The Social Issue and the Black Church (Part 1)

The black church is the strongest institution within the black community, and has historically provided political, social, and educational leadership for black people in America (Johnson, 1999).After 250 years of slavery, followed by another hundred years of Jim Crow segregation, the only dominant institution to become a stable, cohesive and independent social institution within the black community is the black church. Even though the black church is central in the black community, with blacks having a higher rate of church membership then whites, 76 percent compared to 69 percent in 1984, (Nelsen, 1988) the church is losing it historically relevance within the black community because of it current views on controversial social issues.
The black church has in recent years has move away for political and social issues after the civil right era. The movement is now focusing on a martial teaching that seeks to focus on wealth building not reform. This kind of teaching has no time to address issues that seem controversial, however, the mission of the church still remains to change the world with the gospel. This can not be done without examining all issues no matter how controversial. The Bible tells us that the Christians mission is to spread the teaching of Jesus for the purpose of saving them. Once they becoming save the Christian is then told to renew their minds or their way of thinking. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” Phillip 2:5. The idea is that our worldview should come as a result of our Christian, not our Christian as a result of our worldview.
In understand the importance of this statement we must first look at the black church to examine it identify within social issues. How has the Black Church identify it self with respect to social issues in the past. The term "the Black Church" references to all black Christian churches in the United States, made up of seven major historic black denominations: the African Methodist Episcopal (A. M. E. ) Church; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (A. M. E. Z. ) Church; the Christian Methodist Episcopal (C. M. E. ) Church; the National Baptist Convention, U. S. A., Incorporated (NBC); the National Baptist Convention of America, Unincorporated (NBCA); the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC); and the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). These churches have all had to deal with social issues in the past that have become hot bottom issues. The black church has always been a spiritual refuge with a social consciousness which has at some times and place been more pronounced that at others.
Today's Black Church is struggling for relevance in the resolution of today's black problems: racism; drug abuse; child care; health and welfare; housing; counseling; unemployment; teenage pregnancy; abortion, homosexuality aides, the false securities of conspicuous consumption; and the whole tragic malaise with which society in general is burdened. It must address all these social challenges without abandoning its distinctive mandate to assist human beings in their efforts to find conciliation and comfort with their Creator. There is no moratorium on the human need for spiritual and moral nurture (Lincoln, 1990).
In deal with some of these issues let us see how the Black Church has view them. In the case of homosexuality, the view of the Black Church varies from denomination to denomination. Homosexuality is the sexual attraction to or sexual relations with somebody of the same sex. Many clergy indicate their rejection of homosexuality is sanctioned in the Bible. Of the 66 books of the Bible, six often-cited verses (Genesis 1-2, 19:1-9; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26-27; and 1 Timothy 1:10)
Genesis 19:1-9 (KJV)
And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; [2] And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. [3] And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. [4] But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: [5] And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. [6] And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, [7] And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. [8] Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. [9] And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.

Leviticus 18:22 (KJV)
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Leviticus 20:13 (KJV)
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Romans 1:26-27 (KJV)
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: [27] And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

1 Cor. 6:9 (KJV)
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

1 Tim. 1:10 (KJV)
For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

These scripture taken for the King James Bible has been interpreted as evidence that homosexuality is scripturally unethical. In the past most Black Church used these verses to repudiate same-sex unions, and as a way to refuse ordination for gay to the pulpit. Most notably, the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the governing body of more than 7,000 predominately black congregations in more than 30 nations, prohibits the ordination of gay men and lesbians (Staples, 1982;Williams, 1999).
Despite this biblical perspectives, many knowingly homosexual regularly attends church and are involves in key functions in the church. Most pastors know that they have homosexuals in their congregation. One author suggested
that some gay men are accorded special status in many churches because they provide the creative energy necessary for the transcendent religious experiences. Gay men having this role in the church is a widely known but largely unaddressed truth. The paradoxical but not uncommon scene of gay men singing in the choir while homosexuality is denounced from the pulpit illustrates the idea that an "open closet" exists at the center of church life (Fullilove & Fullilove 1999)
This statement underscores how the debate over societal acceptance of homosexuality has made its way into the Black Church. These practices have set a confused tone for many within the church, and for the homosexual member. The Black Church has endorsed a "don't ask, don't tell" atmosphere, within its ranks and as a result there is seemly no clear view on this issue. This instability regarding Christian social teaching, is largely due to the fact that many Black Church are unwilling to take an official denominational positions on the issues.

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