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Christianity and Theological-Social Policy in the Twenty-First Century

African American news - Theological-Social Policy and Christianity - gay ordinationOn July 8th the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. signified one of its most significant historical policy decisions namely, "the ordination of openly gay persons." This decision, mired in controversy, comes on the heals of a similar decision by the Episcopal Church of Anglicanism and the more recent legislation in several U. S. States.

A recent Huffington Post story states that the Presbyterians are now one of three denominational bodies (in the U.S.) with similar policies: the Episcopal-Anglicanism, the United Church of Christ (of which Jeremiah Wright's Trinity Church belongs), and now the Presbyterian U.S.A. Black churches in these denominations remain split over this issue. Schisms in Anglicanism have thus resulted around the globe; contentions exist between conservative and liberal contingents – African (continental) Anglicans have taken a more conservative stance, asserting that the Bible is not consonant with homosexual practice and lifestyle. Will an actual Presbyterian split ensue over this policy decision? Already within Presbyterianism splits and schisms have led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), and others; is another formation in sight?

Currently the United Methodist Church (UMC) wrestles with this same issue. Unofficial talk has suggested that a similar decision in support of gay ordination will be implemted in the next few years or sooner. Others suggest that as the UMC goes so does the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). What of the other largely Black denominations? What may or may not be considered a similar issue? For example, the ordination of women continues to be a sensitive and hot-button point among the Black Baptist, the Church of God in Christ and other marginal Black church groups. The more conservative Presbyterians see very few, if any, women ordained in their bodies.

At the moment, though, unlike the largely mainline White denominations and their caucus churches, the seven historical Black denominations - three Methodist, three Baptist and the Church of God in Christ - continue to maintain a policy disallowing or recognizing gay ordination; these social-theological factors continue to challenge the meaning of what defines Christianity and the proper meaning and use of the Bible. Despite being on the left or right of this issue the struggle over defining Christianity in the twenty-first century will be decided in terms of a human-centered perspective and worldview, or by a more classical Evangelical-oriented sensibility.

[Dr. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins is Scholar-in-Residence at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Atlanta, GA and is a Professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center also in Atlanta. He is the author of "Ecclesiastes" in the African Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures through Africa and the African Diaspora (Fortress Press), 2009, and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought 1 (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, lecturing, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. You may contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .]


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