Black Baptist Bishops
I had a friend ask me what I thought about the recent phenomena of Black Baptist bishops. This set me to thinking about a very neglected subject and that is the real relationship between the Black and White churches not the politically correct one, not the neatly packaged and comfortable one but the real one. Several years ago I had a elderly minister of a traditional Black denomination share with me his experience following the beginnings of integration in a norther city where his parish was located specifically how he and other African American clergy were treated by their white colleagues. After the Black clergy were invited to join the all white “ministers association” he happen to overhear quite accidentally two of the leading white clergymen discussing what they really thought about Black clergy now in membership in the association. Both were from well established or mainline Protestant churches and were the pastor and rector respectively of the two largest churches in this particular city. The elderly gentlemen said ” when the truth was revealed they did not consider us as their equals and thus it has always been with the White church leadership. We are thought to be less educated and our seminaries second rate and when the smoke clears we are treated even unintentionally like second class Christians”!
The traditional Black Churches came about becuase African Americans were not treated as equals and in some cases if not most because the “theology” of the white churches was inherently racist. The necessity of a theology of equality which was the gift of the Black Church to its white counterpart was sadly ignored or even opposed and the African American community had to develop its own spirituality and polity. This separation has been a mixed blessing in many ways and undoubtedly one of the positive aspects has been the recognition and the empowerment of the People of God rather than the presentation of an imperial hierarchy. The Black Church knew it would not receive, and or perhaps desire, and therefore it did not seek the approval of the white church which left it alone to be open to the movement of the Spirit in a very truly Reformed Church model.
If the so called “Independent Catholic Churches” which by in large are nothing more than a form of congregationalism, and a very small if not statistically insignificant form at that, with a generally decidedly “Roman” flavor had the passion, credibility, and honesty that the early founders of the Black Churches had it is reasonable to suggest you would see a similar envelopment as the Black Churches experienced.
If the Baptist see the role of a bishop in the New Testament sense it would behoove the episcopal churches to support and recognize this phenomena as a healthy and inclusive envelopment. If a congregation ordains one of its own to the order of bishop should not the universal church offer its assistance in the name of unity to make it a “regular” office?
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