Correcting Social Injustices

In our Practical Commitments, subheading VII, division B (p.81 in the 2006 General Assembly Minutes, we have the following statement concerning Correcting Social Injustices:

Love for others and the recognition of the equal worth of all people in the sight of God (Acts 10:34; 17:26) should compel us to take steps to improve the situation of those who are underprivileged, neglected, hungry, homeless, and victimized by prejudice, persecution, and oppression (Matthew 23:29, Romans 13:8-10, 1 John 3:17) and guard against racial and economic discrimination. Every person should have freedom to worship and participate in the life of the church regardless of race, sex, color, sex, social class, or nationality.

In light of the above practical statement, how do we reconcile the following practices?:

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

  • The division of state offices in Florida along racial lines (Cocoa, Tampa, an Hispanic offices)?
  • The unwillingness of the Executive Committee to appoint people of color to state leadership outside of New England, New Jersey, New York, and Cocoa where the predominant racial makeup of the churches/pastors matches the person of color appointed.

ECONOMIC DISCRIMINATION

  • As technology has advanced, the need to travel long distances for meetings has decreased significantly.  In light of technological advances, I propose that our current General Assembly convention discriminates against Ordained Bishops and members of the General Assembly who would like to participate in “the life of the church” but who cannot due to international travel, distance, time off (half of our US pastors are bi-vocational), and travel expenses.

CORRECTIVE QUESTIONS

  1. Are we blunting the leadership expression of our church in our racial discrimination by not allowing non-white ABs admission into the vast majority of our states in the USA?
  2. Are we failing to demonstrate racial diversity in denominational leadership and thus perpetuating racial division locally?
  3. Are we failing to hear the breadth of the voice of our denomination because we have made it increasingly difficult for massive segments of our church body to have a voice in the life of our church?
  4. What corrective measures need to be taken to reoncile our policy against racial and economic discrimination with our practices of institutionalized racism and an increasing economic discrimination against the majority of our ministers who simply cannot participate because of the cost of entry?
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12 Responses

  1. You’ve picked an explosive topic.

    Let me make three observations.

    First, let’s start by losing the expression “people of colour.” I explain the rationale for this at

    http://www.vulcanhammer.org/?p=194

    Second, there’s another way of looking at this. If we look at the actual growth patterns of our church both inside and outside the U.S., most of this growth is among non-white people. If these people aren’t represented properly in the leadership, chances are in the long run they won’t be joining our church. It’s that simple. I heard one Seminary professor refer to this exclusion as a “sin” but I think we need to consider this issue in terms of survival of the church and the propagation of the faith.

    Right after the last GA, I attended the Ministers’ Meeting for Eastern Canada (Ontario.) ECAN is a mostly West Indian region, but when they constituted their boads, Brother Peart explicitly insured that every ethnic group (including the few Anglo churches) were properly representated on the region’s boards. Everyone seemed to be happy with this arrangement. I was impressed. (The jerk chicken and the oxtail were awesome, too.)

    Third, how many non-Anglo ministers and lay people are active in the COG blogosphere and Actscelerate?

  2. A few simple thoughts:
    (1) I like Don pointing out the practical implications of our growth patterns, and not just the spiritual pathologizing (though I think we need need both). This is not just an issue of social justice. In 2008 it is now just plain stupid.

    (2) Internationalization is a HUGE topic and we’ve been debating it for 20+ years and have done, as we say here in the south, ‘dittly-squat’ so far. The problem is that everyone is waiting around for some change in policy and organization (which is badly overdue). However, this won’t begin to change with a change in structure. This will only begin to change with a change in heart. We need a mindset change, as I tried to point out here.

    (3) A change in heart will lead to a change in fellowship, invitations to be together, to be one another’s homes, to get to know one another, to support one another in prayer. As our hearts are turned toward the international church, as we come to know them, the corrective measures that are needed will become obvious.

    (4) I think Don’s question about the vanillalility (I think I just coined that!) of the CoG blogosphere is potentially VERY helpful!

  3. “Vanillalility.” Difficult time with pronunciation but, I like it.

    I can only speak for the blogosphere I have a hand in…that’s the Life Pointe Bloggers which you can find on my blog (6 anglos, 7 latinos).

    I can look to my district where I’m the only Anglo. The rest are Jamaican. I can look to my county where I am one of two Anglo COG pastors, the rest being Haitian, Jamaican, Latinos, and a variety of other races/cultures dotting the landscape.

    So, perhaps the reason I get frustrated with the separate bathrooms for the black folk, white folk, and brown folk is that we function together here in community but our leadership in Tampa, Tampa, and Cocoa is perpetuating an institutionalized racism.

    We need to confront the powerfully ridiculous institutions and fix them. Either that, or lets be honest about it and relocate the white offices to Ft. White, leave the Black offices in Cocoa, and move the Hispanic offices to Brownsville. 😉

  4. Travis, I’m glad you are so blessed to be in the minority there in S. Fla. However, it seems that your ‘local blogging network’ is not reflective of the CoG blogging ministers, which is still predominantly white, and even more predominantly American (USA citizens and patriots). Why is that?

    Technology is not a problem, neither is the blog as a medium in general, as this, this, or this will testify. Since you are lucky enough to be surrounded by some ethnic diversity, let me ask the question differently. Why is the CoG blogosphere so Americana?

