Why must Jesus be left out?

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Hi, everybody I just got off the phone and I have to admit, I was annoyed and perplexed. Every year the downtown ministerial association of which my church is a part of, puts on an ecumenical thanksgiving service. Last year I preached. I get a call from the episcopal pastor and I asked what color robes were we to wear this year. She said "we are not wearing vestaments" I then asked if clergy were only wearing stoles? She said "we are not wearing robes or stoles the new rabbi does not wear a robe and so we do not want to make her feel uncomfortable.

I then said I am an ordained Pastor in the AME Church and I am wearing a robe and a stole out of respect to Jesus! The conversation ended with you will be the only one.

So be it, I least the laity will know there is one church in my town that is a follower of Christ. I am noticing more and more that Jesus is being left out and often times in Christian churches.

I had a member of my church tell me she was at an aa meeting and the group voted not to say the Lord's prayer because it offended some of the people. The founder of aa Bill W. was a christian and it was his conversion experience with God that prompted him to start aa. He was dying and called out to God to heal him of alcohlism and God did. The twelve steps are based on Christian principals.

Christian teenagers can't wear t-shirts that proclaim Christ as lord, because it offends someone. I have even heard of people trying to get vanity plates with Jesus or God on it across the country and being discouraged by motor vehicles because it would be offensive to others.

I will be wearing my robes this sunday out of respect to jesus, if the rabbi is offended. I make no apologies for I work for God and Jesus and my robes and stole are my uniform to let others know I am in army of the Lord.

Have you noticed that Jesus is being left out in the secular and church world.

-- Anonymous, November 21, 2003


Elder Rogers -

The decision to minimize and de-emphasize the role of Jesus in public discourse is due to the anti-religious political correctness movement. In fact, the "PC" movement manifests itself in contemporary theology and our churhces with its focus on themes like "womanist" theology, "Afrocentric" theology and a rejection of concepts like Biblical innerrancy, sin, Christ's Resurrection and eschatology. Many in this movement consider their views "progressive" due to support of issues like, abortion, gay rights and religious tolerance. People who articulate a "high" Christology are viewed as being religious fanatics, intolerant, insensitive and worse, anti-intellectual. The "PC" crowd tend to demonize Republicans as right-wing Christian zealots because of their desire to support prayer in schools, displaying a Nativity scene in public venues or as we saw several months ago the display of the 10 Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court. Jesus said in one of His Gospels, "If you are ashamed of Me on Earth, I'll be ashamed of You in Heaven". We have a clear choice. Either accept the unimpeachable truth about Jesus or acquiesce to the "PC" crowd. The Book of Joshua 24:15 sums up our choice set. QED

-- Anonymous, November 21, 2003

In the last days apostasy will run rampant through the church. This is to be expected. For our part, we must focus on becoming Book of Acts Christians, and Book of Acts churches.

What can you do to become the type of Christian whose shadow brings healing? What can your church do to bring about the environment where souls are added daily, sometimes thousands at a time?

First we must lay down our idols, and the church is full of them. We've been loaded down with distractions that have nothing to do with the Great Commission. Remember, if satan cannot drag us to hell, he'll neutralize us by getting us involved in things that are of secondary importance.

The situations you and Bro Bill describe are signs of satanic infiltration. It must be stood against, and if the church needs to split, so be it. It's happening in the Episcopal church right now. We don't need to partner with unbelievers. We evangelize them.

-- Anonymous, November 22, 2003

Since Bishop Brother Dickens has appointed to the office of resident iconoclast, let me state emphatically to my sister Elder Rogers if she is going to participate in a worship service where Christ must play a secondary role as not to offend other participants then she should not wear a robe or other symbols. This is the time for the Christ which is resident within to shine, it should shine so brightly that her outer garments do not matter.

I probably disdain "inter-faith" services more than anyone, because although I respect and have gained a lot from womanist and afrocentric theological approaches I really am rooted and grounded in John 3:16 God sent Jesus so that "whosoever" believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. I am one of the whosoever so I am not trying to worship with those who disagree. I believe we should address secular causes in a secular manner. But don't ask me to join together in prayer with others who disdain or question the source of my strength.

-- Anonymous, November 24, 2003

Well Rev. Gibson let me tell you what happened at the ecumenical service, first of all I am a pit bull for Jesus I grab the hem of his robe and I do not let go;-) I am use to being the only one holding the banner of Christ high, I am humbled by the trust God has in me. In my state I am the only ordained black clergy woman in the entire state of Montana. (By the way the ame church came to montana in 1860 and three churches were founded by a black woman Lydia Allen, ame's are always first on the mission field.)

