Baptist bishops? In some African-American churches, yes.


Baptists and bishops have historically gone together like, well, oil and water. But now that’s starting to change in some black Baptist churches.

“I think we see this emergence in spiritual leadership from a people who have known oppression,’’ Borders said. “It’s a self-identification that we’re gaining; it’s a valuing of our own leadership.”

And in some cases now symbolic garb and elaborate rituals are accompanying the title. That’s now possible because the 400-year-old fear of an all-powerful hierarchy has faded into a distant memory, and it now feels “safer to borrow and reappropriate historic practices that once were considered to be theologically problematic,’’ said James Farwell, professor of religious studies at Bethany College in West Virginia.

The title is increasingly being used more formally in African-American Baptist churches, where the practice of calling senior pastors bishops has been unusual. African-American Baptist ministers have historically been powerful figures in their communities and pillars of their congregations; some see the title as a recognition of that role.

The whole article, in today’s Boston Globe, can be read here.

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2 responses to “Baptist bishops? In some African-American churches, yes.

  1. Michael Cleaves

    You need to update this to cover the important development of a Baptist episcopal system in the republic of Georgia. Bishop Michael Cleaves, EBCG

  2. This urge has come forth in various forms. We like to pick and choose what we want from the ancient church, her councils, her doctrines, her worship. It’s all optional for a protestant so it really amounts to optics or maybe a fad that will later be dispensed with. Here’s the real question– “is an ordained heirarchy of the very esse of the church which Christ established, and is Paul’s command to Timothy to ordain men in every city (seemingly with authority and the laying on of hands) a normative and sacramental act? If it is, as the ancient church seems unanimous on, then Baptists plucking out a few good men and calling them bishops is a noble urge but irrelevant because they will carry no real authority anyway, apostolic or otherwise.

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