A few weeks ago we watched as the seeds of change occurred in the Black community of Los Angeles. The pastor of First AME Church Los Angeles was told to move on to another AME church in San Francisco. Before he arrived in San Francisco, the members of that church checked his history, his references, and his past, and told him no. It caused a tidal wave because the Bishop had sent him there and rarely does the membership say no to the Bishops. My mama taught me that Bishops can be wrong. She taught me to study the word for myself and make decisions according to God’s word, not any man’s.
The Old Negro spiritual says, “Ride On King Jesus, No-Man cannot hinder me.” The Bible teaches the story of the virgins and how some were wise enough to save their oil for the appropriate time. The Bible also teaches the parable of the talents where God gave people different talents. Some squandered theirs, while others made the most of theirs. If you have a leader who squanders the gifts that God provides, then you have a problem. Under those circumstances it is okay to say no to the Pastors, Bishops, or anyone who squanders the gifts of God and fails to provide for the church or prepare for the future.
In Pasadena, we have seen the seeds of change happening in the Civil Rights leadership and, less publicly, at the local Pasadena First AME Church; a Church where in 2010, I criticized the members for unwisely using over one million dollars cash to buy a residence for a new pastor. The money came from a multi million dollar gift from a deceased Brother who had sacrificed and, like the wise virgins or the Biblical brother who made good use of his talents, increased and saved for the future and entrusted his fortune to the church upon his death.
Just a few years after his death, the church is having money troubles because the church funds appeared to have been used as a personal piggy bank for the Pastor’s benefit. Church members only recently learned about this. Where is the money? We were told, “It’s being investigated.” Where is the budget? We were told, “There is no budget.” We don’t have the new kitchen that the brother who died had hoped for, nor do we have the elevator for the elderly folks to ride to the second story to go to the adult Sunday School class. But we have a completely paid for million dollar parsonage in the white community. Think about that. The Black church buys a house in the White neighborhood for the Black Pastor. This reminds me of the opposite of the parable of Jesus feeding thousands from a little boy’s 5 loaves and two little fish. This is what happens when the pastor eats all the fish, for himself.
By the way, the church members were called to a special meeting for approval to dip into what’s left of the benefactor’s gift to pay taxes which had not been paid for a couple of years. The church members said no! I have a suggestion. Get a loan on the Pastors residence and pay taxes, assuming that the house still belongs to First AME Pasadena. While we are at it, get a little extra cash to upgrade the kitchen like they upgraded the million dollar house, after they purchased it. Why not upgrade the church building for the church members and also resume giving to the poor and needy in the community?
Oh, I know many of you think I’m airing our dirty laundry. You know, if wife beaters were afraid that their beaten wives would expose them, they would stop their abusive ways. Besides, I am a student of not only the bible but of the modern day prophets like Dr. James Cone and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Cone talks about Ghetto Theology and asks whether the Black Clergy lifts up and emancipates the Black Masses from the effects of past oppression and allow Blacks to make an honest self affirmation through Jesus Christ. If not, Theology merely keeps Blacks oppressed and only the color of the messenger has changed.
Dr. King said in his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail that, “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the blackness of corroding despair.” In a speech on April 4, 1967, one year before his death, Dr. King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” That time is now!