Church and Society / I Have No Words / The Color Line

I Have No Words…For the King Committee Picking Rick Warren for MLK Day Speaker

ribs-warren-rick1I mentioned it earlier this month in a blog, but I didn’t devote a whole blog to it, but, um, yeah, I really don’t have words to describe my ultimate disgust with the King Center’s choice to pick Rick Warren as the MLK day speaker.   Perhaps I’ll buy the claim that theologically Rick Warren and many black pastors are the same, but as far as many social issues and culturally, of course, he’s a horse of a different color.  

As I said in that earlier post, my friend quipped that this year, after electing Barack Obama that he really didn’t want to see any whites on the rostrum at Ebenezer this coming up Monday.  Well, I personally wasn’t willing to go that far, but I definitely see his point, particularly since these meetings are somewhat of an “in-house” gathering.  That being said, I think someone like Jim Wallis of Sojourner’s would have been a more than appropriate person to deliver the message.  I had the pleasure of hearing him at my cousin’s graduation from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2002.

But, the clincher came yesterday.

I was just going to politely not pay this any attention seeing as how I plan to be in DC next Monday, and I was going to try and hop on the train down to Al Sharpton’s meeting, but with my extra free time this week, I have been doing much better by viewing all of the blogs on my blogroll.  So I happened onto Renita Weems’ Something Within blog and I felt compelled to pass this information on to you from her for those who don’t visit her blog from my page.

This is what happened:

She reports that Rick Warren sent out a form email to certain uppity Negro clergy member that reads thusly:

Dear Pastor __________,

Recently I was reading an older issue of African American Pulpit (I’m a long-term subscriber) and I came upon your article, “____________________”.  I thought it was so good I wanted to write and tell you what a great job you did. Well done!

After reading your work, I decided to ask you for your help. On Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 19, I have the humble privilege of being invited to be the first white pastor to preach the annual memorial message in Dr. King’s home church in Atlanta, Ebenezer Baptist.  I consider this opportunity as one of the greatest privileges in my ministry. It is even more important to me personally, than praying the invocation for my friend President Obama’s Inauguration the next day.

I’d like to know your thoughts. If you were preaching the annual Martin Luther King sermon at his church on his day – what would YOU say?   I just felt led to write you.  Please help me, your brother in Christ. I’m open to any ideas, texts, or suggestions you might have for me, and I’d deeply appreciate it.

For so many of us, Dr. King was a role model, not just for justice, but also a role model for local church pastoring and preaching.   I have a personally typed and signed letter by Dr. King framed on my office wall.

I am committed to the ministry of reconciliation, so I’m always trying to build bridges to my African-American brothers and sisters in ministry. We’re a part of the same Body, saved by the same Grace, filled with the same Spirit, preaching the same Word, serving the same Lord, and called to fulfill the same Purposes on earth.
Thanks again for how your words touched me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rick Warren

For real Rick?!?!?!!?  FOR REAL?!?!?!?!?

I have no reason to believe that Renita Weems is making this up in her blog.  Fact of the matter is that Rick Warren is doing what he does.  This is not a shock to me, necessarily, what I’m having problems with is with the King Center and with Ebenezer Baptist Church.

ebenezer-baptist-churchI always rebuffed people when they said that Ebenezer was a museum especially because I attempted to put down some roots at the church when I first arrived here in Atlanta, but personally, I think it doesn’t speak well of a congregation that closely controlled by a federal agency.  The church couldn’t even build a kitchen on their campus because it’s a National Historic Site, as a result they have to use a church up the street.  What kind of existence is that?

But it works for somebody.

That being said, I don’t think I could sit idly by as pastor of Ebenezer or as a deacon or a member of the trustee board, or even as a member and let this guy stand in the pulpit of my church.  Okay, I’ll buy the argument with him being at the inauguration; not meaning I agree with the argument, but I see where Obama could be coming from.  But, Ebenezer is not Riverside Church.  Ebenezer is a bona fide church that functions as a church, secondly as a tourist attraction.  The problem is that other outside entities, such as the National Park Services and clearly the King Center wield too much influence in my opinion.

It reflects more of the pastor and the church as to who’s invited to speak in a pulpit.  It does NOT reflect well of Rev. Raphael Warnock and the Ebenezer Baptist Church to see Rick Warren standing in the pulpit that their duly elected senior pastor preaches in each Sunday.

I wonder if the members will protest Rick Warren’s presence as vehemently as they did their own pastor.

….doubt it!

What are your comments?  Do you think the pastor and the congregation have a responsibility to who speaks in their pulpit?  What do you think the pastor and congregation’s response should be?  What do you think Rick Warren’s keynote address should be to the aggregation at Ebenezer on Monday?

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL


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5 thoughts on “I Have No Words…For the King Committee Picking Rick Warren for MLK Day Speaker

  1. This is all very interesting–thanks for your perspective. It seems that you might have been among the ‘half-dozen’ protesting had you planted yourself at Ebenezer?

    Rev. Warnock is supposed to speak at Trinity United Church in Chicago for King Day–I think.

    Even when it’s hard,
    Keep on keeping it uppity

    We are because God is.

  2. A lot of people don’t know that Warren has promoted the spread of HIV in Africa, especially Uganda, by pushing “abstinence only” scams. The rate of HIV infection has started going up in Uganda because of this.

  3. Hey there!

    I read that Ebenezer was allowing their location to be used for the ceremony but was not hosting the event.

    As for the mass email attempt, I seriously doubt he wrote the email OR knew about it other than some staff member telling him “we have asked some black clergy for input on your sermon, OK?”

    I have been part of an international ministry and I can assure you that the head of the ministry does not write ANYTHING that is published….zilch! That is why there are scribes who are hired….

    This doesn’t excuse Rick Warren but I think that there is an assumption (among those of us who know how these international ministries function) that this is mass email approach to building relationships is very typical for those who have an email distribution of 250,000 like Rick Warren. It doesn’t mean it’s appropriate… but THIS is how they think they are fostering relationships.

    Did these folks think they would get individual letters hand-signed? *shaking my head* A greeting card that Rick picked out himself with a slice of pound cake maybe?

    I am being a little sarcastic but my point is that there is a way that the old guard black clergy thinks things are done or ought to be…and there is a way that things are actually BEING DONE.

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
    Lisa

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