Unification News for January 2005
ACLC Drawing Together the Family of God
ACLC DRAWING TOGETHER THE FAMILY OF GOD American Clergy Leadership Conference December 12-14, Washington, DC By Joy Schmidt Pople
When an imam and a Jewish scholar walked side by side down an aisle and sat down beside Pentecostal preacher, perhaps they were answering some altar call to repent for strife in the family Abraham. Rev. Jesse Edwards from Philadelphia looked pleased when Baruch Shalev and Mohammad Jodeh sat by him during the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) gathering in Washington, DC, December 12-14, 2004.
Nearly every session concluded with a diverse group of religious leaders on stage, holding hands and praising the one God. There was clapping, singing, joking, shouting, hugging, praying and crying throughout the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel as the spirit of God stirred people's hearts, both individually and collectively.
Rebuilding the nation
After a divisive presidential election campaign, people assembled in the name of common moral values that led to peace. "Can you love a right-winger?, how about a left-winger?" Rev. Michael Jenkins asked. "A plane cannot fly with just one wing," The ACLC National Co-convener reminded the religious leaders. "It needs two. Fasten your seat belts." ACLC Secretary General, Rev. Levy Daugherty, added: "When you come to a conference like this, bring your rubber band mind and be prepared to be stretched."
Speakers applied lessons from Biblical figures to modern times. Rev. Jenkins referred to King Saul, who lost the anointing when he thought he no longer needed the prophet Samuel, who had anointed and advised him. "Our nations and our leaders need prophets to bring God's anointing and guidance," he declared. "Imams, rabbis and ministers, rise up and build this nation together."
Imam Jodeh, from Denver, Colorado, stated that God blessed America for two reasons: (1) separation of church and state and (2) religious, racial and cultural diversity. Countering common misconceptions about Islam, he quoted the Qur'an's declaration that God created humankind from a single pair, Adam and Eve, and made them so that they may know each other and not despise each other. "This is the diversity we should protect and celebrate," he concluded.
Breaking down religious walls
"God did not construct walls," Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, Jr., stated. "Since we constructed them we must tear them down." The National Co-convener of ACLC and founder of Imani Temple in Washington, DC, observed that some people use religion to bind people to doctrine rather than connect them to God. "But we can call out to God using the name from another religion," he added, "and love what is in another's religion. We can be comfortable with the way each other believes, without wedding ourselves to doctrine."
Racial and religious barriers have been separating God's people, and they are breaking down. Rev. Edwards, chair of the ACLC Executive Committee and pastor of Pentecostals of Philadelphia, stated, "I never imagined I'd be traveling the country with a Catholic priest, let alone an African-American Catholic priest. I grew up in Tennessee, where there were separate water fountains for blacks and whites. I thank God for meeting Bishop Stallings as a friend and a brother."
Bishop William Wayne Pugh of Bridge Builders International, Atlanta, Georgia, warned people that when they cross the Jordan River, things change. "We dis-fellowship over stupid stuff, like hairstyle, color of clothes, shoe styles," the bishop remarked. "Watch it, brother!" some of the audience answered back, in the call-and-response style. "We are brothers and sisters," he continued, "so we should get together and fellowship on what we can agree on."
Describing himself as a "recovering Fundamentalist," Rev. Carlton Pearson of Azusa International Ministries in Tulsa, Oklahoma, announced that unity of faiths is the ultimate spiritual destiny of humanity. "Is God going to burn millions and billions of people for sin?" he asked. "If so, that would make Him worse than Hitler, who killed only 6 million Jews. If you assume that God is sending all these people to hell, you don't mind bombing them!" In contrast, the Bible speaks of mercy triumphing over judgment and God throwing people's sins into the sea of forgetfulness.
Quoting Isaiah's prophecy that the lame will walk, Dr. William Johnson, a Christian Methodist Episcopal pastor from Pasadena, California, said, "Jews, Muslims and Christians have been walking around lame when they fail to recognize their brothers and sisters. Can we understand that even though we are not all in the same fold, we re still God's sheep?" Rabbi David Ben Ami, president of the American Forum for Jewish-Muslim-Christian Cooperation, quoted the prophet Malachi, "Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us all?" In honor of the rabbi's 80th birthday, a bishop and two imams presented him with a bouquet of flowers. At various times, rabbis, imams and Christian leaders embraced, demonstrating the reality of the family of Abraham coming together in forgiveness and love.
