LYNCHING WITHOUT ROPES: PART 2

   noose  Ferguson, Missouri is a microcosm of every ghetto in America. Ghetto is much more than a physical fact; it is also “a state of mind.” I write to prophetically admonish our youth that slavery is still legal in these United States of America as embedded in the exception clause of the Thirteenth Amendment section 1. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”If you are wantonly gunned down like Michael Brown or convicted of a crime, you are a candidate for lynching.   Why do you suppose the criminal police force of Ferguson released the tapes accusing Michael Brown of robbery simultaneously with the release of the name of the executioner cop Darren Wilson? The goal is to make the victim the villain, an old worn out overused tactic. Whatever Michael did or did not do, he had a “right to life.” To die with one’s hands up a symbol of universal surrender, from the bullets of an officer who has taken a sworn oath to protect and serve is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated in civil society. We must speak for generations present and unborn. I am incensed and there are no options left but to speak truth to power. What can insure us against the likelihood of such future lynchings with ropes (overt street executions) or without ropes (covert institutionalized violence)?

     There are days I wish I had the option of retiring from the prophetic vocation and becoming a motel manager in the wilderness (Jeremiah 9:3ff), and operate in a silent mode (20:9) indefinitely and never mention God or speak anymore in His name. Perhaps that is one way to avoid undue criticism. Then Jeremiah yields to the “fire shut up in his bones and could not hold his peace.” My primary vocation is to proclaim the Gospel. My secondary task as a trained ethicist is to think critically and prophetically where matters of social justice are at stake. My colleague Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Princeton professor has admonished us with clarity about the danger of a bankrupt theology and its implication for matters of justice.

     It is verifiable that people of color receive harsher sentences for lesser crimes. That people of color are more frequently incarcerated for alleged crimes never committed. Several recent media stories point to the incarceration and execution of people of color due to errors with forensic evidence. I was admonished by a young rising prominent attorney in Atlanta, Georgia decades ago to never enter a court room without legal counsel. Our broken legal system is symbolic of ropes in the closet. Have you noticed that CNN made Mark O’Mara the attorney who represented George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, a legal analyst? This is how overt institutionalized violence becomes the norm resulting in structural and systemic injustice. O’Mara was rewarded for defending a guilty George Zimmerman. The ropes utilized were clearly out of sight. O’Mara worked the broken criminal justice system.

     The recent multiple deaths by execution implemented by out of controlled cops, is adequate testimony that it is easy as well as legal for bad cops to misuse their badge by tampering with forensic evidence, weaving a credible narrative and moving on to business as usual. I ask where is the Faith Community? I propose: 1.Build trust between law enforcement and local community 2. Build Coalitions that will create policies that will insure the safety and welfare of citizens and Police 3. Keep open communication between citizens and law enforcement entities. God demands that our voices be heard on behalf of the voiceless until justice rings throughout this land. The Faith Communities must not give up until “Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Reverend Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ph. D, Ecumenical Officer Church of God in Christ

PART II NAKED AND UNASHAMED: A Christian Response to Marriage and Homosexuality

Part II   NAKED AND UNASHAMED

A Christian Response to Marriage and Homosexuality

Dr. Leonard Lovett

Genesis 3: 10 ff. “I heard you were coming and did not want you to see me naked, so I hid.”     ….”who told you you were naked.” A myth is a device used to probe for a deeper meaning of a narrative. Adam experiences the ultimate confrontation by God in the form of a question that is unavoidable. The fundamental problem for Adam is that this question is not rhetorical. An objective direct response is demanded. Innocence is lost by one act of disobedience and thus the incursion of sin into the world. The Fall has occurred and innocence has been violated. Shame occurs within the context of a framework of assigned norms and regulatory rules. There is no true and lasting freedom separate from responsibility. Without parents, family or friends to interact with Adam was given total freedom. Eve is created for partnership but eats forbidden fruit. Shame occurs when one’s hidden protected selfhood is revealed within the framework of norms designed to protect one’s better self. Shame is the consequence and product of knowledge. It is only when we have acquired knowledge that shame is made real. With the Fall comes shame. Since the Fall to be naked and ashamed is to be open to the paradox of grace. The ontology of shame makes us open to the intervention of grace.

