Friday, July 22, 2011


As if someone thought that marriage needed a legal defense; as if thousands of years ago someone should have said, “hey, if we don’t codify this in law, this being the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman, well then the title married can be given to anybody living in a relationship.”
    The framers of the constitution didn’t think that was necessary, therefore it must be that homosexuals have a right to marriage; because the framers did think to make people equal under the law. 
   That is almost as silly as to think that the framers should have thought to mention that unborn children should be protected human beings.  Since they didn’t think of it, and didn’t mention that pregnancy does not involve only one person, but three, and didn’t mention that if technology allows a choice it is not solely about her own body but actually involves the life and body of another, well then it is obvious, “legally” the baby is not protected, and the mother’s “right to privacy” is protected.  It is ironic that they didn’t really mention the right to privacy either.
   If Law is King while being obtuse (lacking sensibility) Law thus becomes nonsense.  To detach law from all the cultural and historical understandings on which it is built does not make it progressive, it makes it incendiary.  It in fact releases us from the moral, social consensus, and constraint we had hoped Law would give us and brings us back to violence, self-interest, tribalism, and sectarian opinion.  We face this problem in criminal law when murders and perpetrators of horrendous crimes are let go or not arrested for “technical” reasons or sophistries.  What was meant to protect us from vigilantism and taking the “law into our own hands” does in fact push us to just that reality.  The very phrase “law into our own hands” implies there is another Law other than the ones used by the system.  This is the Law by which human beings have operated since we have had some moral sense, that there is justice and that there is injustice.  That blood cries out for blood, that innocents raped and mutilated must have some kind of vengeance to show that their life was worthwhile, otherwise the dead die in silence and all we are allowed to hear is the whining of the criminal and our hearts are deceived into bleeding for him.
    We are in the midst of political game playing, and the game is played with law, but it is not the Law by which our civilization and culture were framed.  This is a run-a-way freight train, and the people in the engine care not for the ways the tracks have been laid. 
    In California was it necessary for a judge simply to ignore thousands of years of human and moral history and tell us that is not a legal argument?  We ask with incredulity and sarcasm, “No kidding?” Legal arguments should not be needed for some things.  This was the very basis of the moral suasion pressed upon us in the fight against slavery and the fight against racial segregation.  It was not an argument based on laws, but upon a greater Law, and thus upon the very basis of morality.  Without that moral suasion America could not have been changed as to its racial laws and culture.
     Religious arguments are dismissed as having no force of Law.  They will come back in force and no matter what Jurists say the advocacy of their Truth will remain.  We have had too much of a small powerful and well financed group of hedonistic individuals pressing for the redefinition of their lifestyle as normative.  Though it seems to have always existed, it has always existed as perverse, unnatural, immoral, and biologically unproductive.  Ironically it suffers from the damnation of both evolutionary and religious dogma; that is the historical case.
    Gay Right activists undermine moral judgment in our body politic by appealing to something very dear to Americans, and that is our concept of justice.  Freedom and justice (in the minds of many people) is directly equated with morality.  However, a behavior that is intrinsically immoral cannot by its legalization produce justice but will in the end deprive all of us of it. They have a moral case that no one should dehumanize them and no one should physically attack and harm them.  Human Rights should always be maintained, even for those we might despise, but immorality is not a right.  My argument has nothing to do with hating people, and it is no doubt difficult for some to hate certain behaviors while still loving the people involved.  I am sure it is equally difficult for others to hear that their behavior is hated and still feel loved. If their behavior is indeed immoral then their behavior should not be tolerated, nor protected, and certainly not celebrated.
     If our country is forced to codify everything upon which our morality and culture has been built we are in for one tedious ride.  To correct this it may mean a clean sweep of all legislators who would dare to allow evil in the name of civil rights so that it makes a mockery of our decency and humanity. 
    I realize how those in opposition to my views can seek to make this the cry of a hypocrite. The press and popular media always seems to make a moral voice a target by assuming that such a voice sets itself up as self-righteous and without sin.  I am enough of an experienced sinner, living in the midst of sinners to know that immoral people can still have moral voices.  We all have clay feet, we all have sexual struggles and temptations.  The debate on homosexuality has made it so that homosexuals can have no hypocrisy, their behavior has become sacrosanct.  What a farce.  Adultery is wrong, and always will be wrong.  Yet sexual promiscuity among homosexuals is well, just being homosexual.  We will demand resignations of Senators caught in adultery, especially Republicans, and get it.  But yet it seems the other party is cut quite a bit of slack in their personal morality.  We in fact recalibrate morality so as not to sound self-righteous.
   We have spent a good amount of time in the military trying to protect women from the natural and normal amorous advances of men by seeking to professionalize them, and by making the boundary lines clear between normal socialization and that of fraternization and stalking.  What will do about homosexuals who are free to pursue their love targets?  Will it be against the law to deprive them of their “natural” right to hit on other men or other women?
    Moral voices need to come out of the closet, or the sound proof room at any rate.  We have a great amount of our population forming moral opinions while lost in moral ambiguity, and this is where the game is played out.  Our younger generation is deceived by the pseudo intellectualized power of mockery, satire, and ridicule riding the horse of supposed oppression. The media is not an open forum, and seeks to create the drumbeat of inevitable progress against ‘homophobia.”  To have a discordant opinion is to be slandered, shamed, and silenced. 
    There is no New World to which we can run away and start over again, we are not going to colonize Mars so that we won’t have to put up with this nastiness.  If we allow this 1.5 percent of the population to overwhelm us maybe we have no right to a country where we really will have freedom of religion.  The enforcement, and it is a totalitarian enforcement, of the acceptance of homosexuality deprives the rest of us of our right to freedom of religion and our freedom of speech.  We are taught at a very early age in this country that our forefathers fought and died to preserve those rights. Homosexual marriage is part of the construction of an edifice of normality for that which is immoral, and should always be considered abnormal, and that construction must not only be hindered it must be destroyed.

