Can Nepotism Destroy A Ministry?

                                                                       Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

     Nep-o-tism =  favoritism and patronage based on family relationship. Proverbs 15:27 “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house…” There appears to be a correlation between greed and nepotism in ministry. When independent  ministries are founded by a single person and their families, there is a tendency to think of the ministry in individualistic  rather than communal terms.  During the early stages of such ministries the musicians, teachers and staff consists of family. As the ministry expands, family members are replaced at the base and move upward toward the seat of power which is the pastoral office. A common trend is to place one’s siblings near the top in order to preserve family lineage.

It is crucial to understand the dynamics and in some instances justifiable reason this is done. In many instances control is the primary motivation for keeping family at the center and the top of the ministry. To be fair it is not wisdom to hold one’s siblings back who too are qualified to lead. On the other hand it is unfair to advance one’s siblings based on kinship and not qualification. Too often it is the latter notion that prevails. When ministry is viewed as personal property rather than the fruit of spiritual labor, it is driven by greed which is a form of idolatry. Once the ministry is fueled and motivated by greed, there are no boundaries or checkpoints sufficient to contain whatever takes place.

    Click here to read the complete article

  Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ecumenical Officer of the Church of God in Christ

Funeral Arrangement for a Dying Church Part 1


                                     (A Prophetic Challenge to the Faith Community)

         Bishop Martin L. Johnson


Death is inevitable whether it be persons, movements or institutions, it is a part of life. A little over five decades ago a movement labeled death of God theology emerged. This theological movement contended that belief in the traditional theistic God was absent and new ways and language about God was needed. Main proponents of this radical theology were Gabriel Vahanian, Paul Van Buren, William Hamilton, John A.T. Robinson, Thomas J.J. Altizer, John D.Caputo and Rabbi Richard L. Rubenstein. For them God had been reduced to a historical process and a renewed experience of deity was needed for modern humankind. The God-is-dead movement died, and rarely is it mentioned except in an academic course. This is adequate testimony that in many instances, death has its say, even with theological movements.

     While death is a part of the human-biological process, it is not a reality to which persons eagerly look forward. We are informed by the experiences of those who lived before us that the impending biological process will ultimately take its course and that those of us who are alive will eventually encounter the final denominator of life, death. It is rather encouraging that in recent years we have witnessed phenomenal strides in death and dying issues. While I am not an authority on euthanasia, I am informed that a slow death is in fact more traumatic and anxiety-producing than a sudden death. For in a sudden death one has less time to suffer and agonize over what will happen. During the period of a prolonged death one has options. In a hospice where palliative care is provided, one has the choice of pain medication, therapeutic exercises, counseling, bargaining, grief or accepting the inevitability of their demise. Nations, communities and even institutions, including the church resort to denial. Denial says, “It is not happening to us.” During the denial stage we tend to exhibit behavior that suggests to our significant others that we are okay, only to experience the calamity, of certain death.

     The supporting text for this brief reflection is Jeremiah, 9:17-19, which suggests a specific admonition to the impending reality of national death. For years we have utilized this passage as a divine call to revival. Contextually, the mourning, cunning and wailing women were only called or summoned in the event of a death. For the women designated in the text were members of a professional guild of mourners tasked with the function of mourning where there was a shortage of bereaved relatives. Indeed these were professional mourners. Jeremiah views this apparent cultural reality as having prophetic significance and inserts it into the message of his time to dramatize the dire straits of Israel’s tragic situation. While Israel appeared to exist as a nation, the prophet speaks with a strong sense of urgency of its imminent demise and proceeds to call for funeral arrangements. The Nation is dead with no one left to mourn its demise. (I Timothy 5:6.[KJV] ”But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”) I am inclined to state the obvious: funeral plans are not appropriated until death has occurred.

