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Adrienne Gaines: Punching Prejudice

 

Adrienne S. Gaines, “Punching Prejudice” Ministries Today (July/August 2003), pages 30-34.

When Scott Hagan became pastor Grand Rapids First Assembly of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan) he was aware of the city’s racially troubled past. It was in that same city in 1947 that “the Assemblies of God General Council made an infamous decision against the ordination and inclusion of African Americans into the denomination” (p. 31).

“When I read about this decision to exclude African Americans, Grand Rapids became a city of spiritual significance to me personally” (p. 31). With a vision to heal this spiritual wound, he and his wife Karen left a thriving pastorate at Harvest Church in Sacramento, California to fill the vacancy at Grand Rapids First Assembly after the retirement of M. Wayne Benson.

Image: www.ScottHagan.net

“Upon his arrival, he had four initial goals: to see the church make a clear, prophetic declaration that they were moving in the direction of unity; to initiate lunches with 100 local pastors; to teach a series titled ‘The Cross of Many Colors;’ and to hire minority staff from outside the community as positions became available” (p. 32). In the West Michigan community—home of numerous Reformed denominations and Christian publishers—Hagan was “the only white pastor to participate targeting the city’s attempt to quash efforts to name a local street after civil rights hero Rosa Parks” (p. 33). He was also “the first white pastor to host a service honoring Martin Luther King Jr.” (p. 33). Now, two years in, 10 percent of the members are people of color.

“At the turn of the 20th century, the body of Christ experienced our most historic and revered modern revival, Azusa Street” (p. 33). He says that although Azusa “bloodied the lip” of prejudice (p. 33) there has been almost no progress in the ensuing 97 years. “Our cities remain socially and spiritually bankrupt while denominations lob their lifeless messages of reconciliation from behind their safe cultural walls” (p. 33).

There are lessons we can learn from Azusa and the lack of racial reconciliation among Pentecostal/charismatics that has occurred since. We are called by the Spirit to become a united body in Christ. What can you and your church do to turn the tide?

Reviewed by Michael J. Dies

 

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2004

About the Author: Michael J. Dies is the reviews editor for Pneuma Review. He and his family live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.

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