     Scripture does not give us a detailed theory of sexuality, but it does provide a perspective on life that includes our sexuality. Modern media exploits the visual exploratory aspects of raw sex strictly for the purpose of  instant sexual gratification. The same media miss the inner reality of the sexual act which is to make the participants “one flesh.” If the act does not point to total life-union it is morally inappropriate to indulge in same. When one indulges in the act for the purpose of self-gratification and not fulfillment of the other with whom life–union is to be experienced, the very act can become addictive and empty, devoid of meaning. Sexuality in and of itself is good, and the misuse of it for the wrong reasons makes it bad. We who are heterosexual must exercise caution, compassion and humility when making judgments about homosexuals due to our own ignorance. Even homosexuals are not experts on their sexuality and much of it is a mystery just as it is for heterosexuals. Many young people go through a phase where they show strong feelings for members of their own sex often without realizing it and move on to heterosexual life styles. Some people go in and out of both sexual worlds, never knowing for sure where they really belong. Some experience homosexual relations in prisons and the military and return to a heterosexual life. The very term homosexual refers to a wide variety of experiences.

     The biblical word is that homosexuals like others are called to be morally responsible for their behavior. It appears from beginning to end of scripture that the heterosexual union is God’s intention for sexuality. From the beginning “He made them male and female” so that they might become “one flesh.” The Faith Community must provide absolute support and love for anyone who embraces homosexuality with a deep sense of compassion, realizing that “we have all fallen short of the grace of God.” The primary purpose of this brief essay is not necessarily to provide answers as much as it is to raise the right questions. The cry from Eden is still alive and fierce, “who told you that you were naked?” Eden is closed, but there stands an angel with a flaming sword. There is another garden…it is Gethsemane.

 

     A couple years ago a good friend sent me a little classic fairy tale titled, The Emperor’s New Clothes. The narrative is about an emperor in a faraway land who loved clothes. He had a different outfit for every hour of every day. He never left his dressing room except to ride through the kingdom in his carriage to show off his clothes. Tailors and seamstresses came from all over the world to show the king the latest colors and designs. One day two tricksters posing as weavers came to the palace. They told the emperor that they have come to tell him about the most fantastic fabric in the world. It is fine, light and beautiful and that people who are stupid or unfit for their jobs can not see it. Just think, they, they said, if you had clothes made of this special fabric, you would discover which men in the kingdom are unfit for their offices. You would be able to tell the fools from the wise. The emperor agreed and paid the two tricksters a lot of money in advance to make him a suit of this special cloth.

     The tricksters asked for spools of silk and pure gold thread. They set up two looms in an empty shop in the middle of the Kingdom; The spools of silk and pure gold thread went into the trickster’s bags, not on the looms. Then the two sat at their empty looms and pretended to weave, long into the night. The next day the emperor wanted to see the cloth. But he was a tiny bit afraid that he might be unfit for his position, and if that were true, he did not want anyone to know it. So instead of going to the weaver’s shop himself, the emperor sent his most wanted advisor. The advisor could see nothing, of course, since there wasn’t anything to see. Dear me, the advisor said to himself…”Does this mean that I am a fool? I can not tell the emperor that I can not see the cloth!” So he went back to the emperor and reported that the cloth was indeed beautiful. The emperor soon sent another of his faithful officials to see the weavers’ cloth. Of course that man could see nothing either, but he did not want to admit this to anyone. “How can it be that I am a fool?” he wondered. So he assured the weavers that the cloth was lovely and he told the emperor that his new clothes were going to be splendid. The emperor decided that he wanted to see this magnificent fabric, while it was still on the loom. So he called the royal court to go with him to the weaver’s shop. The tricksters were working away as hard as ever at their looms when the emperor and the royal court arrived.