     While the notion of a “funeral arrangement” is used in a metaphorical sense I am compelled to speak prophetically. The Church has always had its Prophets and Priests, even though their roles and tenure varied. While the Priests spoke to God for humankind, the Prophet spoke to humankind for God. Additionally, the Priests lived long enough to retire but the Prophet died on the job. The role of the Prophet was a significant one in Ancient Israel in the sense that it called attention to the current and impending condition of the nation. The Prophet Jeremiah fulfills that role during the dark and final days of Judah’s daunting history. This pre-exilic Prophet lived during what was Judah’s final days as a Nation. It was his sad duty to announce to the Nation her impending death, by citing a funeral practice as an analogy and metaphor to describe Israel’s potential future. Because of the religious and political situations evident and the imminent political catastrophe, the Prophet Jeremiah utilizes a commonly practiced cultural and religious ceremony well understood in Judah.

Judah is now in the Land of Promise. She has long rejected theocratic rule. She has experienced many years of nationhood under Saul, David and Solomon. She has had a number of cross-cultural encounters, military engagements, and has been challenged religiously by alien gods and ritualistic practices that were totally different from the God of their fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Judah gradually forsook, the God of deliverance from Egypt, and from those nations in whose land she dwelt and gradually became servants of strange gods. It was the denial and rejection of Israel’s God that led to the demise of the Nation. Jeremiah chapter nine (9) capsules the alarming predicament in which the Nation found itself; imminent invasion, deportation and amalgamation into captivity. No one is exempt from the judgment of God, not even churches and denominations. We are all under judgment which begins at the House of God according to First Peter 4: 17.

     There are obvious signs of dying institutions and all livings things. When institutions are dying they resort to outside help; when institutions are dying they begin crash planning sessions; when churches are dying they interject programs but no progress, motion but no movement, numbers but no vision, things but no substance, bureaucracy but no bounty and, quantity but no quality. They suffer loss of identity. The loss of a social club within a particular community is not really serious. When a church dies it is major. One sign of the imminent death of a church is a gradual departure from the foundational tenets of one’s faith. Psalm 11:3 (KJV) “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” Death is imminent:

   When Spiritually is Faked

When we place Programs above People

When we Worship the Creature above the Creator

                 When Ethics, Moral Principles and Standards become Secondary

                         When Ritual Replaces Righteousness

                               When Revivals become Fundraising

                                     When we Lose Our Voice as the People of God



Bishop Martin L. Johnson is guest columnist for The Agora Blog for September 8 the week of the celebration of the Founder of the Church of God in Christ, Founding Chief Apostle Bishop Charles Harrison Mason. His brief reflective tome challenges and stretches us toward the high road if we are to be relevant in our time. He is no stranger to the academy having graduated from the Interdenominational Theological Seminary as a Mason Seminary student. He ranks among the top tier of graduate students that I have taught, having completed extensive doctoral studies in Education/History at New York University. Retired as a Colonel having served as a Commissioner of Chaplains for the Armed Forces Institutional Chaplaincy. Bishop Johnson is the senior prelate of the First Jurisdiction of New Jersey and pastor the Mt. Olive Church of God in Christ in Neptune, NJ. He has authored several books including Stony the Road We Trod: David Walkers Concept of Freedom and Theological Approaches to Pastoral Care; Is Anybody Listening?First Publisher (Available in Bookstores nation wide)     Chief Editor; Dr. Leonard Lovett

Dr. Lovett Invites “Preacher’s of LA to Ferguson


                       Dr. Lovett Invites the“Preachers of LA” to Visit Ferguson

     It is ironic that none of the “Preachers of LA” live or pastor in Los  Angeles proper. which premises the reality show on a falsehood. A few of them started in Los Angeles but  transitioned to Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles Counties and more recently Antelope Valley as their demographic shifted.  My burden is to challenge them to abandoned their comfort zone and visit Ferguson to engage in reality based ministry. In a metaphorical sense Ferguson is a microcosm of every hood in this nation where marginalized persons are struggling for survival in spite of all the external glitter. During the show’s inception, one preacher stated with glee that “their purpose was to show that ministers could live the same as professional athletes and celebrities.”  If that is their primary purpose, I honestly believe that the Jesus of Scripture will have major concerns with motive. “If money is your motive for ministry you are already corrupt even if you never steal one dime.”  Richard Exley – Peril of Power