Well I wore my beautiful elaborate robe that was a gift to me from Presiding Elder Guidry she is my spiritual mother and as I walked into the church, the catholic priest walked in with his clergy collar and black suit, we gave each other hug and said at least there are two believers.

The other clergy spoke street clothes but I was the only one in a robe. (though 2 lutheran clergy men had on clergy collars)the others stood up and then sat down, no one in the congregation even looked up from their program. One representative wore jeans and a lumber jack shirt. When I stood up in my robe to lead the litany of thanksgiving, the congregation which was made up of 10 churches immediately stood up, put their programs down. Afterwards, every clergy woman said to me they felt embarrassed because I wore a robe and thus commanded authority, and people came up and thanked me and the ame church for participating. They said they felt the joy of Christ. One of my colleagues who is lutheran and I spoke and I was proud to say that in the ame church my Bishop has certain expectations of his clergy. My Bishop wears his robes to church functions, my clergy colleagues wear their robes to conferences and church services it is done out of respect and reverence to God. I have never seen an ame clergy person leading service in jeans! I am glad I am proud of Jesus Christ, and I am so glad I am in a denomination that I know Bishop Bryant would have a long talk with me if I showed presiding at church service with jeans, one of the clergy women had a mini skirt on, I did comment on the inappropiateness of her short dress to her. But she doesn't ever wear a robe in her own church. Lastly I show up Rev. Gibson at these functions to show the world that we must be proud to be followers of Christ and just because someone has rev. in front of their name does not mean they are followers. God planted an ame church in a town that is 98 percent white for a reason that is still unfolding.

Somebeody sing with we today "we are soldiers in the army of the Lord" praise Jesus I can ever Brother Jerryl Payne on the organ and I can see Robert Matthews III directing the choir and I feel Jesus is our midst. Remember everyone one plus God is a majority.

Much love and blessings!

-- Anonymous, November 24, 2003

Yahoo Sis. Denise, so glad to hear what you did. I thought I was an alien, because, i wear my collar almost every day.I have a"secular" job and wear my collar to work.My collegues I know frown because they think I am strange.I am proud to be an AME Pastor.I also receive 2 magnificant gowns from Rev. Guidry which I wear and am proud because we christians always want to blend with world. We have been Called by the Almighty God to be in service not only on sundays.I wear my robe during ecuemenical services and will never be ashamed of who called have called me to be. Thanks for being a role model for me. God bless and lots of love.

-- Anonymous, November 24, 2003

Is this a dream or have I been elected to the Bench??? Harold refers to me as "Bishop Dickens". But it can't be since I have spoken from the pulpit since, gasp, Summer 2001 :-) Oh well, if I am Bishop for a day the first thing I would do in my "District" is issue a moratorium on all new church building projects and redirect those funds to the poor and the elderly. QED

-- Anonymous, November 24, 2003

Bishop QED Dickens:

I cannot agree with you more! Can we get a write-in candidate for Indianapolis 2004?

-- Anonymous, November 24, 2003

Sister Ursula, I will write you privately later but I want to tell you I love you so much as my biological sister and you are my role model.

I want to share with laity how much clergy robes and stoles cost. They are very expensive! A simple black robe like a choir robe begins at $165.00. I wore a robe that is called a "Cassock" robe to the ecumenical service. They are black with red buttons down the front and a matching short cloak tripped in red. Those robes run about $400,00. So the robes rev. higgins and I received are true gifts. Particularly for those of us in small and or rural churches.

It really makes my congregation proud also they have told me. Stoles the the long scarves that we wear over our robes start at $110.00.

I bought a beautiful purple stole 11 years ago in seminary with gold metallic threads and it was $150.00 today that same store is $275.00. For my birthday my daughter had a beautiful green velvet stole made for me, I love it!

So if we wear the same outfit every week, there is a reason!;-)

-- Anonymous, November 24, 2003

"Bishop" Dickens last spoke int he summer of 2001? Oh my goodness, I was there! And I must confess, he was erudite ad realtively brief!

Of course, at the time he may have been eclipsed byt he other candidate for Bishop who spoke at the second service. Dr. Hill. :-) . But I digress.