Randy Nabors, August 2010/Posted 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


  The way I heard it a wildlife Ranger heard a man was fishing with dynamite.  Attempting to ascertain the truth he met the man one morning just about to leave in his boat.  "May I go with you?" the Ranger asked. "Sure, hop in!" the fisherman said. As they got out into deep water the fisherman took out a stick of dynamite.  The Ranger got excited and said, "you can't fish that way!"  The fisherman lit the fuse of the dynamite stick and tossed it to the Ranger.  "You gonna argue or fish?"
   I just got back from visiting several New City church planters.  I heard from another one today and Wy Plummer told me about  yet another church planter he had just visited.  It is exciting to see these brothers "in harness" as they say, preaching the Word and attempting to gather people to form, build, and hold together a local church.  It was fun for Joan and I to meet with several pastors and their wives and to gain impressions of how they are doing by just listening to them talk, trying to discern if they are encouraged or discouraged, making progress or feeling like they are fighting a losing battle.
    I respect and admire all of them, and there is no doubt that what they are doing is hard.  It is also true that what God is using them to create is marvelous.  Right in front of their very eyes the Lord builds his church, he creates his bride, he grows his body and he fills it with his fullness until the individual parts are filled to the fullness of God.
    The report I bring back from those with whom I just visited is very positive.  Many of those who go into church planting have expectations of what they expect to see and sometimes those expectations are unrealistic.  Some church planters have the full expectation that the lost, the unsaved, will want to hear what they have to say and people will respond to their ministry.  Sometimes in church planting we also expect our saved brothers and sisters to know we have needs, and that they will respond to our call for help.  Even more unrealistic is the idea that our brothers will know what we need and help us before we ask for it.
     Some of us become quite cynical, and we can be unsparing about the target.  We can despise the unsaved because they don't respond to us.  After receiving our attention and ministry to them for some reason they don't come to the realization that they owe us something.  Some of us can begin to mock our suburban and middle class brethren because they aren't giving us any of their families, or sharing enough of their resources.  We can make disparaging comments about other churches, or ministries, especially those who seem to have a method of growth or success but in our opinion just aren't hitting the right population or need and not going about their work in the pure Biblical, Reformed, radical and culturally relevant way in which are doing ours.
    I wonder if God discerns that all this bitching is really about how unfair he has been.  Not many of us have the honesty or the guts to get in God's face and tell him our failure is his fault.  Of course, that might not end up too well.  You can complain about God's failure to give you meat, until he gives you so much it comes out of your nose, and then you die.  God has never taken complaining spirits very well and that attitude is different from being importunate.  Complaining is about me and it is anger towards God, being importunate is the behavior and discipline of not forgetting where the source of all our supply comes from, and the stubborn faith that God will at some point come through if we keep throwing ourselves on him.
    My success does not come from the acceptance of the people to whom I have come as an evangelist, nor does it come from the positive support of those in my own denomination.  Since my success does not come from them, it is not their fault if I fail in my endeavor to plant and build a church.   Ultimately the only success I want and need is that which God gives, because that is the only success that has eternal longevity.  I would suggest that if you are someone who complains, worries, and is cynical that you might just possibly have your eyes on something or someone other than Jesus.
