The headline reads, “Church of God in Christ threatens to pull convention from St. Louis.” And my heart sinks.
According to this and other news reports, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is not the only organization that’s considered pulling their events from St. Louis convention centers following the Ferguson crisis. Most are hesitant due to fear of violence in the region. Others are making more political statements with their threats to take their business elsewhere. I can understand both responses. But when it comes to a church organization, something in my gut is repelled by the approach. If it were simply a matter of fear, I’d argue that the church has always been called into dangerous situations and must simply trust that God will protect them as they do what they are called to do. But COGIC’s motive falls into the latter category of flexing its political (and economical) muscle.
Should the church be involved in political causes? Yes. It’s our right as much as any other people group to be involved in the political processes of our nation, and I even believe we are morally obligated to utilize this privilege for the good.
Should the church use its monetary resources to impact the world around us? Most certainly. And again, I’d say it’s our moral obligation to be good stewards of the financial blessings we have been given.
Since 2010, COGIC has indeed blessed the St. Louis area during its convention stays. According to COGIC’s own convention recap, the work convention attendees, some 40,000 plus, accomplished while in St. Louis this year included the following.
During the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) 107th Holy Convocation in St. Louis, MO, November 3-11, 2014, many tremendous things occurred that demonstrated the church’s love for community and for the whole man.
Through a number of COGIC Cares initiatives, the St. Louis and metro east communities were helped in some of the following ways:
During our Health Fair and Job Fair, hundreds received free healthcare services while many unemployed attendees were able to network with St. Louis employers;
5,000 people received assistance in the form of food, clothing, blankets, toys, haircuts and medical check-ups at our Christmas in November event on Saturday, November 8, 2014;
Members of our denomination dispersed within the North St. Louis Fourth Ward community to provide cleanup assistance to blighted areas; and
Several COGIC leaders visited a St. Louis Public School to conduct “a day of reading” among elementary school children.
In his official video response on the convention, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake added, “Prior to the convocation, denominational leaders and members went into Ferguson to support and to participate in the struggle for justice after the shooting of young teenager Michael Brown.”
After such an impressive list of loving action, charitable endeavors, and positive activism it is hard to imagine the church following all that with the threat of discontinuing its positive work here if local politicians don’t meet specific demands. I have no specific grievances with the list of demands, as presented in COGIC’s letter to Governor Nixon. There are legitimate concerns that I, too, hope to see local government continue to address. My issue comes with the idea that they are demands, made by the church, to political leaders.
To me, this is akin to Jesus saying, “I’m no longer going to feed thousands of hungry people, or continue to heal the sick, or minister the gospel of spiritual deliverance to your region if your political leaders don’t do what I think is appropriate.” Jesus never did this, despite the fact that His people were oppressed by both the Roman government as well as corrupt Jewish leaders. He continued to do good and to teach His people how to live godly lives in trying times. His church should follow His lead.