"It's time to be bold about the family!" Rev. Walter Fauntroy, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, DC, announced. "Every child needs a man and a woman for procreation and a man and woman to be bonded to for socialization."
Dr. Gloria Wright, pastor of Simmons Chapel AME Zion Church in Atlanta, Georgia, calls the family a moving target: "It has changed so much over the years, and there are so many needs: grandmas raising grandkids, spare-key husbands, negligent wives. We need to focus not just n the problems but on the solutions. We have so much to do!" "I Feel Like Going on," Rev. Bennit Hayes, of Gloryland Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, sang before explaining how the family structure was broken when Adam and Eve fell during their growing period. "This growing period was necessary for them in order to become the temple of God. Mankind united with Satan instead and became his dwelling place. Instead of having a divine nature, we had an evil nature. That is why we have problems in the family. We have to go back to the status where Adam was before he sinned and get right with God."
In contrast with values, which are changeable, Archbishop Stallings emphasized virtues, which are eternal principles worth striving to embody. "Virtues are permanent, virtues are constant, virtues are eternal. We may not necessarily measure up to them, but we should shoot for them." People in the audience nodded in agreement, and subsequent speakers echoed the theme of unchanging virtues. Archbishop Stallings referred to the triple blessing God bestowed in Genesis 1:20 and talked about how Adam and Eve lost their way but God desires to bind people back to Him in oneness. "Our true identity is not flesh and blood but spirit. We are incarnational beings, as it says in John 1: 'The word became flesh and dwelt among us.' There was an enfleshment of a spiritual presence dwelling among us so we might find our way back to God." Archbishop Stallings quoted an Ethiopian proverb: "The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people," and proposed that the reverse is also true: "The healing of a nation begins in the homes of its people." The challenge begins with husband and wife getting right with God and right with each other and then parents being parents and letting the children know they are parents. "Let's claim our homes for God, based on virtues that are permanent and eternal," he concluded.
"If America abandons its morals, they don't have anything to stand on, because they lose their foundation," Bishop Floyd Nelson, pastor of Lively Stone Worship Center in Landover, Maryland, stated. "God gave me my bride, and it has lasted 40 years. I would not be the man I am if He had not given me the woman he gave to me. Because God blessed us I am still in love." Bishop Nelson challenged each pastor to extend the marriage blessing to 12 couples in their church, blessing them so that they in turn will bless others. He referred to Numbers 11, in which God said He was going to take the spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 elders. "The blessing is so important," he explained, "because it causes people to be committed to ministry. When you are committed you are not shaken by the situations you face. When you bless couples, let them know where you got the commitment. Go out and multiply yourselves."
Giving birth to the world
On March 24, Rev. Moon commissioned women, especially American women, to give birth to the world. The wives of many American ACLC leaders stand by their husbands in ministry. Rev. Ethel Hayes repeated the question asked of Queen Esther, "Who knows but God has chosen you for such a time as this?" She gave examples of women used by God as catalysts to move history forward. "Women of faith are coming together, because we want to do something for God," Reiko Jenkins explained. Rev. Catherine Ono from Boston, Massachusetts, reminded people of Rev. Moon's call for women to rise up as Ambassadors for Peace.
Claire Daugherty added, "We are the female aspect of God, the nurturer, the comforter, the teacher. Without us, God is only half represented. We call the daughters of God to fulfill the vital role for which we are created: to bring God alive through us." Rev. Tanya Edwards added, "If we find our place lifting our husband up as he is supposed to be lifted up, he can do the work of God. If we find our place, our children will find their place. Pray for all our children." Rev. Tessie Willis, from Dallas, Texas, quoted from the book of Proverbs, "When a man finds a wife he finds a good thing." She challenged the men, "If you don't have a wife, prepare yourself."
