David Moore, commissioner of
ethnic relations for the Assemblies of God, recently spoke with General
Superintendent Thomas E. Trask about racial prejudice in American society
and in the church today.
Evangel: Is our society making
progress in dealing with prejudice?
I think weve come a long way since Selma, Ala. I wish I could
say prejudice has been removed from society. However, that is not the
case. I believe it is the responsibility of the church to play a major
role in alleviating prejudice. We dont have a right to call ourselves
Christians if we harbor feelings in our hearts that prevent us from
fully accepting everyone regardless of racial or ethnic background.
Evangel: Do you see evidences
of prejudice in the church?
Trask: I believe it is isolated.
What I am seeing in our church is that prejudices are breaking down.
I see many congregations of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I also see more
diversity on church governing boards. This is a picture of what the
church should look like. When Jesus said, "Go into all the world
and make disciples," He did not say to go only among a select group.
Evangel: There is often a general
acceptance of people of other races and ethnic backgrounds, but less
acceptance of their cultural expressions and worldviews. Do you agree?
Trask: Yes. We need to understand
that people of different ethnic backgrounds have traditions and ways
of doing things that are not the same as many of ours. Some have brought
these with them from their homelands, and it gives distinctiveness to
their heritage. By showing appreciation for those heritages and cultural
differences we attest to the bigness of the gospel.
Evangel: Many immigrant groups
have governing structures, worship styles, and even preaching methods
very different from most in our churches. Should we try to help them
adjust to our expectations?
Trask: No. I think flexibility
is the key. If it fits and believers are comfortable we should not try
to make them fit the framework of American culture.
Evangel: Where do we draw the
Trask: Our doctrine is not
negotiable, but how we set up a church board and how we worship
these are areas where we must be flexible. For example, we in America
are accustomed to worshiping on Sunday morning while some groups worship
on Sunday afternoon or Sunday night. That is not something we should
try to change.
Evangel: There seems to be a
polarization in ideological viewpoints between races, particularly between
whites and blacks.
Trask: We have to be careful
not to make political ideology part and parcel of the gospel. There
is one Lord, one faith and one baptism. That has to be the measuring
Evangel: Men and women in the
Assemblies of God of both major political parties hold office.
Trask: And I am grateful
for this. I believe Christians should be involved in politics. We are
called to be salt and light, so we need to have the influence this provides.
Evangel: Would you offer some
advice to the layperson who sincerely wants to see reconciliation among
Trask: All of us need to
do everything we can to express appreciation and love one for another.
The Scripture says, "Love never fails." Love has to be the
power plant of the church. The love of Christ made Pentecost so powerful
in Jerusalem, in Samaria, and then to the Gentiles. It allowed the gospel
to move across cultural barriers. Our churches need to embrace others
and empower them for ministry.
Evangel: Anything else?
Trask: I would reiterate
that we need to be tolerant of differences based on the cultural experiences
of others and not try to make them think and act like us. A healthy
church should be able to attract men and women of all backgrounds. We
are now having missionaries come to America from other parts of the
world to evangelize. This should sharpen us to be sensitive to the needs