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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

“The Whites must leave the church”… ?

At our annual ministers retreat, the four white ministers were subjected to a deep sense of “white extinction” from our fellow colleagues.
One of the ministers sparked this uneasy feeling, when we were talking about the new proposal of stationing ministers, when he suggested that The Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MSCA) must learn from the government (ANC) and start focusing on the black ministers getting the better stations (traditionally where white ministers are invited too – given specific contexts) and if the white people don’t like it, they must leave and start their own churches.
  • First question: Why is the person who is called to be a minister degrading the gospel by telling us to learn from the ruling party?
  • Second question: Why is Christianity and calling about colour?
These words sparked an intense interest amongst some of the other ministers reiterating this sentiment (granted not all felt the same, however if they hadn't, their silence wasn't convincing).
One stated, “Yes, white people aren’t even coming into the ministry (of the MSCA specifically) anymore. It’s only black people who are going to seminary and we must recognise that.” (I would agree with that - both the pros and the cons of that statement).
Eventually the statement that shocked me to my core was uttered, “The Methodist Church  has more black people and therefore we [sic] must focus on the black people. The whites can leave if they don’t like it.”
All the while, the white ministers did not say a thing. Not even a hand was raised or a defence made as we were made to feel extremely marginalised and unwanted in the church that is supposed to be for all people and nations.
Forgotten are the foundational words of John Wesley  that formed Methodism where he said;
  • All need to be saved,
  • All can be saved,
  • All can know themselves to be saved,
  • All can be saved to the uttermost.
Now, call me an idiot, but to me the word ‘All’ probably means EVERYONE, not just a specific group of people. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Eventually the bishop stood up and asked the white ministers to respond to these comments. One-by-one we stood up to have our say. Things were said in defence of that onslaught. Then it was my turn. I stood up and said, “This colour stuff is BULLSHIT!” (To which is was asked not to use probationer language as I am now ordained.) We all laughed.
Then I continued, “As called people to be ministers of the Gospel, we are called to rise above our own cultures and become part of the Christ-culture in this world. We must be more like Christ promoting unity to all people. Not separate people by colour but unite people in Christ. That’s what being called means.
Also, what made me love the MCSA was the fact that the MCSA was the only church to stand up to the Apartheid regime. To the point whereby the government confiscated thousands of Methodist schools because they would not conform to the regimes demands. During that time, Methodist ministers - white and black - fought for equality. They fought against ‘learning from the government’, they fought to teach the government the way of God (That is the role of a Prophetic voice of the church.) Now I hear that white ministers must leave and start their own churches because there is no place for them anymore.
The problem isn’t how we should mould the church to suit the black people, or any one ethnic group; the problem now lies in us not trying to figure out how to attract all nations to Christ (using the MCSA) – Black, white, Indian, Asian, etc. creating equality. This church is supposed to be for everybody!”

I did not receive a standing ovation after that riveting comeback. Nor, did anyone else say, “You know, Kevin has a point.” Nor was the direction of the conversation altered. It simply hung in the air leaving me with several thoughts;
  • Is the MCSA focusing on one group only, advocating segregation in their silence of disunity?
  • Is this the end of the MCSA?
  • Is there still a place in this church for me as a white minister?
  • Do i still want to be in the MCSA and be part of an institution that does not follow God’s ways but wants to mimic the government’s ways?
  • Where is the salvation passion of creating unity and church growth?
  • Am I wasting my call here? I only have one life and one call – do I want to waste it in the MCSA?
Sadly, it’s not the individual churches who are the problem, they are innocent of this stuff (I hope), but it is the institution and those who are leading it with tainted outlooks and silence.
Here is the tough question… Is God shutting down the MCSA because it’s become too political, more segregated and less prophetic?
Allow me to entertain the thought of my brothers. Are they right;
  • Is there no place for white ministers anymore?
  • Has a time come for white people to leave the MCSA and start their own churches?
I cannot help but feel these questions rise within my heart the more I am exposed to meetings like this. And truth be told, I feel its getting worse each year from day 1 of my probation started.

I will be honest, it does not look positive from my point of view.

Also bear in mind that this is an isolated event from one part within the MCSA. This does not necessarily reflect what is happening within the wider MCSA Leadership or within the wider church's membership . I truly hope not. 

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