Tony Evans: Gay Marriage Is Not a Civil Rights Issue

Tony Evans: Gay Marriage Is Not a Civil Rights Issue

ALTERNATIVE VOICE: Dr. Tony Evans pastors the 9,000-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and is president of the Urban Alternative, a national ministry devoted to restoring hope in families. (Photo: Bob Daemmrich/Newscom)

When President Obama announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, he cited his Christian faith as the reason for his “evolving” views. Yet for many other Christians, their commitment to Jesus Christ and an orthodox view of the Bible is the reason why they reject homosexuality as a valid lifestyle.

In a report on NPR’s Morning Edition, Dallas preacher and bestselling author Tony Evans said the issue is especially intense in African American churches. “The breakdown of the family is the single greatest challenge that we face today,” said Evans, which is why he believes black pastors are often the most outspoken opponents of same-sex marriage.

NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty then asked Evans about the argument that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue like race, but Evans wasn’t having it. “The issue of race is not an issue of choice. It’s an issue of birth,” he said.

When Hagerty asked Evans whether he believes homosexuality is a choice, he replied: “The Bible is clear on that one too. And that is, sexual relationships are to be between men and women within the context of marriage. That’s not only related to the issue of homosexuality, but adultery, or fornication or bestiality. All of that is proscribed in the Bible.”

Read and listen to the entire report here.

Black to the Future

Black to the Future

NBEA President Rev. Dr. Walter A. McCray

Today when the world hears the word “evangelical,” it often associates the term with a white, politically conservative brand of Christianity. Those within the evangelical movement, however, know the reality is far more diverse. In fact, defining the identity of the movement and sorting out its many theological and cultural dimensions has been the subject of countless books and conferences over the past 200-plus years. One group that has helped assert the existence and valuable contributions of non-white evangelicals is the National Black Evangelical Association (NBEA). Over the years, the group has provided intellectual community and spiritual support to a who’s who of Black scholars and preachers — influential leaders such as Tom Skinner, Tony Evans, Howard Jones, Clarence Hilliard, Carl Ellis, and Melvin Banks (founder of UrbanFaith’s parent company, UMI).

Next week in Chicago, the NBEA will host its forty-ninth annual convention. Rev. Dr. Walter A. McCray, author of several books, including The Black Presence in the Bible, has been president of the NBEA since 1999. UrbanFaith recently spoke with him about the history of the organization and why this year’s conference has a special focus on missions and Christianity’s African roots.

URBAN FAITH: Give us some brief background on the NBEA. How was it formed and what’s its purpose?

REV. WALTER McCRAY: In 1962, Black evangelical leaders prayed. They were praying in different locales across the nation. They prayed in California, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and other places. They prayed about themselves and how they could reach their Black communities with the Gospel of Christ. They prayed earnestly, and they prayed for their unity and cooperation in the ministry of Christ. Women prayed, men prayed, ministers prayed, laypersons prayed, young prayed, old prayed. And God answered their prayers in an exceptional way. He gave them an idea, and an organization through which they found Black Christian fellowship and empowerment to accomplish their goal — reaching the lost, making the wounded whole. So in 1963, in L.A., the National Negro Evangelical Association (NNEA) was born.

The co-founders of NNEA, which later became the NBEA “National Black Evangelical Association,” composed an impressive gathering of dedicated servants of Christ, who were committed to the Lord’s church. It was a small but powerful group that included the likes of Rev. Aaron M. Hamlin, Mother Dessie Webster, Rev. Marvin Prentis, Bishop Holman, and the host pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Rowe. Others joined this number at the inaugural convention: Rev. William H. Bentley, Missionary Ruth Lewis (Bentley), Rev. Tom Skinner, Rev. Howard Jones, Rev. Charles Williams, and others.

So, this new association of brothers and sisters, which also included some white believers, formed around three important values: fellowship, ministry, and networking resources. Their overriding passion was to win the lost, and to provide support for churches and leaders who were attempting to do this amidst the revolutionary times of the 1960s. It was no small task, but their God was not lacking the necessary greatness and power for the challenge! So they marched forward.

You’ve been leader of the NBEA since 1999. In your view, what is the state of black evangelicalism and the wider evangelical movement today?