      Let me be clear. We must remember that this is a show designed for entertainment for a hefty fee. The actors are not even fair amateurs.  They are pastors with their wives and significant others by vocation, so beware, what they say on this show is not the Gospel. Some clever media consultant in the cinema industry thought of a way they could birth another reality show. They reasoned that the Church should be the one sanitized institution that could be the perfect  match for “Housewives from________”  No one told them that the church is full of sinners trying to be saved. The problem is that in the Church of Jesus Christ, which is the “pillar and ground of truth” according to Paul the Apostle, any rival claim or purported truth has to be judged by the One who is the Truth. As an ethicist I do not see “Preachers of LA” as a moral or immoral concern, but rather an amoral issue. On its merits it lies in the realm of neutrality. The larger concern is that the participants by virtue of who they are may impact their constituency by reputation. The relationship episodes does reveal clues to human behavior and how people really act behind closed doors. Ministers too are human. The questions raised as a theologian and apologist of the faith is whether the conversation and lifestyle portrayed on the show is really Christian, or does it mirror the fallen world which is under judgment. As a pastor emeritus who is actively involved in mentoring and instructing leaders I reserve judgment.

     Jesus often rebuked the religious sects of his time for their ostentatiousness. Defined as being characterized by pretentious show in an attempt to impress others; to attract notice. In the middle of his discourse on the Sermon on the Mt. Jesus stated in bold language, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20v. RSV). Do we really have the luxury of using the church as a reality show while our communities are edging closer to a real social holocaust. I invite the “Preachers of LA” to visit Ferguson which is only a few miles from where they reside. I became a pastor in LA a little over a decade after the “Watts riot” and left the year subsequent to the riots following the Rodney King incident. Within a year as pastor of the Church at the Crossroads, Peniel Church of God in Christ, I watched a horrific police beating of a brother at El Segundo and Central Avenue while assisting members with a transportation challenge. The day after the incident I went to the Firestone Sheriff Station to register my concern. The watch commander made a symbolic promise to investigate. God expects us to stand toe-to-toe with social evil as it takes place. From that experience I was part of a crisis team out of Mayor Bradley’s office that emerged during potentially explosive situations. {Dr. Cecil Murray of First AME was also a part of that team}. Relationship with community law enforcement should be in place prior to a crisis. There are no short term band aid fixes for community chaos. Prior to coming to LA,  I spent one year as a consultant on affirmative action with the Oakland Police Department under Assistant Chief Odell Sylvester who later became police chief of Berkeley. “Preachers of LA” you cannot save your immediate communities by showmanship from the pulpit alone. The Incarnation (God enfleshed) must be made real in the “blood, guts and tissue of community.” We must in the words of Ezekiel “sit where they sit.”

      I invite you to visit Ferguson because for People of Color indeed this is exilic America. This is the only  place in the free world where young black’s are killed in epidemic disproportions by white law enforcement officers who are skillfully using fear as justification to kill innocent victims.  Recent FBI statistics tell us that a white police officer killed a black person twice a week, on average in the USA during a seven-year period from 2005 to 2012. To the supporters of Darren Wilson the killer of Michael Brown in Ferguson, this statistic is laughable. If Michael Brown was white the police approach and outcome would have been different. The race card is the only one you have given us because this does not happen to young white males. The white establishment mentality is so geared to “blaming the victim” they have become de-sensitized to bad police conduct. Darren Wilson may be exonerated in a court of law, but he will be held accountable by the “moral law of the universe” that assures us that “one may get by” but “no one gets away.” “Preachers of LA” I implore you to leave the dalliance and splendor of the bright lights of Hollywood and spend some time in Ferguson. It will not be pretty. In fact it will be ugly but far more redemptive.  Your Ferguson is really next door. Ezell Ford was killed in South Central Los Angeles at the time the demonstrations were escalating in Ferguson. Two final request. 1) Do not be a symbolic leader who shows up at the apex of a crisis like a vulture in search of prey seeking a media sound  byte  espousing  a lot of worthless rhetoric trying to look important. 2) Be a substantive leader and use your prestige and influence to call upon the Attorney General to make sure any case involving the senseless demise of black humanity be brought to full justice.  I personally implore President Obama to personally intervene by calling for a moratorium on senseless killing of black humanity all over this nation in order to prevent the “fire next time.”  The “weeping prophet”  was admonished to “Seek the welfare of  the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”  Jeremiah 29:7

Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ecumenical Officer COGIC

Follow my blog at



   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



     The landscape of our nation has been marred by a senseless killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager one day before his entrance into trade school. It is predicted that the police officer who committed this heinous act who was placed on paid leave while the crime is being investigated, is poised to walk free and returned to the street in order to commit further crimes. We may be light years ahead in our technological savvy but prehistoric in our criminal justice system. Our system is not only archaic and broken but suffers from what the renowned Danish philosophical theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, calls a “sickness unto death.” My primary vocation is to proclaim the Gospel. My secondary task as a trained ethicist is to think critically about issues where social justice is at stake. My colleague Dr. Yolanda Pierce has written so vigorously about the consequences of a bankrupt theology and its implication for matters of justice. There is a pervasive and sick mentality among many conservative and neo-conservative whites who live with a dangerous paranoia that America is slowly being taken by outsiders. Black life is devalued and simultaneously feared as populations grapple for turf in our overcrowded urban cities.

     America cannot live without us nor live with us. It is a fact that people of color receive harsher sentences for lesser crimes. That people of color are more frequently incarcerated for alleged crimes never committed. Recent revelations in the media 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 to never go to court without a lawyer. The system is set in such a way that Judges do not respect anyone who enters court without an attorney. 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/political analyst? I felt nauseated watching O’Mara making statements about the Michael Brown debacle. Attorney Benjamin Crump who represented Trayvon Martin was given a pass. This is how violence against black life becomes indirectly sanctioned and institutionalized resulting in structural and systemic injustice. O’Mara was rewarded for defending a guilty George Zimmerman. The ropes remain in the closet.

     The recent execution of Eric Garner by choking in NY by out of controlled cops, along with countless other senseless deaths is adequate testimony that it is easy as well as legal for bad cops to misuse their badge, weave a credible sounding story, as the media joins in to validate same. According to credible sources, Michael Brown was never seen in a fight. This corrupt out-of-control cop accused him of attempting to wrestle his gun. By the way, any cop who wrestles women to the ground and headlocks a teenager is a punk and should be removed immediately from law enforcement. I ask where is the Black Church and Black Leaders? Are we too busy majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors? God demands that our voices be heard on behalf of the voiceless until justice rings throughout this land. The Black Faith Communities should remain in the face of St. Louis until “Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Together we need to tell this nation, “NEVER AGAIN.”

Rev. Leonard Lovett, Ph.D. Ecumenical Officer, COGIC

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


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

(Click here to continue reading)

Don’t Void the Warranty: A Christian Response to the Same Sex Marriage Debate



                                                       Rev. Leonard Lovett, Ph. D, Ecumenical Officer COGIC


     It is not what President Obama said when he stated his support for same-sex marriage that constitutes the problem in the debate, but rather the timing and framing of the issue within the context of politics as a public policy issue that constitutes the crux of the problem. The president has a right to his opinion as leader of one of the most powerful nations in the global village. We are admonished to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesars and unto God what belongs to God. The family is one of the “orders of creation” fundamental to the perpetuation and maintenance of the human species. It is unfortunate that the Marriage Amendment debate has emerged within the context of politics as a wedge issue thus forcing supporters on each side to make such an important concern an election choice that will ultimately decide the presidency of the United States of America.

