman is the follower. The temple of Artemis at Ephesus had a woman at the center and men were followers. This was a reversal of the creation model. Paul writes what he does in 1 Timothy 2:12 as a corrective to say women should not swap roles with the man. Women can preach on the Lord’s Day of worship if they follow leadership as did Huldah, Phoebe and the New Testament prophetess and not rebel against leadership as did Eve and Jezebel.

  1. Inconsistent Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-12: The same stringent interpretation we have for v. 12 is not used for vv. 9-10, which states: “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” If the instructions in vv. 9-10 are relative to the church in Ephesus and their particular situation, then why do we try to take v. 12 to its logical extent, without focus on why Paul would give such instructions?  We would not dare instruct a woman that she should not wear braids, pearls or costly clothing based on vs. 9; thus, we should not take a different hermeneutical approach with vs. 12. To do so presents an impermissibly inconsistent interpretation of 1Timothy 2:9-12.
  2. 1 Timothy 2:11 – There is a misunderstanding and misapplication of the text related to “silence” and women applied to preaching/speaking opportunities in worship: Silence does not mean silence. As in 1 Corinthians 14:34, the instructions for silence must be taken in the context of the situation. Paul cannot mean that women must be completely silent; otherwise women cannot publicly declare their own salvation in church.  The context must suggest that women be allowed to learn in an environment with order.  The problem Paul is addressing in Ephesus is similar to Corinth where women are stepping out of their roles opposing the men.  Why else would Paul have to address their appearance as he did in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16? Again, the definition of the term “silence” has been misunderstood and misapplied.
  1. 1 Timothy 2:12 – There is a failure to understand the historical context of Paul’s instructions when he referenced “Teach” and “have authority.” This was not an outright prohibition but rather was instructional on “how” the teaching should occur. When Paul says that he does not allow a woman to teach or have full power over a man, he is saying this with focus on abuse of authority and teaching.  In classical Greek the substantive form of the verb used (to have authority) is referring to a person who acts with so much unrestraint that they are like a murderer or someone who takes one’s life by force.  Paul does not mean that women should not be able to teach, preach, or have any ability to speak in church.  If he meant that, then 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 would be contradictory.  So, either Paul meant for his instructions in Ephesus to be different from Corinth, or we are misinterpreting what he meant for Ephesus.  Paul is speaking of women dominating the man in worship.  Women should not have complete or full authority over the men.  Rather, women should be allowed to preach and teach under the counsel and authority of men.
  1. 1 Timothy 2:13-15 – Applying The Creation Story to Eve—but not to Adam is flawed: “There is a serious theological contradiction in telling a woman when she comes to faith in Christ, her personal sins are forgiven but she must continue to be punished for the sins of Eve” (Richard Clark Kroeger, Catherine Kroeger, I Suffer Not A Woman, Baker Book House, pp. 21-22).

The Creation Story is meant to protect women not oppress them. Paul mentions Adam’s creation prior to Eve not to argue that women are to be beneath the heel of a men but that women are to be covered and protected by men (1 Corinthians 11:3ff).  Especially in this setting, where the cultural climate lent itself to empowering women in mystical and religious matters, Paul was urging the church to buck the trend of the world and keep biblical order.  If there are women who are attempting to overrule the men in the congregation, or there was a temptation to allow Christian women who believe there was neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28) to dominate; there is a failure to understand the historical context of Paul’s instructions when he referenced “Teach” and “have authority.” This was not an outright prohibition but rather was instructional on “how” the teaching should occur. Just as we abuse Scripture today, it was easy to abuse Galatians 3:28 and argue that there were no longer any differences, and women should be the heads now.  Paul had to support his position with the Bible.  The Scripture taught that when God’s order got perverted, women were the ones who were deceived. That meant that men should help them learn in silence, in an orderly environment.

  1. Too many people are overlooking Hermeneutics 101: It demands all to interpret Scripture with Scripture. It is necessary to compare Scripture with Scripture to find the correct meaning. We must understand 1 Timothy 2:12 in light of every other relevant message concerning gender roles in ministry in the Bible. By doing so, we could not possibly conclude what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 2:12, is for a female to never, ever, be given the opportunity to preach in the Lord’s Day of Worship.