The state of evangelicalism today, as intentionally labeled and defined, is one that has a changing face. Due to its emphasis on “diversity,” its face is changing from white to other ethnic groups. Yet, it maintains its centeredness and dominance in maleness, and White and Western culture. I recommend Soong-Chan Rah’s book The Next Evangelicalism for an overview of where things are going. The next evangelicalism in America is discoverable in immigrant and indigenous ethnic communities. Evangelicalism is growing in areas of the Southern hemisphere. Black evangelicalism, of the intentional variety, is undergoing redefinition along cultural and theological lines. There is a reawakening of Black consciousness and its theological applications within the socio-political sectors of White evangelicalism, and especially as a pushback against politically right-wing evangelicals. Some White evangelicals also are pushing back against their very socially and politically conservative counterparts. When it comes to the implicit side of African American evangelicalism, vis-à-vis the Black Church, we see a state of flux, wherein traditional Black Christian faith, amidst pressing social challenges, is grasping to reconnect with the core cultural and social values of their African-descended peoples.

I believe Intentional Black evangelicalism must wed with implicit Black evangelicalism to serve the best interest of African American people, and to fulfill our divine purpose in God’s world. This is something that I explore in my next book, Pro-Black, Pro-Christ, Pro-Cross: African-Descended Evangelical Identity.

The annual convention convenes next week. Could you tell us a little bit about what you have in store for those who attend?

The theme is “Looking Black to Move Forward: Reclaiming Our Heritage, Fulfilling Christ’s Mission” (Psalm 68:31). This is our second meeting of a two-year emphasis on missions. We will emphasize looking back into our past, so that we can see how God has historically used Black people in His redemptive work. We will also look into our present so that we can appreciate the Black spiritual contributions and other resources that the Lord has placed at our disposal to do His work. We have jam-packed our program with a wealth of speakers, and topics that can benefit local Black communities, as well as Africa and other places to which Christ calls us to serve.

Could you talk a little bit about the African American church’s relationship to local and global missions?

The African American church needs more intentional involvement in missions. Pressing needs among Black Americans have served to capture the focus of our churches — sometimes to the abdication of our responsibilities of spreading the Gospel of Christ throughout the world. Our people must recapture the missionary fervor of Black churches and missionaries of previous generations. We must be both indigenous and international in our mission endeavors. For instance, we must work to redeem our imprisoned men especially and others from “the New Jim Crow” that Michelle Alexander talks about in her important book. At the same time, we must send bi-vocational workers to the mission fields of Africa to dig wells for clean water and stem the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Then, we must rescue women and young girls who are enslaved in sex-trafficking. Black believers and churches have a “both and” responsibility. Validated “charity” begins at home, but it must then spread abroad in the true fashion of the divine love of Christ, whose giving and sacrificing continues to manifest itself beyond the sectors of one’s immediate group or culture.

The African roots of Christianity will be one of the topics discussed at this year’s convention, and I understand the theologian Thomas Oden will be addressing the event via Skype. Could you talk about the importance of this and what the church needs to understand about the church’s historic African connection?

So-called Black evangelicalism has existed for over two-millennia. Those roots are found in the Black/African peoples of the New Testament, and in the early African church of the second century A.D. and beyond. Tom Oden and the Center for Early African Christianity have been doing a premier, paradigm-shifting work in demonstrating, in the words of Oden’s book, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind.

As Black peoples, we must look back to the earliest stages of the Christian faith to discover how God worked through and used African people and African Church Fathers in His work of salvation and redemption. We must discover how they wed their faith to their culture in ways that were positive and made tremendous contributions to the Christian faith worldwide. From the second century onward, the Christian faith first spread from south in Africa to north in Asia and Europe. NBEA’s Institute for Black Evangelical Thought and Action will explore these topics and more at the convention.

What else can people look forward to at the convention?

Prayer, fellowship, food, networking, information, celebration, book signings, workshops, preaching, teaching, mission-opportunities, and much more happen next week. We invite all: Blacks and non-Blacks, women and men, youth and young adults, pastors and laypeople, churches and organizations, professionals and non-professionals, missionaries and sending agencies, community workers and global partners — we invite all who desire to strengthen themselves in holistically sharing the Gospel of Christ with their Brothers and Sisters in the Christian faith. Together, we want to “Reclaim Our Heritage” as we “Fulfill Christ’s Mission.”

The NBEA convention takes place April 25-28 at the Chicago/Oak Lawn Hotel. Click here for more information.

Rick Perry and the “Rainbow Right”

Rick Perry and the “Rainbow Right”

TEXAS FIRE: Governor Rick Perry speaks to God (and the nation) at his recent prayer rally. Rev. C.L. Jackson, a staunch supporter, stands in the background.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have only just announced his campaign for the U.S. presidency, but his bid has already captured plenty of attention, as speculation stirs that he could soar to the top of the GOP field. Among Christians, much of the attention stems from Perry’s recent push to distinguish himself as an evangelical candidate. A week before his announcement, Perry held “The Response” prayer rally in Houston. The event called on Christians to fast and pray for a nation in crisis, based on similar gatherings recorded in Joel 2 and the book of Acts. About 30,000 people attended and another 80,000 viewed the live web stream, The Response web site said.