     The weavers showed the emperor the invisible fabric The emperor looked at the weavers and then at the members of the royal court. The fabric is marvelous your Majesty they all began to say. Quite amazing! Splendiferous! What design! What colors! The emperor was dismayed. “Can they all see what I cannot see? He thought “Am I unfit for my position? Am I a fool? I must not let anyone know.” Then he pretended to feel the fine fabric and admire its colors and pattern along with everyone else. The tricksters promised to complete the emperor’s new suit by morning. Someone suggested, “why not have a procession to let all of your subjects see your wonderful new clothes?” they suggested. The emperor agreed. That night the tricksters burned sixteen candles while they pretended to cut and sew the invisible cloth. In the morning they took the invisible cloth to the palace. “Here is the coat,” they said, pretending to hold something up to be seen. “These are the trousers, and this is the shirt.”

     The emperor undressed and put on the new clothes, at least he pretended to put them on. “How well the emperor looks in his new clothes,” said all the members of the royal court, for no one was willing to admit that he could not see a thing. The procession began. The emperor’s chamberlains walked behind him, pretending to put them on. “How well the emperor looks in his new clothes.” Said all the members of the royal court, for no one was willing to admit that he could not see a thing. The procession began. The emperor’s chamberlains walked behind him, all pretending to hold up the long train of his coat. All the people in the kingdom stood along the roads to see the emperor and his new clothes.

     “How beautiful the emperor’s clothes are!” said the people as the procession passed by. “What a wonderful fit! How elegant!” None of them wanted to be thought a fool either. The two tricksters laughed all the way out of town with their bags full of silk and golden thread and the money the king had paid for his new clothes. The procession continued. Then one little child pulled on his father’s coat and said, “But Papa, the emperor has nothing on.” Nothing on?” repeated the boy’s father. “The emperor has nothing on!” all the people cried at last. The emperor knew it was true, but the parade continued through the town and back to the palace. What else could he do? He certainly did not want to admit that he had been a fool.

     When leaders listen to the wrong people around them the consequences can be catastrophic. Whoever sits upon the throne of your life guides your decisions. If sexuality sits upon the throne of your life, it becomes ruler. Be careful and discerning about who you listen to lest you end up naked and ashamed.

 

Part I Naked and Unashamed: A Christian Response to Marriage and Homosexuality

               Naked and Unashamed

                               A Christian Response to Marriage and Homosexuality

Leonard Lovett, Ph.D

 

     The narrow lens through which I view marriage is through my Judaea- Christian heritage. The broader lens through which I view marriage is through modern culture. My faith informs the perspective I bring to the table. I am unashamedly Christian and a radical follower of Jesus who is the Christ. I honestly believe that gay bashing and homophobia are wrong. I find it difficult   to worship a God who would endorse either. We are created in the image of a God who has assigned intrinsic value and worth to each of us. However when a kid brags about having two daddies or two mommies, it is time to speak to the core of the issue. We must not take lightly this delicate and sensitive matter and the framing of the issue. When our nation waffles on an issue this important, it is a sure road to moral vertigo.

     The perversion and misuse of sexuality is linked to the massive power intrinsic   within it. Sex is so powerful that the institution of marriage was designed to regulate and direct the pleasure and procreative power of same. The original divine intent of marriage is that it be unique and permanent. [Genesis 2:23ff] ”Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Marriage between male and female appears to be the biblical norm. The purpose of sex is unification, recreation and procreation.  The Faith Community has cautiously approached the task of telling especially young people how to handle their developing sexuality. There are creative ways to handle one’s sexuality, and it is called sublimation. How does a sexually starved person function as a Christian?