The Bible may contain paradoxes, perplexities, and problems but not outright contradictions.

Quoting the late L.E. Maxwell, he “declared that more than a hundred passages in the Bible affirm women in roles of leadership, and fewer than half a dozen appear to be in opposition” (Kroeger, p. 33). We must seek to understand the role of women by the more than hundred affirmative verses, not just the few that appear to be unduly restrictive.

Phoebe and Jezebel are examples of females who addressed the congregation on the Lord’s Day of worship (Romans 16:1-2; Revelations 2:18-23).

Phoebe addressed the congregation at the direction of Paul. Jezebel addressed the congregation at Thyatira by the permission of “the angel of the house”—male leadership. Phoebe followed instructions. Jezebel spoke contrary to the Word and Will of God. But the speaking hour was not off limits to her based on gender. Her disqualification was based on false teaching, which is the same thing that men are often rebuked for in Scripture.

I think we need to acknowledge that, however firmly we hold our convictions; there might be some things we don’t know. It seems those who hold firmly to “I don’t suffer a woman to teach” will often dismiss “let the women keep silent.”

DOES THE BIBLE PERMIT WOMEN TO PREACH IN OUR LORD’S DAY WORSHIP SERVICE?
Opening Statement by Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.
Ascol/McKissic Debate/Dialogue
Westin Birmingham
June 10, 2019, 4:00 p.m.

In the Kingdom, God values women. Neither complementarianism, nor egalitarianism are biblical terms, and they fall short of biblical definitions and parameters when it comes to certain gender roles in Kingdom ministry. Jesus would not label Himself a complementarian or an egalitarian; therefore, neither will I. The word I have coined to label my position on gender roles in ministry is –“Kingdomarian.”1 This appellation—‘kingdomarian”—focuses on Jesus’ central teaching on all things as matters “pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

A Kingdomarian is one who believes men and women are coequal under God.  Both are valued by God in their essence and function.  Both are called into the ministry of disciple-making and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the Earth.  And both do this with the recognition that in the local church, women and men function under God’s authority, under the leadership of a Kingdom-focused, male lead pastor because of God’s sovereign purpose(s) and Kingdom assignment(s) (Matthew 24:14).

My thesis proposes that the Bible reveals that in God’s Kingdom, God gifts and calls women to preach to whomever He wills, on any day He wills, at any gathering He wills, without limitation with respect to gender (Acts 2:17-18; I Corinthians 11:5).

The Son of God, The Spirit of God and The Saints of God, have sanctioned and commissioned women to preach the Gospel wherever and whenever “God would open…a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).

I. The Son Of God Affirmed Women in Proclamation Ministries Without Regard to Gender under His Authority.

A. At Jesus’ birth Anna the prophetess “spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). She “did not depart from the temple” (Luke 2:37). Whatever prophesying Anna engaged in occurred at the temple in Jerusalem, and we know she spoke to “all”—men and women (Luke 2:38).

B. During Jesus’ life “many women…followed Jesus” (Matthew 28:55), funded His ministry (Luke 8:2-3), were discipled by Him (Luke 10:38-42), stood by Him at the Cross (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40), and came to His tomb, “very early in the morning, on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2), “that they might…anoint Him” (Mark 16:1). Male disciples (with the exception of John) were conspicuously absent at the cross and at the tomb (Mark 14:50). John, alone, eventually stood by Jesus at the cross (John 19:25-27).

C. Jesus rewarded women for their faith and faithfulness to Him, by commissioning two women (Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” Matthew 28:1) to deliver the first Lord’s Day Worship Sermon, in the history of the Christian Church (Matthew 28:6, 10).

Jesus fully entrusted women to deliver the first Lord’s Day message to men. The angel told the women, after inviting them to inspect the empty grave, “go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead” (Matthew 28:7). Jesus instructed these women, “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10).