    Church planters all feel an urgency, which is usually tied to economic support.  Can they get the boat across the pond before it sinks, can they get the plane built while they are flying it?  Will enough people come and tithe before the support dries up from the mother church, network, Presbytery, denomination, etc.?  Sometimes their joy is stolen by this constant wondering of what things will be like when they are really a "successful" church.  Don't despise the day of small things, and don't you dare despise the incremental testimonies of God's saving, empowering, supplying, and sustaining grace.
    I hurt for the wives especially when this emotional dynamic is unloaded on them.  In every church plant we hunger and desire each family, each gifted and contributing new member.  We are jealous for them, needy of them, and brokenhearted when they suddenly seem to bail on us and leave for some more stable, sane, and comprehensive services congregation.  To see people we had begun to count on leave us is to go through grief, feel personal rejection, and sometimes the fear of how we can survive without them.  Of course there are the small joys of seeing disruptive, disloyal, annoying, and distracting folks leave.
    We need to remember a few things: God is the source of success.  God is sovereign and he is in control, at all times.  People are converted by the power and work of God's Holy Spirit.  I am God's servant and my job is to do what he says, and to do things the way he says to do it.  Comparing myself with others is only good if that comparison calls me to a higher level of obedience and effort.  If I am bitching I am probably not believing enough.  I don't have to do everything just like someone else has done it, but some methods are just flat out basic to getting the job done.  If God called me here he will supply, but he might want me to make tents to stay at it.  If new people aren't coming maybe I haven't invited enough of them to come.  If no one is getting saved it might be because I have been busy doing everything else except sharing the Gospel with folks.  If I am lacking in meaningful opportunities to share Christ it means I need to pray more, and stop missing the ones that come my way on a daily basis.
    Waiting at Starbucks for someone to come up and ask, "what must I do to be saved?" is a very slow way to church growth.  Relational evangelism is great in theory but it is hard when you only have a few relationships.  Evangelism is new relationships all the time, built on conversations about spiritual need and the Gospel.  It doesn't matter what the lost say about their relationship to Christ, if they are lost they are lost and their life most likely shows it, and we need to share the Gospel with them.  Evangelism isn't finished until you call people to a choice, to believe in and follow the Master.  There is no shame in blatant proselytizing; if it is honest, not manipulative or coercive, not brow beating but presented in a kind, loving, and humble manner.  Without apology we want people to exercise their minds in considering their life's condition and God's call on them to follow Christ, it is what people ought to be free to do in a free society.
    We have absolutely to lift up our eyes unto the harvest and believe that what Jesus said is true, that the harvest is great, that the fields are ready to harvest.  We won't bring it all in the first day, but we won't bring it in at all if we don't start on a row, some row, somewhere, sometime.  We won't fill our nets if we don't let them down into the water.  Do what fisherman do; find the water, find the fish, then fish!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cultural Preservation and Ministry in the City

“But he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, …..But when this son of your came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” --The Elder Brother, Luke 15:29-30

Cultural Preservation and Ministry in the City

As I live and work in an urban community undergoing gentrification I see elements and hallmarks of my culture being erased or pushed out. I see black institutions, (including the church), clinging for relevance and influence in a community that is “safer and cleaner”, but has little need or affinity for African American culture. Sure, there are folks new to the city that love ethnic food or Black theater productions—but in gentrifying communities nationwide, culturally specific programs are becoming passé in the minds of today’s “tolerant” and “open-minded” urbanites.