    I would think that in our contermporary flat-world we have the opportunity to do some flattening right here in the blogosphere. I have little hope about reforming the institution (though I do my part and still also maintain a fool’s hope). However, I think a truly international CoG blogosphere would be exciting and powerful!

    If there are more Christian churches in India than in the USA how come we are not hearing from Indian bloggers on here? If the language of Christianity is Spanish how come we are not hearing from Hispanics on here? If the the statistical center of Christianity is Timbuktu, Mali how come we are not hearing from African bloggers on here? If the only known examples of rapid church planting movements are in China how come we are not hearing from Chinese bloggers on here? If S. Korea has become the single greatest concentration (per capita) of Christians in the world how come we are not hearing from Koreans on here?

    If we believe that this diverse, international network is not only possible, but even a moral obligation and issue of justice, then lets show them how to do it!!! What do you think?

  5. How would you recommend building a more international network? I’m definitely game.

  6. How many people actually know that a CoG blogosphere exists? I’m a child of the CoG AND live in holy C-town and I just discovered the CoG forum. I assumed the the CoG would begin jumping on this train years later, long after Pop culture had switched tracks. I cannot tell you how refreshing it has been to go back and read through the discussions you have been having here. Iron sharpening iron in an honest but safe environment. A place to come together and discuss issues, give observations and even offer critique. Kind of like a having a virtual cup of coffee with friends! (The cheesiness was intentional) Seriously though, it is a huge encouragement to me to see those I have looked up to having these kinds of conversations.

  7. In regards to the racism, I asked some of these same questions out West almost 20 years ago and was accused of being racist for wanting to blend all the divisions together. I was informed that those who operated the offices under the divisions actually fought to keep them that way. Now maybe we are ready for the blender.

    As for the meetings and distances, I remain staunch in my belief that the GA needs to be every 3 or 4 years saving millions for both the natl. and intrnatl. reps. I also believe there should be a better definition of a quorum and allowances should be made for internet voting.

    For state functions, I like what Bill Isaacs is doing for the LA meetings… making them more practical for pastors…and I look forward to the day when all state functions can be streaming.

    Coming from WV, a state that has 0 Black or Hispanic CoG congregations but 80 % or more of our flocks are at poverty level, I can definitely say the faster the CoG embraces the techno-means to connect our churches the better.

  8. I agree with the initial thought, that our church is definately not where it should be when it comes to multiethnicity (hope I spelt that right). But at the same time I have come to understand through my experience that it is not simply a matter of whites versus everyonelse (vanillalilaty). Culture and race is in fact a much deeper issue in other places of the world. I hope you understand what I am trying to say. Beyond race our church struggles simply with leadership from someone who has not even grown up amongst them or someone they cant relate to. I am a northerner all my life we accepted leadership from men who were not from our region. Only to get older and find that this is not the case in many of our states. We tend to accept only those who can relate to us. This definately should not be if that person is anointed and called of God who am I to question it.

    Beloved let us love on another , for love is from God an everyone who love is born of God and knows God.
    The one hwo does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

  9. Fickett,

    Great to see you in these parts. And, great questions.

    I think we all agree that our current track record with race relationships is fairly lousy…even embarrassing. We can do better. We sure better do better!

    In response to your comments about leadership that “relate to us,” I would have to say that our standard operating procedure should not be to hoist people into situations where they lack knowledge and expertise simply because they’re in the leadership pipeline.

    What happened to the Scriptural principle of selecting men from among us (Acts 6:3)? Instead, we select men from without and advance them in a direction that may be in direct opposition to the best interests of a particular state. These men are good men. But, they are largely unaccountable to those local churches.

    I am of the opinion that it is this very thing that causes and perpetuates racial divisiveness in our denomination and a host of other issues.

  10. Travis,

    I found an article on multethnic leadership through leadership.com. Very good stuff.
    Be Blessed

  11. For those of you who don’t know I am the associate pastor at the National Church of God, we are located in Washington DC. My family has been here for over 28 years. I am a Redskins fan and consider myself to be a northerner, one of few who will read this post. My family is makes up almost all the white people in our church. We are the largest “ethnic” Church in the American COG.

    I do not thing I am speaking out of turn when I say that cross ethnic leadership is a reality. I did not say that cross-cultural leadership work, because I am a Washingtonian. We no longer live in a world were “Yo MTV Rap” is different from the “countdown show.” The last frontier is the amalgamation of Hispanics into the mainstream. Race is slowly becoming less of an issue, and economic class is on the rise.

    Most of our congregation is made up of military and government workers. We have a lot of immigrants and locals that have meshed into one congregation. I feel that the one commonality is the fact that most are of the same economical class and seem to enjoy our particular “brand” of Church. I don’t consider our Church to be an “ethnic” Church, but rather a middle class family Church.

    We are known among the “evangelist” as being a hard place to get an invite from, because some guys don’t understand. We have had some people come and try to tailor their message, and to be honest it did not work.

    I know that I am living it, but as I look at it leadership should at least understand what their people are going through. You don’t send an honorary doctorate to teach at Lee University. I understand Travis and Chad’s points, but I feel as if there is a little more middle ground then we can at first see. However I don’t what to be like one of our presidential candidate who recently said to “ignore the educated because they make mistakes to.”

  12. Flexibility in non-essential issues can be important here.

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