Mike Cope's blog

Monday, February 13, 2006

Today I'm interviewing Jerry Taylor, a member of the Bible faculty at ACU and the new associate preaching minister for Highland. How can I say this simply? THE GUY CAN PREACH. In fact, he's giving a keynote address this year at the North American Christian Convention (the annual gathering of leaders of the Christian Churches). Jerry, would you tell us a little about the New Wineskins Retreat that you helped start? How did it begin? The New Wineskins Retreat came into being as a result of an initial meeting of several young African American ministers gathered together to prayerfully discern as clearly as we could God's direction for leadership in our generation. Most, if not all in attendance, were those who had been marginalized by the power structure of African American churches of Christ because of views we had publicly espoused or because of questions we had raised in honest evaluation and critique of our religious heritage. There were no existing public forums within African American churches of Christ that provided an open environment that welcomed or embraced the thinking and questioning minds in our fellowship. Many of us had gone to graduate schools that trained us in the area of critical thinking. We soon discovered that our national church viewed critical thinking and evaluation of long standing cherished doctrinal beliefs and practices as being heretical and blasphemous. We received the message loud and clear that such attempts to lead people into rethinking, questioning and evaluating their socially inherited religious belief system would be veiwed, exposed and treated as a threat to the core identity of African American churches of Christ. We were often the subject of brotherhood web sites, books, letters, emails, and publications. We were made to feel unwelcomed and unwanted at the national events of African American churches of Christ. More and more we felt like outcasts that had been unofficially withdrawn from and rejected. It was as though the most trained ministers among African American churches of Christ had become a colony of lepers evicted from their own community of faith and relocated to an emotional location of isolation. What are its purposes? The purpose of the retreat is to create a safe and welcoming place where ministers and church leaders can come without hidden agendas and find encouragement, spiritual nurture and fellowship. Our intention is to serve as a non-threatening environment wherein persecuted church leaders in our fellowship can experience spiritual formation as well as intellectual stimulation. The New Wineskins Retreat is a City of Refuge for the persecuted who speak prophetically about the legalistic dogmatism that runs rampantly throughout our national fellowship. The retreat serves as a haven of hope for those who feel the only option they have is to totally disconnect from churches of Christ. It serves as one place within the fellowship of African American churches of Christ that people who engage in critical thinking and sound reasoning can feel at home. The retreat started out as predominantly African American men in 2000. Since then we have sought to become more racially and gender inclusive. This year's retreat at Pepperdine will have all women presenters who will speak for themselves to a majority male audience. We hope that the retreat will serve as a mechanism in the creation of a genuine annual fellowship that will model for the churches of Christ both black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, etc. what the body of Christ should look like. We believe that the retreat is a national event that serves as a good starting point for leaders within churches of Christ to experience at a spiritual and intuitive level a small community given to the practice of authentic racial and gender harmony. Have you seen any progress in race relations within Churches of Christ? I have seen a greater degree of mixing and mingling on a superficial or social level. We have made some progress in that we are finding it safe to be in one another's physical company. The challenge before us is to progress beyond the physical realm of relating. We are now called to progress into the area of spiritual intimacy and soul connection at a spiritual, emotional, and intuitive level with those who are racially different from ourselves. In order to genuinely relate racially we all must be willing to die to the lordship of our race and cultural conditioning. We cannot serve two masters, we cannot serve both God and race/culture. It will not be until we are connected to one another in Christ at the level of soul that we will no longer separate from each other on the barren grounds of race. I think we have made some progress in that we are now committed to what Peter Senge calls the "espoused theory." The social and political climate in our nation makes it safe for us to publicly espouse the theory of racial harmony within churches of Christ. Senge makes it clear that the "espoused theory" is very different from the actual "theory in use." He maintains that it is the actual "theory in use" that governs our interactions with other people, and not the "espoused theory." It is the split between "espoused theory" and "theory in use" that tempts us towards hypocrisy. We are tempted to preach, teach and sing about a theory of racial harmony and inclusion while simultaneously racially conducting ourselves according to a theory that is totally contrary to the one we espouse. How can readers assist the goals of New Wineskins? We meet annually. Many of the participants are working with small ministries that they have started in an attempt to plant healthy congregations. Their small struggling congregations are unable to send them to the retreat. Many of them, including the retreat presenters, have attended the retreat at their own expense. We are forever thankful to the Richland Hills church of Christ for serving as a host congregation last year and for giving a grant of $10,000.00 which paid for the travel and lodging for 50 ministers and church leaders who would have otherwise been unable to attend. We had 75 to 100 people in attendance. This was a tremendous encouragement. We ask readers to pray that we will be blessed with the resources to help others attend this year as well.


  • Where could we send a donation for this year's event?

    By Blogger Paul W, at 2/13/2006 06:14:00 AM  

  • Paul - I'm not sure. I'm e-mail Jerry and report back. Thanks for asking.

    By Blogger Mike, at 2/13/2006 06:46:00 AM  

  • I look forward to meeting my brother Jerry in person one day! Thanks for sharing this message with us Mike.