I agree with Southern Baptist pastor, Steve Bezner2:

“In the days after the Resurrection, as the church was formed, the New Testament is clear — women were integral. Women were the ones to discover the empty tomb, and, therefore, the first to preach the gospel. We read that Philip’s daughters prophesied. We read that the Spirit falling at Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel’s prediction that sons and daughters would prophesy. We read that, in Christ, there is neither male nor female — there are no categories of salvation in Jesus. We read that Phoebe is a diakonos of the church — a word usually translated as “deacon.” We read that Junia is “highly esteemed among the apostles,” which means that either a) Junia was a woman highly respected by the apostles or, b) that Junia was a woman who was a highly respected apostle (but not one of the Twelve). We read that Lydia hosted a church in her home. We read that Priscilla helped disciple Apollos — a popular early Christian teacher.”

Basically, Pastor Steve Bezner’s point emphasizes that: “Women were…the first to preach the gospel”; they preached the gospel to men, including on the Lord’s Day of worship (Matthew 28:1-10); and women were gifted and allowed to use those gifts in the early church.

II. The Spirit Of God Anointed And Appointed Women To Preach The Gospel, Under God’s Authority, Without Regard To The Day Of The Week, Under God-Appointed Male Authority.

A. Women were in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, when God poured out His Spirit upon the church (Acts 1:14).

B. God poured out His Spirit upon women at Pentecost to proclaim “the wonderful works of God” just as He did the men (Acts 2:11).

C. Peter quoted Joel on The Day of Pentecost, as a promise being fulfilled at Pentecost:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” (Acts 2:17. Joel 2:28-29)

Obviously the text of Joel is appropriated to establish an authoritative basis which underscores the significance of Pentecost for both men and women.

D. The Holy Spirit distributes to “each one for the profit of all” (I Corinthians 12:7). The Holy Spirit distributed to “each one” individually as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). One of the gifts The Spirit gave without regard to gender was “prophecy” (I Corinthians 12:10).

E. What is prophecy? The common reformation answer appealed to 1 Corinthians 14:3 (Prophecy & Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, E. Earle Ellis, Baker Books, 1993) 3:

“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”

Prophecy also includes learning (I Corinthians 14:31), and evangelism (I Corinthians 14:24-25).

The gift of “preaching” is not listed among the list of spiritual gifts. No one would argue that men and women are gifted by God’s Spirit to preach. So where is the gift of preaching among the list of spiritual gifts?

I agree with the Late Dr. Jack Gray, 4 who believes that the gift of prophecy equates to the gift of preaching. The gift of prophecy is mentioned in all three lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12:7-10, 28; Ephesians 4:11). Prophecy is the Spirit’s gift to preach the message of God with clarity and power, to be God’s spokesman to His people, both forth telling and foretelling. It is the gift to receive and deliver God’s message to people.” Prophecy is primarily communicating the gospel, with a view towards persuasion.

In I Corinthians 11:5, Paul affirms women praying and prophesying with their heads covered, which was customarily indicative of male presence and a sign of modesty in that culture. Women prophesied without any restrictions on the day or location where they would prophesy.

III. The Saints of God in Baptist History Have Sanctioned Women Preaching under God’s Authority and Kingdom Male Leadership.

A. The Second London Confession of Particular Baptists (1689) states: 5

“[T]he work of preaching the Word, is not so peculiarly confined to the [elders]; but that others, also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved, and called by the Church, may and ought to perform it.”

Note that these other preachers, who did not hold the pastoral office preached because they were “gifted” to do so. In other words, the local church recognized the gifting by the Holy Spirit and approved of their preaching. An autonomous local church can approve of anyone they desire to occupy the preaching hour as they deem “fitted by the Holy Spirit”—male or female.

B. Dr. Curtis Freemen, a Research Professor of Theology and Director of the Baptist House of Studies of Duke Divinity School, wrote an 842 page tome entitled: “A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England; A Reader,” 6 in which he documents, details and delineates the messages of seven Baptists Women who preached in Baptist churches in Britain from 1641-1679. Their names were Katherine Chidly, Sarah Wright, Elizabeth Poole, June Turner, Anna Trapnel, Katherine Sutton, and Anne Wentworth.