Rev. Debbie Taylor, from Washington, DC, spoke prophetically about stepping out on faith to answer God's call. "Arise, oh women of God: mothers, daughters, wives, sisters. There's work to be doneŠ. The children are being shot down today by drugs, bullets, sex, immorality. My men are weary. They need support. Yet I have no body. I need your heart, your hands, your feet. Come, my daughters, and let me live through you to comfort them. Rise up, daughters, I need your heart, your hands, your feet. Let me live in you, for I have called you and destined you for a time as this. When you are tired, draw near to me, and I will comfort you and give you rest."
"Women all over the world are fighting for freedom-to be at peace with themselves and with God," proclaimed Jennifer Mohammad, a Nation of Islam woman who came with her husband from England to participate in the conference. "The women whom I have met here have such an awesome presence. I can feel the spirit of God with them. Shake off that coat of heaviness and get to the essence inside. It is the duty of women to civilize the world. It is time for us to step out and do the work of God. We have to come to birth as women of God."
Reaching the youth
Rev. Mark Abernathy, of New Life Assembly, Snellville, Georgia, is excited about youth ministry. "Young people want things that fire them up and motivate them," he said. "What they want you to do is love them. They want you to show them that they love them. This generation is too enticed with stuff. Young people are broke, busted and disgusted. In America alone every 22 seconds somebody is beaten, stabbed, robbed. Every 9 seconds another suicide attempt by a teenager. Three out of four children say their parents don't care about them. Our children want to see a change in you."
Rev. Dannie Holmes, pastor of the Greater Hope Baptist Church, echoed his appeal and suggested that parents cut off the television and eat with their children. "Our children want to know that they are loved," he stated.
Dr. Lonnie McLeod, pastor of the Church of the Living Hope in East Harlem, New York, challenged leaders to think and act strategically. "Assess your community," he said. "Know your congregation. Set goals and objectives. Decide what kind of work you have to do in order to get to the next level. Increase your capacity. Identify your financial needs and resources (if you want to build something, have everyone donate $100 and meet monthly to carry it out). Provide ongoing training for yourselves. Rev. Moon is trying to get us to take the streets back from Satan, take our government back from Satan, and take the world back from Satan."
People in the audience wanted to know ACLC's strategy to put prayer back in schools and to reach out to young black males. In response, Dr. McLeod explained the original intent of the American founding fathers to protect the church from the state and promised educational materials on the issue, and Bishop Nelson described how his congregation is going to the street corners where young men hang out and building relationships with them.
"Don't think that if you don't agree with every part of ACLC you can't be part of it," Archbishop Stallings said in conclusion. "You need to stay and help make this body representative. There are three positions you can take in life: make things happen, watch things happen, or wonder what happened." Bishop Joseph Showell, pastor of the Gospel Ark Temple Church in Randallstown, Maryland, envisions God leading ACLC to "places we have never been before." Rev. Carl V. Rawls, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama, challenged people with two words: No excuses. "It's up to use to bring heaven to every family, city, and nation. It's our charge to build with bricks of love, of peace, of kindness, and of understanding." Bishop C. Phillip Johnson, pastor of New Prospect Family Worship and Praise Center in Washington, DC, warned, "If we fail, heaven has made no other provision."
Father and Mother Moon were being honored as king and queen of peace by religious and political leaders from five continents. For several months, Imam Haitham Bundakji has been calling Father and Mother Moon "their majesties" since March 23, 2004. To objectors he says, "These terms have been wrongly used for leaders who have brought nothing but bloodshed and war. Rev. Moon man was unjustly jailed, deprived of food and water by the communists, but he came to teach us love and forgiveness. We have to follow the footsteps of the righteous ones who are investing everything they own."
Rev. Hayes testified, "I tell you the Messiah is already here. It takes faith to say that. I never saw anybody in the Christian faith do what Father has done. I never saw anybody in the Islamic faith do what Father has done. I never saw anybody in the Jewish faith do what Father has done."
Rev. Moon said to the audience, "Your time will come and you also will be crowned." Rev. Daugherty explained God's intention for His children to become rulers of the earth and exercise dominion. "We should love and serve our family so well that they would crown us!" he exclaimed.
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