    By Blogger David U, at 2/13/2006 07:08:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Not only can he PREACH, he lives out the content of his sermons on a daily basis in everything he is a part of. Dr. Taylor is one of my top 5 favorite professors at ACU. Thank you, Lord, for allowing my journey toward Heaven to be shaped, formed, and strengthened by this anointed man who knows what it truly means to take up and carry the cross of Jesus Christ.
    Lauren Cunningham

    By Blogger Lauren, at 2/13/2006 07:31:00 AM  

  • Jerry, thanks for your work with New Wineskins! I am glad to know about you. The traditionalism of African-American churches has complicated bonding between "progressive white" churches and "black" churches -- a contributor to the hypocritical "theory in use." I probably have more in common with New Wineskins than I have with traditional congregations in my county.

    Mike, I heard that Sunday's sermon fit with your "church has left the building" comments from last week's blog. I hope that one will be made available for podcast on the Highland website.

    By Blogger John Grant, at 2/13/2006 07:32:00 AM  

  • Jerry is one of the great reasons I believe the Spirit is at work at Highland. I look forward to the day that Jerry’s work is no longer needed. Thank you God for bringing us Jerry and may we bring him honor as we honor you.

    By Blogger Clint, at 2/13/2006 08:11:00 AM  

  • I long for the day when we can describe churches or people without using a continent or color. I'm sure I'm in the minority here...I cringe everytime I hear the phrase African American and think of Paul beautifully saying, 'there is no jew or greek...' and I hope that we can just be brothers and sisters and nothing more.

    God, may your kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 2/13/2006 08:51:00 AM  

  • My Father preached at a black church in Tallahassee, Florida, in the 1960's. I mean,that was just crazy back then. That church welcomed us in and now I count it a blessing that I got to sit with my brothers and sisters as they fanned my face with the paper fans that had the Funeral Home ad on it.
    When Jerry gets up to preach, a voice in my head says, "Sit up and listen to this guy!" Thanks for blessing Highland and encouraging all of us, Jerry...
    Hey..when is Mike going to interview me?????:)

    By Blogger Beverly, at 2/13/2006 08:53:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    I really appreciate this interview and what Jerry has said. One of the Portland churches recently hosted the West Coast Preachers' and Leaders' forum. A few of us were invited to speak and it was an interesting experience for me. I heard some very powerful young African American preachers challenge the leaders to encourage training in counseling, theology, abuse, addictions, and other areas to equip ministers to be effecting in helping the congregations grow and meet the needs of the members. I was impressed with all the folks but the younger ones really seem to be calling for unity, love, and growth. I was also challenged in this too.

    Ron Clark

    By Blogger KMiV, at 2/13/2006 09:34:00 AM  

  • Here's the info I just got from Jerry about making a contribution:

    Emancipation Fellowship Ministries serves as the fiduciary agent for the New Wineskins Retreat. It has tax exempt status. The board of Directors consists of Dr. Alfred Jumper, Dr. Kenneth Greene, Ralph Draper, Gerald Taylor, and yours truly Jerry Taylor. Dr. Jumper serves as the treasurer for this ministry. He is an anesthesiologist in Los Angeles and is a faithful leader at the Crenshaw Blvd. church of Christ in Los Angeles, California where ACU Board member Billy Curl is the minister.

    All donations sent for the New Wineskins Retreat are tax-deductible. Please make checks out to Emancipation Fellowship Ministries and earmark in the memo, the New Wineskins Retreat 2006. Please send donations to the following address.

    Emancipation Fellowship Ministries
    C/O Dr. Alfred Jumper
    8117 W. Manchester #221
    Playa del Rey, CA 90293

    Telephone 310-845-0208
    email jump2it@hotmail.com

    By Blogger Mike, at 2/13/2006 02:23:00 PM  

  • I have had the privilege of being Jerry's Graduate Assistant for the past 3 years, working beside him in ministry for two years, and being at last years New Wineskins Retreat. I have been to many retreats in my day, but the NWR was the most powerful one I've been to. I was able to go because of the donations of others, and I hope that those reading this post will consider donating to the trip this year. It is a wonderful cause that gives great hope to many preachers and church leaders across the country.

    Not to shamelessly plug my own blog on Mike's blog, but I did write about the retreat after I attended. Leroy Garret also wrote about his experiences at the retreat. His comments can be read here.

    By Blogger Travis, at 2/14/2006 05:48:00 AM  

  • As the father of a female children's minister in the CoC who has been through the fires of "marginalization" in the male bastion of the CoC, I think I can understand a little of what African-American ministers who buck the system go through. I suspect that it is about the same for anyone who goes against those heavily fortified walls of tradition that the legalists use to "protect" themselves from those awfull and feared "change agents". The work that Taylor is doing in that area is badly needed and I really appreciate hearing about it. My daughter went through something a little different but similar (as I understand it) when she attended Dr. Charles Siebert's "retreat" for ministers.

    Irie Session, an African-American female minister I know, shared some of her experiences with me in private email, describing what she went through just from her African-American CoC home congregation when she told them it was her desire to become a preaching minister in the African-American churches of Christ. Unfortunately, she is no longer a part of the CoC and is presently serving God as the associate minister of a CC/DoC in the Metroplex. Our great loss caused by our even greater ignorance!

    I have met Taylor and heard him speak. He is awesome! Highland is indeed blessed to have this fine man on staff! Thanks for the update.

    By Blogger Wiley, at 2/14/2006 06:03:00 AM  

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