When he announced his bid for the presidency in South Carolina on Saturday, Perry again referred to his Christian faith, taking a moment to thank God for the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers and saying America values “the rights that are endowed to every human being by a loving God.”

Perry’s evangelical push could propel him ahead of Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and other candidates who haven’t galvanized the religious right to the same degree. On Saturday, another evangelical Christian, Michele Bachmann, led Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll, which didn’t include Perry.

Perry’s ultimate success could depend on support from politically conservative African, Hispanic, and Asian American Christians, a group Business Insider called the “Rainbow Right.” Two influential minority evangelical leaders were honorary co-chairs of The Response: Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and host of The Urban Alternative, and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Since the minority vote tends to lean left, the growth of the Rainbow Right could mean trouble for President Obama.

Pastor C.L. Jackson of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church is a Republican supporter of Perry who attended The Response at Perry’s invitation.

“If you were there, you heard a good noise, a good response, ‘Amen,’ and, ‘thank God,’” Jackson said. “I came home feeling good about our nation even in this bad, crippling economy.”

Perry read Scripture and prayed for political and religious leaders, the military, and people struggling with grief, addiction, unemployment and foreclosures. The controversial event came under fire from those who saw it as a violation of the separation of church and state and as an endorsement of Christianity over other religions. However, The Response was billed as an apolitical event, and Perry said during his prayer that God has a “salvation agenda” rather than a political agenda.

“Brother C.L., you and I have had this conversation,” Perry said to Jackson. “He’s a wise, wise God, and he’s wise enough to not be affiliated with any political party, or . . . any man-made institutions. He’s calling all Americans, of all walks of life, to seek him, to return to him, to experience his love and his grace and his acceptance, experience a fulfilled life regardless of the circumstances.”

Jackson campaigned for Perry from pulpits and on the radio when Perry ran for governor. He told Urban Faith that political leaders need to have a relationship with God, and called The Response “a dynamic move” for Perry.“This man put everything that he had on prayer with God,” Jackson said. “In other words, he believed in talking to God. That’s how God deals with us, through conversation, talking to us and guiding us through his words.”

“Other people would try to do it themselves, or follow someone they think knows. Many people are trying to lead this world and God has not turned the world over to them,” he said.

Other Christian leaders argued that it was inappropriate for a politician to organize a religious event. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, wrote a letter to Perry criticizing The Response as “direct government sponsorship of religion.”

“To be blunt, you have overstepped your constitutional bounds,” Lynn wrote. “I am a Christian minister and would like to remind you that it is not the job of government officials to call people to pray, recommend that they fast or prod them to take part in other religious activities. That job belongs to me and my fellow clergy.”

The Response has also come under criticism because of its ties to controversial religious speakers and endorsers, particularly the New Apostolic Reformation, which the Texas Observer reported on in “Rick Perry’s Army of God.” These relationships could prove problematic if Perry ascends to the general election, where far-right religious connections are likely to turn off moderates.

As Perry plows forward, he’s touting his economic experience as governor of Texas, where he said about 40 percent of new American jobs have been created since June 2009—an important success to Americans who have been disappointed with the economy under President Obama. However, Perry’s “Texas miracle” is not exactly what it appears to be. Unemployment in Texas rose to 8.2 percent in June, leaving the state in 26th place.

Jackson believes Rick Perry is the best person to lead America out of a crisis with God’s guidance, but in the end, he said putting one’s hope in any political candidate alone, rather than in God, would be a mistake.

“No man is going to straighten this out,” Jackson said. “He’s too messed up. The hope is in Christ.”

Reclaiming the S-Word

Reclaiming the S-Word

Priscilla Shirer

Are you willing to obey or, more aptly put, submitto your spouse until death do you part? As Priscilla Shirer shares, there are some things a Christian couple needs to know. Shirer, the daughter of well-known preacher Tony Evans, is a gifted teacher and speaker in her own right. As the founder of Going Beyond Ministries, she reaches a diverse audience of women with “the uncompromising truths of God’s Word.”

In her latest book, Life Interrupted: Navigating the Unexpected, Shirer analyzes the story of Jonah for clues about submitting to God’s will, even when it interrupts our carefully laid plans. The book is not a marriage manual, per se, but within its pages readers can find helpful direction for making their marriage flourish and thrive in spite of life’s curveballs. UrbanFaith contributor Wanda Thomas Littles spoke to Shirer about Life Interrupted and what it means for a married couple to practice biblical submission. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

URBAN FAITH: Newlyweds face many challenges, including life interruptions. What is a “life interruption”?

