Updated: Jul 28
I started "Black & White Chi Rho" ministries in 2012, shortly after serving a church in Louisiana. There, we enjoyed a lot of friendships. The Church had young families, steeped history, great facilities and architecture but there was one thing that stood out to me in this culture that everyone seemed to be aware and accepted. It as a sense of those who were born and raised there, who had generational roots, were members of the "Elect." Perhaps my dream was to become part of a tradition where we would see the church as a place that broke down those socio-economic norms. My tenure was short, nine months to be exact. Prior to that, the pews were swelling and new members were joining. Wardens were giving me praise and things appeared on Sunday to be moving in a good direction but there were flaws, several of them. They all stemmed around the belief system of who belonged and who did not. This church was marred with a history of racism. A prior Rector in the 60's decided to allow blacks to come down from the "gallery" or balcony to receive Communion beside the "white folks." The elders claimed this priest must not have been happy with the way it was and dismissed him. He later became the Bishop of Mississippi and further, to become the Presiding Bishop for the Episcopal Church. The church is now referred to as a "Priest killer" by several of their clergy "trophies" that hang on the walls of their parish hall. It is a sad place where the stories of Christ condemning the elect came to life.
Why would a church be this way and be this harsh to its clergy? Because it created a culture of belonging based on outward things, appearances and reputation to uphold, the grave was already dug. How you looked and acted, knowing your place, determined if you would be considered part of the Elect or be cast down into the abyss of those who were unhappy. Ironically, while I was there I found that most people were not happy. Maybe this carried over into my leadership a bit, echoing the the concerns and complaints of those who were too intimidated to speak. One person lived in the city for 50 years and confessed she would never be accepted, no matter how many parties she threw. That's just the way it was. Parishioners were often telling me who was who; the pedigree analysis of those who were part of the system. This behavior goes way beyond racism. It is the plight of humanity to lose its soul over identity politics and create a culture that virtue signals. Our world today is no further removed from this sin than the sins of the 60's and yet we still do not learn. What exactly is God calling us into, when He calls the "Elect?"
In Isaiah, the prophet says, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect Chosen One, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." Further in Paul's writing, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;" (Col 3:1-12) The Christian and the Church to which they worship inside is to proclaim the election of sinners into God's kingdom, God's way of thinking and behaving, through His Son Jesus Christ. When we take Jesus into our hearts we rejoice when new members join; we uphold the teachings, even parables as relative to our handling of others. It must be hard for the worldly elect to make room for the Godly elect. I think we could all say we would be much happier, if the two could meet together. May God's earthly elect learn to be more merciful, kind, humble and meek, and may those who wish to be, move away from the culture of unhappiness and into the culture of believing there is more room for the "other."