In August 1996 the late General Superintendent, B.E. Underwood, called for a Solemn Assembly to confess to the Lord seven systemic sins that were part of our past and present: spiritual pride, judgmentalism, a controlling spirit, racism, male domination, greed and the elder brother syndrome.
Several hundred IPHC leaders convened in the sanctuary of Northwood Temple IPHC in Fayetteville, North Carolina. For twenty-four hours we confessed, prayed, wept, and sought God’s face for ourselves personally, our movement corporately, and for our nation and world.
I recently found myself thinking of that event for two primary reasons. First, the #MeToo movement has brought to the surface the reality of the continued impact of male domination. From Hollywood, the media, sports and religion, a profound awareness has put the spotlight on the ubiquitous reality of the continuing abuse of women.
One writer, Beth Moore, who spoke at the opening night of our IPHC General Conference last summer, confronted her Southern Baptist brothers on May 3, 2018, with “A Letter to My Brothers”. You should read her letter. It is relevant for the Christian family around the globe. When I read her letter, I could not help but think of the sin our own church confessed twenty-two years ago.
Second, on a recent flight, I watched the 2015 movie Spotlight. Based on a true story, it portrays how The Boston Globe, in January 2002, exposed the decades-long sex-abuse of children by priests and the accompanying ecclesiastical cover-up in the Catholic archdiocese of Boston. It led to the removal of the late Cardinal Bernard Law and revealed how the Globe itself had slighted the story a decade earlier.
The dark power of controlling spirits by the abusing priests, by the church hierarchy, and even by the Globe reveal how deeply the tentacles of sin weave their destructive path of lies and cover-ups.
Lest we be unaware of how spiritual pride and judgmentalism can blind us, these sins have occurred within evangelical and Pentecostal movements, including our own. Within the IPHC, it was a generation ago that acknowledged these sins. But one event does not mark us forever.
A new generation arises that has little to no personal or historical reference to that day in Fayetteville. Even those of us who were there are keenly aware of how easily we slip back into the subtle ways culture entices us with power and prestige. How easily we justify and excuse our own attitudes and actions. How easily we become the Pharisee in the temple who prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11, NKJV).
I decided to write about these things now for several reasons. First, our Core Value emphasis for 2018 and 2019 have correlation: “All Generations” is our theme for 2018, and “Justice” will be our focus in 2019. While we have highlighted this year the good that God does through and in each generation, and we have highlighted how much we need one another, we also need to note how easily generational memory loss occurs.
Since “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph,” nearly 3,500 years ago (see Exodus 1:8), does it surprise us that an April 12, 2018, headline in The Washington Post reads: “Holocaust study: Two-thirds of millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is”?
While I’ve not done a survey, I suspect the vast majority of our younger church members have no idea that IPHC leaders gathered in Fayetteville in 1996 to confess our corporate sins. I would be surprised if the millennial survey among our own young adults was any different about Auschwitz.
This leads me to the second reason for this column. Each year several thousand USA IPHC teens and young adults gather for the Accelerant conference in January and for Youth Quest in July. We need to watch these young people: They have the latest smartphones, the coolest games, and the most popular apps. Whether they use Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp, they can communicate around the world or down the aisle before the speaker can get to her next sentence! We are also told they care about justice issues (Just read this article: https://theunstuckgroup.com/2015/06/millennials-and-social-justice-insights/).
I think it’s important that we find ways to tell them that our generation has not forgotten what we confessed before they were born. We need to show the next generation of men how to treat women as Christ treated women. We need to show them that sexual manipulation and abuse is not what godly men and women do. We need to show them that Christ’s love rejects racial and ethnic hatred.
We need to show them, and remind ourselves, that we are citizens of the kingdom of God.
By Doug Beacham
This article was published in the June/July 2018 issue of Encourage.