I recall that wonderfful song, Rev. Rogers. It was the mainstay of the annual usher service when I was a child. I haven't played it in a while, but I am sure it will come back to me. :)

St. Paul, Cambridge used to be involved in interfaith ministry years ago. Perhaps Bro. Bob can bring us up to date on the state of those relations. I do like Bro. Gibson's comment of letting the inner light shine, though. ll of us can do that.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

Bro Payne said: "St. Paul, Cambridge used to be involved in interfaith ministry years ago. Perhaps Bro. Bob can bring us up to date on the state of those relations."

Well, we have not had an Ecumemical Service in a while. Four or five years ago we had a service with a top Jewish Rabbi and a top Catholic clergyman in the person of Bernard Cardinal Law (before the fall). None wore robes. On the other hand we have hosted many Inter-faith services as part f two organizations, The Black Ministerial Alliance and the Cambridge Black Pastors Association. My Pastor, Rev LeRoy Attles, is a Vice- President in each of these groups. It seems to be the custom among these groups that the pastor who is delivering the Word is robed. Most of the other wear whatever their denomination usually wear. Some are in clerical collars, some in business suits, one sometimes wears his cossack-like robe which he tends to wear all the time anyway. These groups cover the spectrum of Black Clergy. There are no Catholics represented nor Jewish Temples, nor Muslim mosques. For Rev. Attles 25th anniversary, we had a week of services, each from a different denomination, each in its own tradition and each with their choir. Monday (United Methodist), Tuesday (Babtist), Weds (Pentacostal), Thursday (Presbyterian) and Friday (Non- denominational). There is a strong interfaith connection in the Boston-Cambridge community. The pastors have gone on retreats together and have a covenent with each other not to "steal" each others members. If someone switches churches, the receiving pastor lets the other know about it. It is, in every sense an Interfaith effort. I have to add that sometimes the occasion calls for all in the pulpit to wear robes but not very often. Of course, in these situations, there are no Catholics nor Jewish worshipers to take offense.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

The elect lady of this discussion states:

I wore a robe and thus commanded authority, and people came up and thanked me and the ame church for participating. They said they felt the joy of Christ. One of my colleagues who is lutheran and I spoke and I was proud to say that in the ame church my Bishop has certain expectations of his clergy. My Bishop wears his robes to church functions, my clergy colleagues wear their robes to conferences and church services it is done out of respect and reverence to God.

Every day I am beginning to believe I am fulfilling the appointment given to me by Bill Dickens as the resident iconoclast. Rev. Rogers perhaps I have seen too many robes in my lifetime but that cassock of yours must be out of this world to "command authority."

To be sure I feel you are sincere in saying what you say about the importance and signifcance of the robe, but my Sister it wasn't the robe or the cassock on you that made the difference, any authority you commanded came from the God resident in you that you have allowed to witness to the community you serve.

Your bishop and the rest of the bishops of the church wear robes at the ceremonial worship services of the conference, and on Sunday mornings many of our clergy don robes, but the authority is not in the fabric and neither is the reverence or respect for God.

My "iconoclastic" theological perspective prevents me from being ga- ga over $400 to $1,000 articles of fabric when our schools face issues, and many of the clergy are under insured, and ill prepared for retirement. I can't get excited about fabric when children are dying and dope is presiding over the streets of our cities.

You go my sister in your cassock, but I know that you know it ain't cassock that makes you the wonderful minister and sister you are in Christ. You go my sister but know that the robe is just a garment, an expensive garment to be sure, a gift to be treasured, but insignificant in the eyes of God of mercy and justice.

Be blessed.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2003

Rev. Gibson, I course I know where my authority comes from, I would not be on this mission field if I did not know where my authority. I have been a pastor for 20 years. In my response I said my robe is my uniform that identifies whom I work for! Please re-read my post again. The authority that I spoke of was standing in a midst of those who did not want to pray, did not want to be there and did not think enough of God or the congregation to approach the service with humility and reverence.

Rev. Gibson you can be flip about my "cassock robe" if you want, but the gift of the robe to me and rev. higgins was not only thoughtful but practical. For those of us in small rural churches or are starting from scratch robes are important! Just as they are to someone just beginning in ministry. All to often we have intellectual discussions on this board that are summed up in two paragraphs. If only ministry was that easy. It isn't. My ministry is different than yours, I minister in a place, where there is a reward for the taking of my life, because I am black! I minister in a place where fundamentalist constantly attack me, because I am a minister and a woman, who dares to work with native americans, those with aids, helps battered women escape in the middle of the night. Walks into schools when children bring guns to diffuse the situation. Leads marches against the war, speaks out against the aryan nation. Yes, Rev. Gibson, my robe is IMPORTANT to me, for it lets everyone knows who gives me the authority to stand against evil. There are many like me around the world, and we are proud of our uniforms and the God we serve. People spend money on designer clothes, shoes, luxury cars with on star, some of us would rather invest in robes and stoles to show the world who gives us the authority to wear them.