C. Leon McBeth, “The Baptist Heritage, Four Centuries of Baptist Witness” (pp. 690-695), 7 states that, “Women served as deacons and deaconesses, and sometimes preached, among the English Baptists from the 1600’s. In the American South, the Separate Baptists recognized both deaconesses and eldresses, and some women, like Martha Stearns Marshall, were notable for their fervent preaching and praying in public.”(pp. 690-691) (The Sandy Creek tradition).

D. In more recent history, we know that Missionary Bertha Smith delivered the “Lord’s Day” morning message at Bellevue, Memphis, FBC, Dallas and Atlanta and many other SBC churches during her career. Retired Oklahoma SBC Pastor, Paul Burleson, writes about the privilege of hearing “Miss Bertha” many times in conferences where they shared being keynote speakers. Burleson summarizes a Denver speaking engagement within a SBC context where, “Miss Bertha did not give a testimony, she did not bring a devotional, she ‘preached the Word in power.’” Burleson goes on to write:

“The SBC historically has been blessed by women, anointed by the Spirit, sharing the Word of God. It may not have been mainstream, but it was God, from my perspective.” (Paul Burleson, Friday, May 31, 5:49 p.m., Istoria Ministries Blog, comment section).8

Charles Stanley stated in Baptist Press, October 24, 2003:

“There are a number of women who are preachers who are preaching the gospel today, and they are being very successful at it and they are meeting people’s needs…You can’t tell a woman who is called by God to teach that she cannot teach the Word of God…so I think that there’s a difference between the authority of a pastor and a Bible teacher.”9

R C Sproul stated in a “Lecture from the Teaching Series The Role of Women in the Church:

”I see nothing in Scripture that precludes a woman from being a preacher…I believe you [a woman] can be a preacher in the church on a Sunday Morning Service.” 10

I give God praise for Sproul’s affirmation of the proclamation gifts given to women biblically allowed in worship.

Dr. W.A. Criswell stated, “The apostle [Paul] says that the woman is to pray and to prophesy (speak out for Christ) in the church. She has a worthy place of honor in the household of God’s redeemed.” 11 Dr. Criswell’ wife, Betty Criswell, taught men and women in church on Sunday’s in a group three times larger than the average SBC church.

E. God has raised up Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and hundreds of Baptist/Evangelical women who are filling pulpits on Sunday morning at a male pastor’s request.

F. If God’s Word is true (and it is), we will see more of this in Southern Baptist churches in the future. Let the Church Say Amen!

“The Lord gives the Word, Great is the host of women who proclaim it” (Psalm 68:11).

Dr. Sheri Klouda Sharp, a Hebrew scholar, comments on this verse:

“The Hebrew actually says:  The Lord gives forth His word, the ones who are proclaiming it a great host (company, etc.). The piel participle is feminine plural and you could even translate the participle as “the women proclaiming it a great host (number, company, etc.). The participle has a definite article on the front, typically translated as “the ones who are ‘doing an action.’”12

G. Bill Victor raises a great question on this topic: “If Phoebe came to your church with a letter from Paul, would you let her read it in the church?” 13 And I will add—will you let her read it on Sunday morning in worship? My answer would be, “yes”!!! Hard complementarians would answer, “No”!!!

There is something profoundly wrong with the idea that a woman cannot speak or preach from the pulpit, because that is exactly what Paul instructed Phoebe to do, and instructed the men  to, “assist her in whatever business she has need of you” (Romans 16:1-2). It is time for the church to let Phoebe, be Phoebe, Priscilla be Priscilla, and Phillip’s four daughters conduct the ministries under God’s authority, and God ordained male leadership, as He has instructed them to do, even preaching in a Lord’s Day Worship service.

ENDNOTES

1 “Kingdomarian – arian is a suffix that forms the ending for nouns corresponding to Latin adjectives that ended in -arius. The suffix is for personal nouns.” (Statement Providing Etymological Support for the term “Kingdomarian” by Marcus Jerkins, New Testament, PH.D. Candidate, Baylor University, Waco, TX, June 2019).