     After much reflection I am compelled to agree with the president’s statement affirming the rights of all citizens of our democratic republic to make their marital choice. It was implied that to deny persons the privilege to marry is to violate their basic right to equality under the law. I do not view this debate as a Civil Rights issue. This is a public policy issue with far reaching implications for Civil Rights. Once same-sex marriage is viewed singularly as a Civil Rights issue it is no longer under the purview of Scripture. I will fight for the right of anyone to make the choice to marry whomever they chose even in what they perceive to be a “loving relationship.” As a Christian I am to demonstrate compassion toward such persons. I have been reminded that “compassion is mercy with work clothes on.” The difficulty comes when we attempt to legitimate such a union with the name Christian. As a public theologian-ethicist I am obligated to speak to the moral legitimacy of such a union through the prism of our historic faith. From the standpoint of public policy a civil union is a form of marriage that requires the state to make it legitimate. Marriage as we have come to comprehend it is grounded in covenant which assigns a sense of responsibility and intrinsic worth to the institution of marriage . Within the boundaries of covenant there can be no authentic freedom without moral responsibility. Any attempt to enjoy freedom without moral responsibility leads to anarchy.

     We do not change the rules of the game to accommodate the players. My faith inspires and informs my societal frame of reference. My opinion is secondary to the One who thought me up. As a Christian theologian Scripture is my guide for faith and practice, not what society desires and embraces. When Paul the Apostle admonishes us not to “Be conformed to this world” it is another way of saying not to allow the world to force us into its mold. (Romans 12: 1) In simple Christian language, the world is human society without Christ. The manufacturers warranty on an automobile is intended to be a safeguard against anyone other than the authorized dealer repairing same. The warranty is voided when an unauthorized person tampers with the engine.

     The metaphor is obvious. Historically for Christians Scripture has been our mandate for marriage. However, in a pluralistic society other choices will emerge.   The manual unequivocally states that the sacred union of marriage should exclusively occur between male and female with the hope of procreation, recreation, permanence and uniqueness. . The very institution of marriage is bound by covenant grounded in our Judaeo-Christian foundation of faith. To believe and/or to do otherwise is to alter the original institution and render void the warranty and marriage as an institution could risk will losing its sense of sacrality, character and purpose. Postmodernist thinkers would argue that it is a fallacy to ascribe any meaning to a text or even to the text’s author and views truth as a social construct that is relative. That it is the reader who establishes the meaning, and there are no controls that limit the meaning that can be imposed This is a dangerous posture to leave the interpretation of the text (even Scripture) to even an uninformed reader. There are moral absolutes intended to keep us within the boundaries and framework of being grounded upon some kind of foundation. Without moral absolutes society would become as chaotic as a residential neighborhood without speed limits or constraints. We live in a moral universe that metes out serious consequences for anyone who violates its rules.

     At this juncture in history we can ill afford to allow the same-sex debate to become a wedge issue that will keep us from voting at all. I have had to correct a few African-Americans who have been coerced to believe that a vote for President Obama is a vote against God. A refusal to vote constitutes a vote for the very person you oppose. This is the same kind of flawed reason that gave Bush and the Religious Right four more years in 2004 when right wingers used abortion and the Marriage Amendment as wedge issues and successfully defeated John Kerry and Al Gore. My reading of the history of politics reveals many people honestly believe presidential elections are bought. I suggest that anyone interested in the surge of right wing politics in the sixties with the launch of the ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964 should read a 1984 book titled Ominous Politics by John S. Saloma III, a Harvard trained political scientist who taught at M.I.T. Millions of dollars were invested in multiple think tanks that gave intellectual validation to the strategies and claims set forth by right wingers. With the emergence of Ronald Reagan in the eighties they were well on their way. The “tough on crime” policies of Reagan that later led to mass incarceration of marginalized persons of color a point well argued by Michele Alexander in her now popular book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in a Color Blind Age. The warehousing of black and brown people of color making them felons for life has a direct correlation with the growth and power of radical right wing politics under the guise of law and order.

   Politics was never intended to dictate the nature and covenant terms of marriage. The role of politics is to make life more humane through organized means. To do otherwise is to violate the purpose of its calling in the world. Until then we are called to witness and challenge the darkness of this world until the light seeps through.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed are not the official views of the Church of God in Christ. I take full responsibility for the viewpoint shared in this brief response as a servant of the church