One last thing I am not the "Lady elect on this board", I hold no special titles on this board. Scripture tells us to be boldacious christians, not to be timid or meek when proclaiming the gospel and as long as my fingers can type and I can speak you will hear from me.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

Sister Denise, as I was reading your post, I was struck by your passion of insisting that you wear your robe in an ecumenical service. I agree that robes are important and that a robe was given to you in a spirit of blessing your ministry. However, in the grand scheme of things, I believe Jesus takes issue with religious leaders who get caught up in the trappings of religion. I would have to agree with Brother Harold. You are still very much a minister, with or without a robe. It is important in your enthusiasm for Christ to be Christ-like with all people of faith, especially since the Christian faith is rooted in the faith of the Children of Israel, who were Jewish. So, if there was a service to honor and give respect to a fellow sister of faith, a Rabbi, one would think that in the spirit ecumenicism, you would agree with the suggestion of being uniform. In my view, it was not disrespectful at all to suggest that you not wear a robe. You are trying to make it seem like if a clergy person does not publically wear a robe, they are not representing Christ. Is wearing a robe about the person? What was the spirit in which you wore the robe? Did you wear the robe out of contention or spite, and if so, did you defeat your purpose of representing Christ with an ill spirit? Paul writes about not letting our good be evil spoken of. By choosing to wear the robe, did you hinder or harm relationships with your fellow clergy in the ministerial alliance? Was it more important to wear the robe, or was it more important to come together in relationship and fellowship for a Thanksgiving service?

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

Why must Jesus be left out????? This post reminds me of a story, which is based in BIblical tradition and wisdom literature about a man who was so purpose-driven in going to meet his teacher and his master for a high holy day, to complete the ritual for the sabbath. But on the way to go meet his master and his teacher and to celebrate the sabbath with the master, he's invited by another group who needs his presence to complete their circle of ten, to celebrate the sabbath. THe man tells them "I cannot celebrate and worship with you? I have been looking forward to celebrating with my teacher all year long. I have to go and celebrate with my teacher." So the man declines. When he meets the teacher, the teacher gives him the cold shoulder and does not speak a word or even looked his way during the celebration. THe man, becoming upset, went and asked his master, "how have I offended you? what have I done? Why have you treated me so badly?" The master replied, "you were given an invitation to celebrate the sabbath with a group that needed you. But you declined and missed your purpose." THe point of this story is this: let's not be so focused on the external trappings of religion and miss our purpose of true fellowship and spiritual destiny.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

Elder Rogers opines -

"One last thing I am not the "Lady elect on this board", I hold no special titles on this board. Scripture tells us to be boldacious christians, not to be timid or meek when proclaiming the gospel and as long as my fingers can type and I can speak you will hear from me."

Now Denise you know Harold means no harm with that affectionate title. I kind of like the title of elect lady :-) You are a lady and the Holy Writ declares we are of the elect, a chosen generation a royal priesthood (Epistle of I Peter). Ironically, the Church School Lesson last week focused on II John & III John with reference to the apostle's greeting to the "Elect Lady". Now concerning this matter about proper clergy dress and attire I guess I would have to ask what would the original iconoclast (just ask the Pharisees), Jesus, do in a situation like the one you describe? It appears that both Harold and Olivia are questioning whether the "outer" garment should supercede the "inner" garment. QED

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

This is my last comment on this post for it is evident that what I am saying is not understood and what I wrote in my initial post was not read or understood. In my inistial post I said "The person in charge of the ecumenical service, that was held in a christian church said we should not wear robes because it might be offensive to the rabbi" which makes no sense since the rabbi was preaching in the church. My initial point was that it has gotten to the point all to often that we think about everyone else and everything else that Jesus and Christian traditions are left out. As I said to the pastor who organized the service, that when I am on a pulpit participating in a service I feel more comfortable wearing a robe and for me it is a sign of respect. I also said that an ecumenical serivice is representing our traditions, by the way the rabbi wore her yamaka (special hat) on her head.

And olivia of course I understand that God's power is the robe that all of us have been given when we give our lives to him and Christ, if I did not believe that I would not be a minister.