2 Pastor Steve Bezner Blog, “Room for Moore”: https://medium.com/@Bezner/room-for-moore-468d26bc8ef

3 Prophecy & Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, E. Earle Ellis, Baker Books, 1993.

4 Dr. L. Jack Gray, Studies of the Holy Spirit, Self-published Class Notes, Paper, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX.

5 William L. Lumpkin, The Second London Confession of Particular Baptists (1689), Baptist Confessions of Faith, Judson Press, 1969, p. 288.

6 Dr. Curtis Freemen, “A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England; A Reader”

7 H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, Four Centuries of Baptist Witness.

8 Paul Burleson, Friday, May 31, 5:49 p.m., Istoria Ministries Blog, Comment Section.

9 Charles Stanley, Baptist Press, October 24, 2003

10 R C Sproul, “Lecture from the Teaching Series The Role of Women in the Church,https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/role_of_women_in_the_church/role-of-women-in-the-church/.

11 W.A. Criswell, Chriswell’s Guidebook for Pastors, Broadman Press, Nashville, TN, 1980, p. 94.

12Dr. Sheri Klouda Sharp, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Former Chair and Director, MARS Program, Taylor University, Upland, IN. (Statement).

13 Bill Victor, Tweet by Bill Victor on Twitter, Bill Victor (@billyv_33), 6/1/19, 9:29 PM.

BIRMINGHAM BOUND SBC ‘19
By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

I. I seriously internally and externally debated about attending SBC ’19 Birmingham because SBC entities repeatedly refuse to hire minorities as president of one of the entities, even when they are highly qualified. There have been five entity head vacancies in the SBC over the past 18 months. Four of the five have been filled. No minorities have been hired to date. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement.

II. The ten entity heads of the SBC assemble at least biannually, in a meeting known as the Great Commission Council. In a Convention comprised of 20% minorities—Asians, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, it is disheartening that SBC entity trustee boards, always find a way to deem minorities less than the right fit or not the best qualified candidate to be offered an entity head president’s job—consequently, disqualifying any minority service or the Great Commission Council. For the Great Commission Council to look like the White Citizens Council in the SBC is painful and shameful.

III. It is my intention to ask the chairman of the five entities who have hired, or will be soon, to answer these questions: (1) Were there any minorities interviewed as finalist for the job of president of the entity that you represent? (2) If not, why not?

IV.   I have received three responses from the five entities that I wrote letters to asking pointed questions regarding minority hiring/interviews as entity head presidents.

The SBC Executive Committee and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary did not offer a response to my letter of inquiry regarding minority interviews or finalist; again, I am very disappointed with their non-response. I did get an email from Ronnie Floyd, recently elected President of the EC, stating that the Chairman of the Search Committee and/or the Chairman of the EC Trustees would have to respond to my letter because he was new on the job and literally did not have the information to answer my questions. In a brief text message exchange with Dr. Adam Greenway, recently elected President of SWBTS, he responded similarly to Dr. Floyd; new to the job, did not know the answers to my questions; answers would have to come from the search committee for President, from SWBTS or Trustees.

Dr. Chuck Kelly, the recently retired President of NOBTS, responded with a thoughtful and thorough four-page letter. Honestly, I was encouraged by Dr. Kelly’s letter.

Regarding the report that he had stated that a minority hiring at NOBTS would not be good for fundraising reasons—Dr. Kelly said he has “been misrepresented, but have no intention of responding in kind with criticisms…or making elaborate defenses.” Dr. Kelly further stated:

“To get to the point of your question, I believe any person of any race can raise money effectively when they are doing what God wants them to do. Based on my experience as a candidate for a seminary presidency, I will say that any candidate, Anglo or minority, should expect Trustee perceptions about their ability to raise the millions of dollars required by academic institutions in today’s world, to be an important factor in candidate evaluations. It is not a racial issue. It is an experience issue. What evidence will Trustees see that you can do this?”

