Unification News for December 2003 and January 2004

The Cross Reconsidered: Historical and Theological Perspectives

Michael Jenkins

Union Theological Seminary Symposium: Rethinking the Viability of the Cross as a Central Christian Symbol

The Cross Reconsidered Conference was held at Union Theological Seminary November 17, 2003 and was sponsored by ACLC, The Biblical Institute for Social Change and UTS. Mr. Michael Balcomb opened as MC. The following is a surface level overview. Great depth will be found in the papers that were presented.

Dr. Cain Hope Felder opened the session framing the dialogue and discussion we were to pursue. Dr. Felder a professor of Theology and Biblical Literature at Howard Divinity School and a Union Theological Seminary alum. He first stepped out on this issue when invited to Imani Temple to discuss it. Now he sees the ending of the cross and emphasis on resurrection as perhaps one of the most significant theological issues facing the church since the reformation. Dr. Chang Shik Yang gave a very important paper on the Cross and the relationship with the Middle East crisis. Dr. Yang seriously articulated that the root of the problem of the cross is to be found in the rejection of Jesus. He also strongly linked the spirit of Jesus with what is needed in the resolution of the problem in Palestine and Israel. That is that we must love our enemy. The eye for an eye principle will only produce more suffering and enmity. This must end. We must do it with love.

Dr. Milton Reid, longtime confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received his doctorate at Boston University. His paper was very rich and yet challenging. He held to the traditional view that we cannot deny the cross as the path to salvation. He stated in his paper however that there might have been another outcome if the people believed in Jesus, however that didn't occur so we must deal with reality. He also sited that the cross was not first introduced with Jesus but actually was there from earlier times as an instrument of torture and execution. He acknowledged that the cross was introduced by Charlemagne and misused to justify conquering others. However the "true" cross is the one that we pick up and follow Jesus with. It is the one in which we bear mankind's sin on their behalf.

Dr. Lonnie McLeod, a professor of NY Theological Seminary gave a presentation on the panel. He strongly advocated the removal of the cross and the fact that it is because of man's faithlessness that the cross came about. Dr. Michael Mickler presented his paper dealing with the different paradigms of salvation as given traditionally by Christian theologians. It was a solid analysis and deeply impressed Dr. Felder. He commented to me later that the scholarship of the faculty of UTS was excellent. Dr. Andrew Wilson moderated the first session. He has become a scholar who is living his beliefs to the fullest.

The second session was moderated by Dr. Kathy Winings. Dr. Winings sited a book by a very significant Protestant theologian Dr. Douglas John Hall entitled, "The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World". In this book he sites that cross was not God's original will !! These sessions with theological presentations were very significant. Dr. Felder, Bishop Stallings and Dr. Frank Kaufmann were panelists. The proceedings will be reported soon.

Bishop C. Phillip Johnson who received his doctorate from Howard Divinity did a ground breaking powerpoint presentation on the Mission of Jesus, particularly dealing with the cross. It was an historic moment in which the Christian leaders are now seriously moving forward to teach the Principle view.

Rev. Jenkins gave a call to action emphasizing that the removal of the crosses from the Christian churches was the key condition that attracted Jewish Rabbis and the tearing down of the walls between Jews and Christians. This led to the Jerusalem Declaration which was a document of repentance and love. In which Jesus could be honored in his own land by his own people for the first time in 2000 years. This is a comfort to the heart of God.

Rev. Daugherty gave a profound summary of the meaning of unconditional love. He sited the fact that loving beyond suffering and even beyond the pain of slavery is the way that Jesus led him to go. This is true love. Then he introduced the resolution of the 1200 Clergy. Dr. H. G. McGhee read the document and Dr. Felder, Bishop Stallings, Dr. Yang, Rev. Jenkins, Bishop Johnson, Dr. Kaufmann, Dr. Wilson and many other scholars, pastors, professors and students signed. Over 120 signed that night. That brought the total who have signed to date at 891. Soon we will complete the 1200 and proclaim this stage of completion before history.

Thanks to Rev. Daugherty and all the ACLC staff and clergy. Special thanks to Rev. Schanker our MC and guide through this historic day. The time has come to trade the cross for a crown.

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