Unfortunately, this post-racial sentiment quickly gives way to a mindset of cultural homogeneity that unconsciously assimilates minorities into dominant, predominantly white culture. I’m a product of this cultural process. After teaching in Seattle’s traditional African American neighborhood, (the Central District), my wife and I moved across the country to attend seminary. Similar to my experience from elementary to graduate school, my time in seminary was spent as one of the few African Americans in my cohort. After four years of excellent instruction and spiritual formation, I graduated as the only Black M. Div student going for ordination in the PCA in May of’09.

Once my wife Foxy and I arrived back in Seattle, we found the Central District in a huge amount of transition from the community it was in 2005. Low-income families, the poor, and many Black and Latino neighbors had been priced out by gentrification. Blacks once forced to live in the Central Area by way of restricted covenants in other Seattle neighborhoods, are now pushed out in the name of “safer streets” and “affordable housing”. It’s no wonder that Black or ethnic institutions find themselves bitterly clinging to their culture and jostling each other for community impact—and this includes historic inner city congregations that once were the center of the community.

So what is a Black, PCA minister to do if he wants to minister among people of color in rapidly changing communities? Foxy and I began by working bi-vocationally and volunteering in organizations that served Black or ethnic minorities left in the community. One responsibility I had was to host community forums on race, class, and neighborhood issues. In one such forum, we had students write anti-violence messages on t-shirts and displayed them for the forum. Looking at one t-shirt, I asked a friend what color best represents death in her mind. She was undecided, and unwittingly I suggested the black t-shirt hanging over our heads. Immediately after the discussion, a friend pulled me aside and rebuked me for using the color black in a pejorative connotation as opposed to pink or white!

A harmless comment on my part, but I have come to a painful realization these past 18 months in Seattle: I have subtly embraced white, middle class values and cultural perspectives. In order to pass advance placement courses in high school I needed to learn about “white” heroes; in college I had to communicate “white” in order to become a professional; and in seminary I had to pray, think, and lead “white” in order to get where I am today. This is not a slight on individuals I know and love, as it is a statement about our educational and ecclesiastical structures that quickly assimilate minorities. I have always been teased for “acting like a white boy”, but what I and others have experienced out of seminary speaks to what we learn and value as younger ministers of color in the PCA. This phenomenon is not completely wrong—but it presents a problem for individuals wanting to plant churches or lead ministries that are culturally equitable and attractive to minorities; especially among those who are disillusioned with dominant culture values of “diversity” in our post-racial milieu.

In Luke 15, the elder brother sees the end of his world as he knows it. The younger, sinful brother returns home and is met with mirth and love from his father; while he, the faithful son is unjustly un-loved. His protest against his father and brother is an attempt to preserve his narrative, his cause and his world. Now he is of course wrong to be bitter, he is of course right to faithfully serve in his father’s house; but he is also stuck—believing that he is un-loved.

I find Christian and non-Christian groups intensely jaded against white churches, institutions and residents in my community. I too, struggle as I see little empathy by well-meaning white evangelicals to the plight and mindset of Black people in rapidly changing communities. It is of course wrong for Black people to disown their white brothers and make them feel guilty; it is of course commendable that ethnic institutions have faithfully cared for youth and the poor for generations; but people of color find themselves stuck—believing themselves to be un-loved and inferior to their white counterparts, who exercise greater mobility to thrive in gentrifying communities.

This Black, elder-brother mindset is not just sin bred from past discrimination it is fostered by a lack of true brotherly love on the part of white evangelicals and secularists alike. Continuing church policies and values that mold Black seminarians to unconsciously disdain their own culture or fails to set up Black pastors as true partners in ministry will continue to replicate churches that assimilate rather than dignify other ways of thinking and doing in the PCA. What would be refreshing and helpful in preventing this “elder brother syndrome” is a loving and respectful posture from my white Christian brethren that is willing to explore new ways to structure education and minister in our changing inner cities.