Dr. Kelly laid out four recommendations at my request, to increase the odds of a minority being hired as an entity head at NOBTS:

1. “Doctorate required, PhD strongly preferred; extensive, effective ministry experience in SBC churches expected; have a healthy marriage with no divorce in your past; clearly know and have a long-standing commitment to CP, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and the NOBTS Articles of Religious Beliefs (required of all faculty members and Trustees); and get clear experience in as many elements of a President’s role and/or the school’s mission and story as possible.”

2. “[G]et connected to the NOBTS family in as many ways as possible, such as participation in alumni activities, MissionLab ministry involvement, interaction with professors, etc. In other words, know the school and be known by people in the NOBTS family.”

3. “Get recommended…The number of recommendations can make a difference and the significance of the people making a recommendation can matter. I would advise against recommending yourself. For many Baptist search committees, self-nomination to be a President will send you to the bottom of the stack.”

4. “Understand and be able to articulate how and why you believe you fit into the larger NOBTS story…”

5. “We have forty Trustees. At present those forty Trustees include one African American, one Korean and three women.”

I know from independent sources that NOBTS actually interviewed two African American candidates who were finalists. In my judgment, the single most important factor related to why neither of the African American finalists was selected: because there is only one African American Trustee. That is where the crime is! Minorities in the SBC are experiencing taxation without representation.

Dr. Kelly would disagree with me: “You think the system is broken when it comes to hiring minorities to serve as entity heads. I disagree. I think it is undeveloped…The problem is a lack of focused attention on minority leadership development.”
I do not totally disagree with Dr. Kelly’s assessment. The truth probably lies somewhere between his position, and my position, that minorities are not being hired, because minorities are woefully not being appointed to trustee boards.

Dr. Kelly responded as a sage. My respect for him increased exponentially after reading his letter. In response to allegations of racism being hurled at him, because of a reputed remark that he recommended to the NOBTS Trustees, not to hire a minority President because of their inability to raise funds, Dr. Kelly’s response: “Flaws I have in abundance, but I am not a racist.” I accept Dr. Kelly’s explanation of the reputed racist remark. To the extent, I accepted and publicly articulated my view of his remark is racist, without the benefit of his broader and genetic application of the fundraising requirements of a NOBTS President—I apologize to Dr. Kelly for believing and further spreading the remark.

LifeWay has not hired a President as of this date. Brad Waggoner, Interim President, responded to my inquiry. He revealed that there are four minority trustees at LifeWay. Of these four, I have no idea if one is African American or not. I have been encouraged by Jim Richardson and Steve Gaines tweeting their support for a woman entity president at LifeWay, if the search committee made such a recommendation.

President J.D. Greear is advancing the SBC forward with the increased appointments of minority trustees. For that, I am grateful.

V.  I am looking forward to a debate/dialogue with Tom Ascol regarding “Does the Bible Permit Women to Preach in The Lord’s Day Worship Service?” on Monday, June 10, 4:00 p.m. at the Westin Birmingham. God has been gracious to me in my preparation. I am grateful to Rev. Ascol for accepting my challenge to debate this issue. Tom and I are often on opposite sides of many SBC hot-button issues. We both are “scrappy fellows.” My appreciation for him is sincere though, and I tell you why. In the early years of my attending the SBC, Tom reached out to me a hand of welcome and friendship. He invited me to a breakfast at a Founders Gathering and paid for my meal. Hardly two people in the SBC at the time even knew my name. Somehow, Tom knew of me, and extended a hand of welcome and brotherhood. That meant a lot to me; when you are a minority, at a SBC meeting, it helps when a member of the majority, goes out of their way to offer fellowship and friendship.

VI. The “For Such a Time as This Rally” is a significant gathering, that I am grateful to be asked to serve as one of their speakers on Tuesday, June 11, 6:15 p.m.