As I have said many times before my ministry is different, not special, not better than, but a different kind of ministry. For most on this board you live in an urban area, the ministries that you are involved with are urban ministries, you are in areas where there are more than one ame church, and unfortunately for some that post on this board you have had negative experiences with clergy. But not all clergy are bad, some of us are working hard, not all members of ame churches are unhappy with their pastors, it is too bad we do not hear their voices. There is no way, I can make you understand what I am trying to say and so be it. The good news for me is that Jesus, God and the Holy spirit do understand and olivia you asked if I wore a robe out of spite. How ridiculous! I pray and ask God what his will is before I do any worship service. My instructions were clear, wear the robe. Somehow the wearing of a robe in the midst of a service was a reminder of the power of God. It provided wonderful conversation after the service among everyone about the power of God. And the rabbi was wonderful! And she and I hugged and hugged, she said she loved my joy and we are becoming fast friends. God can use anyone and ANYTHING to bring his people to him.

And to Bill, yes I understood what Harold meant, but I am a servant of God and I want to make that clear. For me their is no greater title than that of a servant. This is a discussion board and everyone has their opinion, but we all have our unique perspectives and experiences in ministry. God called me to rural ministry, which I love and I am so blessed that Bishop Bryant and Presiding Elder Roberson understand my ministry and when I write them and share these incidents I have their support. For the majority of you, it may make no sense but to the 250 people that were there Sunday, they got it and said so! This is my LAST COMMENT on this subject.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

"This is my LAST COMMENT on this subject."

Why? What if someone has a question for clarification? Surely you won't provide a response to a basic question. I can't speak for others but I don't think the issue is one of confusion about a position but more so disagreement about a "dress code" position. Harold is not an iconoclast for nothing. Recall his careful dissection about the wasted energy we as AMEs burn worrying about whether women should wear communion hats :-) QED

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

I attended an Interfaith Thanksgiving Worship In Cooperation with the Old Philadelphia Congregations last night. It was wonderful. Of course, Mother Bethel was represented well by Rev. Jeffrey N. Leath, D. Min. I did note that all pastors of Christian denominations, with the exception of the Friends Meeting wore robes. The rabbi and cantor wore the Jewish hats. (I am sorry, but I don't know the name of it.) The representative from the Muslim American Community Association did not wear a suit, but a black jacket, that appeared to end just above the knee with white pants. I am not certain if this is Muslim attire or not.

The service was wonderful. The Keystone State Boychoir sang and one young man played 'Amazing Grace' on the violin. It was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. But what I noticed most was this. When the young men sang the gospel song "Praise His Holy Name" and the South African Song "Kwangena/Shosholoza" the entire congregation came to life. There was such joy and praise in the house. Even the rabbi, cantor, and Muslim cleric clapped their hands and smiled. God gave us a great joy in our music and it is infectious. Everyone can have peace and joy when we share the joy and love of Jesus. Isn't that what it's all about. God bless.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

First of all I want to profusely apologize to Rev. Rogers if my usage of "elect lady" was offensive. I used the term with the utmost respect for the work you do in Montana and how the various insights you have shared with this electronic community both on this discussion page and in the AME Herald.

Additionally, I do very well understand your position within the community in which you reside. I was responding to your statement about the authority transferred by the wearing of the robe. I did not mean to sound flip about your cassock I was using the term you used to describe it.

I am glad you participate in ecumenical or interfaith settings in your community. Your voice is very much needed. I only questioned your position and you statement about whether Jesus is being left out on the basis of one's choice to or not to wear vestments.

Please have a blessed thanksgiving holiday and I hope I have not opened a chasm in our fellowship that cannot be bridged.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

Well, since no further comments will be made about robes, vestments, Jesus and offending those of other faiths, as an aside I would like to say that I've been reading this post and I must say, WOW we AME's can get quite emotional, can't we? I guess that's what makes us unique. I really don't think there is a need to take anything that anyone says on this board personally. Frankly, I think it is great that we share our positive perspectives about the AME church on this board and the positive things that our pastors and lay are doing. However, I think this discussion board is "balanced" out by the truth, and the truth is that everyone out here is not ecstatically happy about everything that is going on in the AME church. Those of us that have been members of this denomination for decades know that there is a lot of good that goes on in the denomination, for if it weren't, we would just join the other 100's of churches that are up and down our streets. A lot of change needs to occur and this is probably one of the only forums that we have where we can discuss this potential change. I think a non-punitive discussion board is a great place to get these things off our chest. I enjoy the good, but I also enjoy responding to the not so good as well. I enjoy the balance. God bless you all and lets all try to have a drama-free Thanksgiving Holiday season.

-- Anonymous, November 26, 2003

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