TE Jason Davison is a recent graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary (M.Div. '09) and currently serves as the New Development Pastor at Ascension Presbyterian Church in Seattle WA.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Unity Month

TE - Stan Long

I have had the joy of serving at Faith Christian Fellowship, a PCA congregation in urban Baltimore that seeks to reflect John’s heavenly vision in Revelation 7:9-10:
9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

As an African American pastor at FCF, one question that we have to occasionally answer is: “What does FCF do for Black History Month? Is it celebrated? Is it ignored?” Our church exists to develop grace-filled followers of Jesus among the diverse people of Baltimore in such a way that both the vertical and horizontal implications of the cross are clearly understood. God has reconciled believers to Himself through Christ and reconciled believers to one another. The unity that we share together at the foot of the cross is more important than our racial, cultural, gender and socio-economic diversity.
So at FCF each February is “Unity Month” where we reflect upon this horizontal nature of reconciliation. Rather than focus only on the powerful story of black history in America, we choose to focus upon the powerful, unifying cross of Christ. (Eph 2:11-18). It is my duty and privilege to create the annual Unity Month agenda. Having watched the incredible shifts of the last 50 years, I want the month’s activities to remind us of several things:
Racial tensions have been a sad reality of American society and our church life.
Unity Month at FCF is first of all a time to remember and celebrate from where we have come. We as PCA people cannot disconnect ourselves from our history. I recall as a child riding one Sunday morning to the black Baptist church in Northwest Washington, DC where our family worshiped each week. As Dad, Mom, my 3 sisters and myself traversed the streets of DC past the Capital building we heard tragic news on the radio. In Birmingham, Alabama 3 little girls had just been killed in a church bombing. As 9 year old kid this was just another crazy event in a weird world. I remember thinking about words I had heard earlier when we went to see Dr. King at the local elementary school and I even had the privilege of shaking his hand. I recalled the message of non-violence that he had proclaimed in that speech as in all his speeches. So that Sunday morning I asked my mom as we entered church “Why did this happen? Are there any white people who are truly Christians?” Her wise answer as usual took us back to the Christ of scripture who commands us to “love one another, love your neighbor, love your enemies.” Sadly I have grown to realize that those who did this kind of thing shared a common perspective and common theology of race with some of the Fathers and Brothers that created our denomination. For many of us those images and realities are not ancient history but sad memories which we have had to process before coming to this denomination and committing ourselves to this communion.
Racial tensions are still a big problem in our world.
Though legal segregation no longer exists Jeremiah still accurately reminds us that the human heart is desperately wicked.” We as a nation have national pledges and religious creeds that urge us to live in love, peace and harmony. Therefore Unity Month at FCF is a time to discuss the present, looking into our hearts, asking the tough questions. At our panel discussions members share experiences in family, church and society. We believe that racial prejudice is not just a thing of the past. Our theology tells us that sin has affected us all very deeply. If we believe we are sinners then we should not be surprised that racial tensions creep to the surface of our hearts in subtle and in overt ways. We should not be surprised that unintentional sins of prejudice and preferential treatment are still part of the fabric of what it means to live in America.
The nature of tensions surrounding race is dramatically changing .
As we look beyond the present as this 21st century unfolds we see that the predominant issue of black/white racial tension is becoming secondary to newer ethnic realities that have arisen as people from across the seas come into all regions of America in large numbers. So Unity Month is a time to strategize - asking the many hard questions that a strong commitment to the great commission always brings. For example, am I as a black man loving my Korean brother in the congregation? Or the Hispanic neighbor who comes across my path in my neighborhood? Or how can our church do a better job of embracing the new immigrants among us?
Unity month is a not only a time to celebrate progress but to strategize for a better future. Realizing that with the emergence of new emigrants there are fresh tensions in the air which warrant a new era of multi-racial dialogue, our denomination needs participate in the discussion. The Obama presidency has caused some to declare that America is a “post-racial nation.” Has Dr. King’s dream that men be judged solely by the content of their character become a new reality? What will be the profile of PCA churches in 30 years? Will we look like the diverse nation in which we live? Is that even a goal? If it is then how will we get there?
The Jesus of scripture did not come for Israel only, the Samaritans only, the Greeks only nor for Gentile people only. “To as many as received him he gave the right to become sons of God, as John 1 states. Heaven will be a place where all God’s children worship the Lamb of God together. It is our prayer each year that FCF’s Unity Month activities can be a reminder of this wonderful reality.