VII. “The Dangers of Social Justice Panel” is perhaps the only place where the potential for sparks to fly at an unofficial convention-related gathering, will take place, Monday, June 10, 7:00 p.m., at the Westin Birmingham. Tom Buck and Tom Ascol are both on this panel. I consider both “frenemies”; no, we are friends who simply often disagree. I love those brothers. I have never met Josh Buice. Whoever approved of the panel subject matter with the Black Power symbol in the background, simply do not appreciate or understand racial insensitivity. Thankfully, the Black Power sign from the promo materials has recently been removed. I pray that this event will be less explosive than I anticipate. At Tom Buck’s request, I submitted four questions, that I hope are asked and answered:

1. Will you please specify any “dangers” that you would associate with the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 50’s and 60’s?
2. Do you view the battle to end legal abortion as a social justice movement? If so, why? If not, why not?
3. Why is it that White SBC pastors do not address clear cases of police brutality, as they do the abortion issue?

And, with these seven concerns, and objectives, off to Birmingham I go!

FIVE QUESTIONS I RESPECTFULLY ASK, FIVE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION ENTITIES TO ANSWER

BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

Five Entities: Southern Baptist Executive Committee (EC), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), International Mission Board (IMB), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) and Lifeway.

There are five questions that I plan to forward to five SBC entities (listed above), who have hired, or will be hiring a President for each entity, in the months ahead. If I get actual, specific answers to these questions in writing before the Annual Session of the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, in June, I will not find it necessary to ask these questions during each of these five entities’ report to the Convention. If I don’t get answers to these questions, I will feel compelled to ask these questions on the floor of the Convention.

  1. Will you please share with me the total number of minority applicants for the Presidency of the IMB, SWBTS, EC, NOBTS and Lifeway, by the date of this letter?
  2. Will you please share with me the total number of minority applicants that made the list of the top three finalist for the presidency of each entity (IMB, SWBTS, EC, NOBTS and Lifeway)?
  3. Will you please share with me the total number of minority applicants who were interviewed at each entity (IMB, SWBTS, EC, NOBTS and Lifeway)?
  4. Will each entity give your answer to the question that was reportedly expressed by a retiring entity head (that hopefully was simply an innocuous, objective and pragmatic question, as opposed to a racist question): Do you believe that a minority entity head would adversely affect the donor base of the SBC and her entities?
  5. Will you give your answer to the question regarding your comfortability and compatibility with numerous resolutions of the SBC expressing the aspirational goal of minority inclusion and empowerment at every level of SBC life: If there are no minorities hired as entity heads between now and the near future, is that philosophically and pragmatically, a picture and a reality that your entity would be comfortable with?

Thanks for your consideration and contribution of the answers to each of these five questions. The answers to the questions will be very helpful in understanding the diversity pool of SBC potential leadership, who has expressed an openness to serve our Convention. The answers will also provide valuable information needed to be proactive in recruiting minorities to apply for future vacancies. Finally, it will give trustee board members a scientific, statistical analysis of what progress is being made toward the SBC Great Commission Council, reflecting the diversity of the scope of the Great Commission. I am really grateful for your anticipated response/answers to these questions.

For His Kingdom,

William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

TO ATTEND, OR NOT ATTEND, THAT IS THE QUESTION

by William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

I enjoy attending the Annual Session of the Southern Baptist Convention each year. Our annual Vacation Bible School and the second week of June SBC session have often conflicted on our church calendar. I have usually opted to attend the SBC, when that occurs, and left an Associate in charge. This year we scheduled the VBS for the last week of June, to make sure it didn’t conflict with the SBC and/or the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education meeting in Baltimore.

However, as of today, I’m seriously contemplating whether or not to attend the SBC Birmingham, 2019. Why? To be perfectly honest, I have conflicting emotions about the SBC’s commitment to giving Asians, Hispanics, and African Americans an opportunity to interview for, and be hired as one of the Presidents of the nine Southern Baptist entities.

My ambivalent feelings are not in any wise related to fellow Arkansan, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, being elected as President of the SBC Executive Board. I actually think Ronnie was a good choice, and I have every reason to believe that he will give the Kingdom and the SBC his absolute best. If God gives our Convention the favor under Ronnie’s leadership, that God gave to the Cross Church, Fayetteville, AR, where Dr. Floyd serves as pastor, we have a bright future ahead of us. My prayers and heart is for Kingdom advancement in the SBC over the next few years.

