I am so impressed and intrigued with this new book, Ethics in the Age of the Spirit, by Howard Kenyon. It has been difficult to complete the manuscript, reading and re-reading many parts because it so intrigued me. It is an academic masterpiece. It is also an exciting read, informative and academically excellent. To me, it is a must on the reading list of every serious Christian.
It is a book that our present culture needs to address. I have spent a lifetime in theological and philosophical examination of and personal experimentation with these three issues of race, women in ministry, and war. We have too long simply accepted how the church behaves in these three areas. We have failed many times to minister to our present culture, accepting the perceived attitudes of our own respected church groups without dealing with the issues at hand and without truly examining the scriptures.
Whether you are a minster, a teacher, or simply a Christian, you need to read the exciting and highly accurate and researched approach of how one of the fastest growing denominations in the world has faced these issues. It will amaze you how, from the background of an evangelical and almost fundamentalist denomination, the Assemblies of God has successfully wrestled with these issues, especially in the light of a culture that has wrestled with the same issues.
These three issues have become a spiritual journey for me. Many years ago, when I entered this battleground of opinions, I was inadequately armed with an insufficient Biblical understanding and with my own perception of the knowledge and the reaction of my own Assemblies of God heritage.
I did not enter the battle by simply taking the opinions of my spiritual leaders, but rather decided to examine these three issues myself. I found myself addressing them directly as pastor not only of a church, but the spiritual leader of a network of churches I had built across my city and around the world. How would we react and live in a world that was dealing with the ethical issues of race, women in ministry, and war?
I made an intentional decision to integrate my church and make it an international church, serving the kaleidoscope of people groups that now comprise my city. We had an international service that was interpreted into three languages, Spanish, Korean, and Russian. This was a decision that came at great cost. We built The Tabernacle in an affluent, upward mobile community that was almost all white. There were many of our people that would not understand a white church in an affluent suburb as they bought busses and vans, and did sidewalk Sunday schools in the urban community. Hundreds of these people of different cultures joined our ranks.
Instantly, we became a church of many kinds of people. The decision and the new color, racial and economic diversity of this church gradually became evident. Some of our suburban whites said, “I want the kind of a church where I can bring my influential friends to worship with me.” I do not think it was said with racial bias, but we were in a white, affluent suburb, and remaining that way would have been more comfortable.
I also addressed the issue of war. I added three Mennonite pastors and an Amish doctor to our leadership. I faced questions of how we would handle the specific holidays that celebrated our armed forces. I faced their differing attitudes in handling problems of conflict. I now had to honor and embrace these differing opinions and learn from them not just about their opinions but from their hearts. The conclusion of this issue was that we eventually had the privilege of sending them to our city.
Dr. Myron Glick, the Amish family in our fellowship, opened and today leads the largest medical clinic in our city, and last year served over 125,000 patients, specifically among the new growing immigrant population across the city of Buffalo. Dr. Glick sat in our pews for over 10 years, and now is a shining light in how to change our city. I knew what he believed about war, and I needed to learn.
Another Mennonite became my Senior Associate. What an amazing experience to work with a man who challenged my belief about how to handle conflict! After ten years we sent him to open a branch campus close to the University of Buffalo to reach the world population of our city. This is now one of the fastest growing churches in our city made up of many internationals.
We then had the privilege of sending a third Mennonite pastor, Rev. Bob Tice, back to the city to build a very successful church serving the multiracial population of our city that are the new immigrant population. The growth of this multiracial and immigrant-intensive church was truly amazing. Recently, they came back home one Sunday morning to worship with us. To see many of them in the dress of their native countries was a little bit of heaven.
You can understand why this book is so interesting to me as a person. I have lived with those two theological and philosophical battles of our differences in race and war. I had to examine not only the issues in the church, but the issues in my own life. I had to ask myself about the prejudices inside of me. My life has been an experimentation in these areas of church function.
Then there was the subject of women in ministry, for me an easy one as I had already settled this issue. I grew up in the Assemblies of God and my mother was a preacher and my idol in life was our own Assemblies of God-produced preacher, Aimee Semple McPherson. I named my daughter Aimee after her because I have always been and will always be a believer in women in the pulpit, serving even the highest positions, including that of Bishop. I did not have to wrestle with that issue, it was a living part of my makeup. My daughter, Aimee is a phenomenal orator and preacher as well as a highly qualified leader. If I had not believed in women, I could not enjoy what I am seeing today with my daughter becoming one of the truly great Christin leaders of the world. I thank you, Howard, for reaffirming the amazing way my forefathers approached the issue and have given my mother and daughter the roles they have played in our religious history.
So, I have special reasons to tell you that this book is an exciting story of the spiritual journey of my spiritual ancestors who pioneered the Assemblies of God. Please read it with a desire to see the spiritual journey of the people of Azusa Street who walked out of a racially integrated room in Los Angles to lead the world into a true examination of the issues of race, women in ministry, and war.
I challenge you to read it, enjoy the exciting story of thousands of people who have address the contemporary issues of this day long before they were popular. I must agree, we were A PEOPLE LED BY THE SPIRIT.
Bishop of The Tabernacle and the Covenant Community of Churches