PRISCILLA SHIRER: A life interruption is something that takes place in your life that causes you to have to adjust the plans that you’ve made and is often God’s way of steering you away from what you want to do, to what He has planned for you to do for His Kingdom which is far better than what you planned. So a life interruption is God’s divine intervention.

Bunny Wilson, who wrote a great book called Liberated Through Submission, had a life interruption when as a new Christian she read a passage of scripture that caused her to ask, “God, now why would you ruin a perfectly good book by putting that a wife has to submit to her husband in it?” What would you say to woman who needs to learn the life-interrupting concept of submission?

Submission is a gift given to us by God so that we can relate to His established authority properly. It is the voluntary yielding of one to another. This is not just about marriage; this is about every aspect of your life. Everybody has to be obedient. And when people, male or female, step outside that chain of leadership they have to answer for that and they cause disaster and destruction along the way.

There are many men that are seeing destruction and chaos and lack of peace and passion in their marriages, and in their homes, and it is largely due to the fact that they have not responded in obedience to the Lord, and responded to Him as their head.

If, as a married woman, you choose to be submissive to the man that God has given you, then what you are doing is basically ducking so that God can hit your husband. Your husband has to answer to God in terms of the leading of your family, and you’re trusting that God is going to steer your husband. Even when your husband goes against your preferences, even when the choices he makes aren’t the choices you would make, as you submit to your husband you are in essence submitting as unto the Lord. In doing so you’ll find that the blessings rain down not only on you, but on your husband, and your children as well.

For many people, the term submit carries with it the stigma of subservience.

It is unfortunate that submission has really been given a bad rap. There is nothing that is supposed to be subservient, “doormat-ish” so to speak, or abusive about this word and its meaning. In Ephesians when the Lord began to describe submission in the family dynamic, the majority of the chapter was used to tell husbands how they were supposed to lead, not to tell women how they were to submit. If men do it the right way, if they are the kind of leaders described by God, then it will be the joy of the wife to submit to a husband like that.

What about the husband who has the wrong view of submission and is, in essence, a tyrant?

It is never the woman’s role to submit to a man who is leading her to sin, or if he is in any way being abusive to her whether emotionally or physically. In those cases, she should get away to safety. Submission has long been a ploy to get vulnerable women to stay with a guy who is not treating them appropriately. In its purest meaning, it is a gift given to a woman who does have a man that is seeking to lead in the way the Bible describes.  

What about the man who is content to take a backseat in guiding his wife and family, or who truly has no leadership skills?

I would encourage a wife to ask herself, When we were dating, did he take the backseat? If the answer is no and he showed initiative and drive and leadership when you were dating, then the reality probably is that you have, over time, usurped his authority. And in those cases, I want you to know that what has been done can be undone. Prayerfully give him back the reigns.

For the woman whose mate just doesn’t have leadership skills, I want to suggest two things: Number one, if she is not yet married to this man and she is very clear that he does not yet have leadership capabilities, if that disturbs her in any way now, it is going to be exponentially disturbing once they get married and there are lifetime decisions to make and he’s supposed to be guiding the family. You should question whether this is someone you should be building a life with.

Secondly, if this is a man who you see leadership character in, then the question you have to ask yourself before you get married is, Is this man accountable to someone else? If you know that this man is accountable to other men and allows them to tell him the truth and can help him to get it together, then you’re on the road to a really great marriage. 

What are some reactions women have when you explain the concept of submission?

I think that deep down most women would love to be in a relationship with a great man — they might not call it submission, but when you think about the dynamics of it we love to be in a relationship when a man has taken charge. When you water down submission to the bare parts, most women desire that. But there is a fear that has been instilled in us predominantly by the feminist movement. The feminist movement has given us many things, but one thing it has stolen from us is the right not to feel like we’ve lost our dignity when we choose to submit to the leading of a good guy.

Do you have any other thoughts on submission?

To a young couple, or even to an older couple, I would say, before you say I do, would you please make sure that you are going into this relationship with a servant’s attitude? As a wife, you want to do whatever you can so that when this man meets Jesus face to face, he gets to hear from the Lord, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” He’s going to hear that if you’re the right helper that you should be. And husbands, she is going to hear that if you are washing her with the water of the Word of God and sanctifying her by being the leader to her that God has called you to be. That does not happen by stifling her, causing her to submit in a way that is not healthy. That happens when you encourage her gifts, her skills, talents. … When you help her to hone those talents to see how she can use them for the kingdom of God and in the service of her family, which is our primary and privileged ministry. To submit or not submit becomes the framework from which to build either a good, balanced, strong marriage, or a bad, lopsided, weak marriage.