The election of Ronnie Floyd did bring to memory the controversy surrounding the letter forwarded to the EC nominating committee regarding whether or not a minority candidate was interviewed for the presidency of the EC. The EC Board of Trustees adamantly refused to answer the question, which indicated to me they had not interviewed a minority candidate. I know with certainty a highly qualified Black applicant, with a Ph.D. from a SBC seminary, experienced pastor, seminary professor, and an experienced State Executive Director, was not interviewed or seriously considered by the EC Search Committee. It is baffling to me, how do you deny such a qualified person an interview? I could accept the fact that the Committee may consider Dr. Floyd the better fit, or the more capable of the two…but to not even interview the minority candidate? BAFFLING!!!

I know for certain, a highly qualified Black candidate has submitted his name for the vacancy as President of Lifeway. At least two qualified Blacks submitted their resumes for the vacancy of the President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Every applicant has an earned doctorate, two with Ph.D.’s, and extensive experience in SBC life. Yet, none of them currently are the leading candidates for the vacancies at any of these SBC entities. BAFFLING!!!

You will never convince me that out of five vacant entity head positions, it was God’s will in every instance for an Anglo to be selected. You will never convince me in a denomination that is comprised of a 20% minority population, and assigned to disciple the nations, that at every gathering of the Great Commission Council of the SBC, it should resemble the convening of The White Citizens Council.

If the SBC continues down this road of electing five White entity heads, in the most recent vacancies, the message being sent to minorities is: You can ride on the bus, but don’t ever expect to drive it.

Failing to interview, seriously consider and to hire minority candidates have left me with a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I may be a part of a denomination driven by systemic racism and a White Supremacy construct that simply cannot and will not empower and submit to minority leadership. Wrestling with this thought is very disconcerting for me.

Finally, I may not attend for a very practical reason. I’ve decided to re-enroll as a student at SWBTS to complete my Masters. I plan to take one class every semester, including the May Term, January Term, Summer semester, Fall and Spring, until I finish. Therefore, I may be in class this summer and simply need to be disciplined and focused. I had hoped to enroll in a class that would give me credit for attending the SBC Annual Convention, as some classes do.

I am really enjoying a Church History II class taught by Dr. Robert Caldwell. This semester we are required to read, “The Democratization of American Christianity” by Nathan O. Hatch. In Chapter six, “The Right to Think for Oneself,” Page 171, Hatch writes:

The anguish of injustice and poverty makes unacceptable the implication that God is ordaining, and taking pleasure in, whatever happens. African-Americans, for instance, found little place for pre-destination in their understanding of Christianity. In Wilkinson County, Mississippi, a slave gravedigger, with a younger helper, asked a white stranger a question:

“Massa, may I ask you something?”

“Ask what you please.”

“Can you ‘splain how it happened in the fust place, that the white folks got the start of the black folks, so as to make dem slaves and do all de work?”

The younger helper, fearing the white man’s wrath, broke in: “Uncle Pete, it’s no use talking. It’s fo’ordained. The Bible tells you that. The Lord fo’ordained the Nigger to work, and the white man to boss.”

Dat’s so. Dat’s so. But if dat’s so, then God’s no fair man!”

Hatch then concludes:

“The forms of Christianity that prospered among African-Americans were not accepting of the status quo. They supported a moral revulsion of slavery and promised eventual deliverance, putting God on the side of change and freedom.”

God is on the side of change and freedom. It is time for the SBC to change. If the SBC does not change in this cycle of entity hiring, when will she change? Will she ever change? I am not sure of the answers to these questions.

Like the older slave in the above story, I just have this question: Why is it that a minority can’t ever lead an SBC entity? Is it fore ordained? God forbid! But what I do know, I cannot get excited about attending a convention where I have to ask these questions, because repeatedly I see the white power structure leave my people only with questions, but no answers.

To attend, or not attend, that is the question. At the moment, I remain uncertain.

 

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