I appreciate most in my life, the people who encourage me to be me, and who like, in me, the things I like most about myself. They don’t expect me to dumb myself down or over spiritualize myself to fit into my Pentecostal moorings and who take my passion for what it is rather than redefining it as anger.
I have wrestled for some time about how to publicly position myself, but several recent conversations, both with supporters and detractors, have pushed me to the point of coming out of my closet of silence.
For I have come realize that the label “radical” that has been used by some to disqualify from participating in their sphere of influence me is really a most appropriate handle. For I am radically committed to a passionate, prophetic witness to possibility of change in those issues which continue to plague the various arenas of our culture in which I am situated.
So here I stand. Committed to the high authority of Scripture and, at the same time, committed to the need to work toward social justice for people of color, women and other marginalized groups. Committed to the wholeness and flourishing of every member of the African American Community, while at the same time, committed to racial reconciliation within our nation, beginning with the body of Christ. Committed to the full empowerment of women at every level of the church and society, while simultaneously, committed to strengthening the institution of marriage. At once, committed to a biblical standard of sexual morality, and, committed to embracing the full dignity of every person, regardless of their gender identity. Committed to loyally affirming and promoting my Pentecostal spiritual heritage, while embracing an ecumenical vision of a unified Body of Christ, working together to usher in the already, but not yet, justice that is part of the Kingdom of God.
No matter where I stand, however, I realize some people will be offended, and some will count me out as a heretic, or sell-out. Womanist will say I cannot be one of them because I refuse to affirm that homosexuality is a biblically supported lifestyle. And though I have always shown respect to members of the LBGT community, some within that community have labeled me “homophobic” because I do not fully embrace their agenda – and for them, nothing short of that is enough. Pentecostals discount me because, in their estimation, I am not Pentecostal enough. I have been almost roundly locked out of my own denomination, for example, because I received my theological training and dare to preach, teach and fellowship among other faith communities. And while I am theologically conservative, I am socially and politically moderate – and that for many Pentecostals, means liberal. Some African American brothers and sisters find that I have too many friends who stand outside our community, but have made themselves brothers and sisters to me in the Spirit. Yes, some of my closest friends are white, but some are also Latino, some are Asian-American, and several – including some in my own family have a blended racial heritage.
The world is too complicated and the issues we face are too serious for reductionist politics that require a person to declare themselves a loyal member of one narrow camp or another. Further, I am determined that no one person or group, will have enough power over me to determine who or what I am.
For in the end, I only answer to one – God! And I desire God’s affirmation more than anything else I can be offered!
President William Seymour College. Board Member of Pax Pneuma