     Throughout scripture there is no rule for premarital sexual intercourse. Sexual Intercourse beyond the boundaries of a loving covenant relationship is an illegitimate   form of marriage because it joins persons in an illicit way without their intent to sustain a unique and permanent relationship. Consequently, premarital sex should be avoided not because it is bad but rather because it is good. It is the misuse of a good thing for the wrong reasons that makes it inappropriate. Theologically, sin is a misuse of our freedom. Multiple sexual partners equals multiple marriages. (I Cor. “He who joins himself to a harlot becomes one flesh.”

     There are essentially four (4) basic responses to homosexuality*.1. Punitive rejection This position is usually held by ultra-conservative, self-righteous, judgmental persons who use fear, hatred and homophobia as weapons to punish persons who are different. The tendency is to impose punishment upon persons we perceive to be homosexual. 2. Non-punitive rejection. This position is embraced by persons who accept homosexuals without imposing any form of punishment on them. 3. Conditional acceptance This position is embraced by persons who embrace the persons with certain negative illicit behavior as they go through a choir. 4. Unconditional acceptance. This position is embraced by persons who accept homosexuals without any conditions, for who they are as persons. Conclusion: We must be reminded that God’s love is not a “swishy” sentimental love. To emphasize the love of God and exclude His wrath is to create a god out of the figment of your imagination. An addictive adultery is far worse than homosexuality when looking at the residual and collateral damage to other persons. Narcissistic pride is the root cause of our sinfulness and rascality. We contend that Christian Scripture is our basic rule for faith and practice

 

*{Four responses are from Henry Sloan Coffin, A Passion for the Possible, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993)

Dr. Leonard Lovett is founding Dean Emeritus of the CH Mason Seminary the Church of God in Christ

June, 2014

If It Doesn’t Fit…Challenging an Unjust legal Opinion (October 1995)

If It Doesnt Fit…Challenging an Unjust legal Opinion

Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

The expensive legal opinion rendered by the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell and passed on to the Board of Bishops as a basis for by-passing the November election for a Presiding Bishop, simply does not fit.* It is not what the opinion stated that is crucial, but rather what it omits that is important. Remember lawyers are trained to give you back what you give them. (garbage in…means garbage out). The six questions asked in the document were designed (stacked) to favor the interim Presiding Bishop. The problem is that someone failed to ask the right questions. Page three, paragraph two of the opinion is incorrect and simply does not fit.

The General Board did not and could not create a policy of succession upon the death of    Bishop  Patterson. It is not a law-making body. Bishop L. H. Ford personally pleaded and appealed to the general church in an open meeting to complete his predecessor’s term. What you did not know is that within twenty-four hours Bishop Ford was respectfully reminded that technically he was not the Presiding Bishop. Only the General Assembly can elect a Presiding Bishop. With the mike, money and manpower must really ask why the fear of an election? It does not fit…

The Pattern of Succession of Leadership [Office of Presiding Bishop]Let us review the facts since the demise of Presiding Bishop J. 0. Patterson. On December 29, 1989, Bishop J. 0. Patterson succumbed. On the evening of the day of his burial a special meeting was held at Mason Temple. Bishop L H. Ford stood and verbally pleaded to the general church in an open meeting for the privilege of serving the remaining term of Bishop Patterson. The general church sanctioned Bishop Ford’s request by voice vote, not the General Assembly. The Chairman of the General Assembly was bound by the Constitution to convene a special session for the purpose of electing a Presiding Bishop even though Bishop Ford had been sanctioned only (45) days earlier. On February 15, 1990,Chairman Frank Ellis sent a letter to the Board of Bishops announcing the agenda for the Spring Session (April 3 – 6) of the General Assembly. A special selection was held during a non-quadrennial year. Two years later (1992) Bishop Ford was re-elected.Thus the pattern for succession had been established by precedent. This pattern superseded and overrides any previous charter established and legally renders null and void any legal opinion set forth. Please note that the Chairman of the General Assembly’s agenda was precise and deliberate. The agenda consisted of eight items. They are as follows:

                                        April 3, 1990 Agenda

1. Memorial tribute to the late Bishop J. 0. Patterson, Sr.

2. Election to fill the vacancy on the General Board

3. Receive financial reports from each Jurisdiction

4. Consider several Constitutional Amendments

5. Hear reports from Trustee Board sub-committees

6. Elect the Presiding Bishop

7. Approve two (2) Assistant Presiding Bishops

8. Install new officers

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C. H. Mason: A Man Sent From God

C.H. Mason: A Man Sent From God

                                                                     Dr. Leonard Lovett

Founder and Chief Apostle of the Church of God In Christ [1866 – 1961]

   One of the most monumental figures in American Christianity, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, founding patriarch of the Church of God in Christ was born in 1866. Because of the impact of Bishop Mason, the face of American Christianity would never remain the same. He was born four years after Emancipation Proclamation to Jerry and Eliza Mason, former slaves and members of Missionary Baptist Church a few miles from Memphis. Indeed he was one sent from God. History was redemptive when little Charles Mason was stricken with a severe life threatening episode of fever and was miraculously healed by the power of God. One year after his fathers death (1879) he received Christ and was baptized into the Christian faith at the Mount Olive Baptist Church near Plummersville, Arkansas.

   After ordination and marriage in 1891, Elder Mason sought to educate himself by admission to Arkansas Baptist College. By 1894, the young Mason had completed his studies within the Institute of the college. By 1895 the influence of the Holiness Movement with its emphasis on sanctification had impacted the youthful Elder Mason. Under Wesleyan influence, their message had come to embrace perfection, characterized by “perfect love.” A division within the Methodist church in 1880 formed as a result of a controversy over John Wesley’s doctrine of sanctification. One group stressed “perfect love” while a separate group stressed a Spirit baptism separate and distinct from conversion.

     Sixty four years earlier (1816) Richard Allen had founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a direct result of racial divisions within the Body of Christ on earth. The emphasis on individualism tempered the spirit of the times and set the tone for the rise of black independent churches. Black worship and lifestyle proved to be problematic within mixed fellowships and resulted in the rise of independent black churches. In the midst of religious change and shifting loyalties, the youthful Elder Mason became attracted to the Holiness Movement  In 1895, he met Charles Price Jones, a newly elected pastor of the Mt Helms Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Jones influenced by the doctrine of sanctification as a Baptist pastor in Selma, Alabama. The united preaching of Jones and Mason created a crisis for conservative Black Baptist leaders. The preaching of sanctification became so offensive both preachers were excommunicated from the Baptist denominational.

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A Tribute to Bishop Elton A Lawrence

In the words of a renowned poet, “God’s finger touched him, and he slept.” A legacy of sainthood has been bequeathed to us as a result of the transitioning of Bishop Lawrence. In addition to being a spiritual leader, Pastor, Man of God husband and parent of two siblings (Welton and Mae who he loved beyond measure), he was indeed a saint. During the Winter break of 1961 while attending Morehouse College, Bishop Lawrence extended an invitation to me to come minister in Detroit on my journey from Supt T Harris church in Flint on Lippincott Blvd. This was the beginning of a life- long friendship. I was with him when he bought his first Cadillac limousine in 1975. A decade later he invited me to use the first level of his house to rest for a week. He and his wife were consummate host. There I encountered the human side as we went fishing on Lake Michigan with the chairman of his deacon board who admonished me that : “the pastor doesn’t like for anyone to catch a fish before him.” I remarked, “that is his problem.” I caught the first fish while practicing how to cast the reel with no bait. He was one of the most friendliest, unpretentious, loving human being I have ever met. He was the co-efficient of consistency. His example appeared to have been of such that his works will “praise him in the gates.” He was one of a kind.

It was his authentic smile that was so distinguishing. and therapeutic for anyone who needed a lift. He loved his church and was content to shepherd the people of God with a high quality of leadership. I honestly believe he had a non-stop flight to glory on his departure. In the words of Paul the Apostle, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

My wife, Phyllis Marie and my sons join me in prayer for your family and the People of God. We say Sweet Shalom
Dr. Leonard Lovett